“Our grandparents have left us a legacy: a system of principles and values that allows us to understand that everything is intertwined—from the spiritual to the physical aspects—creating the eternal unity between nature and mankind. Mayan cosmovision is a way of feeling, living, behaving, thinking, analyzing, respecting, and understanding the relationship between the beings that coexist and respect the cosmos. Nature is the mother that nurtures, supports, dresses, and shelters us when we live and die.”
Francisco Icala Tiriquiz, a K’iche’ Maya from Chichicastenango (Quiché, Guatemala), emigrated to the United States in 1993. He became an interpreter in his mother tongue (K’iche’). The training he received gave him the opportunity to work as an interpreter in the United States’ federal and state courts, and by doing this he has been helping his community for almost 25 years. Additionally, Francisco trained to become a health promoter, and he actively works in the dissemination of messages aimed at preventing and treating those conditions that affect the Indigenous/Latinx community the most. This genuine devotion to his community led him to become an Ajq’ij (Mayan spiritual guide) in 2005. “My role is to guide the community in all aspects of life, whether that is spiritual or material; including the political, economic, social, and—in a very special way—the cultural aspects,” says Francisco.
His spiritual connection with nature and what it provides to mankind have inspired him to actively promote caring for our planet. “Climate change plays an essential role in the food security of the populations. Global warming is the result of an unhealthy circle of individual and collective habits that must be corrected to ensure a long and healthy life for our planet,” he says.
Ajq’ij Francisco believes that it is important to become aware and make good use of the natural resources that Mother Earth provides to us—water, trees, animals—but it is also necessary to inform and educate our community about the role that we play in global warming. “Connecting with our planet’s spirituality, participating in the commemoration of the equinoxes, which for our ancestors represented the sacred times to ask for the soil’s permission to sow and harvest; the equilibrium of the being Ruk’ux Kaj, Ruk’ux Ulew (Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth),” he adds.
However, Francisco asserts that this spiritual awareness does not transcend if it does not translate into clear individual actions such as the simple act of classifying garbage. “We live in the first city in the United States that since the year 2000 has been classifying animal and vegetal waste to turn it into fertilizer to give new life to our natural resources. Our community provides resistance to doing that. They do not know that by doing so we contribute to reducing greenhouse gasses emissions to ensure, among other things, a good diet for the future generations,” he explains. As a health educator and promoter, he acknowledges that the work of community leaders and organizations is crucial to ensure comfortable and safe spaces but it is also crucial when it comes to promoting messages that ensure that our sons’ and daughters’ basic needs are met in the future. That is called sustainability.
Today, more than 4 million pounds of food waste are collected in California. But it could be a lot more if everyone was committed to composting—or far less if we learned to buy only the food we will eat, if we use food leftovers to prepare other meals, and if we had a little more awareness of our planet.
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