Their calendar may have ended in 2012, but the Mayan people are far from extinct. Tuesday, April 6, Dickinson State University’s Multicultural Committee decided to give modern day Mayans center stage with their showing of Heart of Sky Heart of Earth at the Student Center Theater. A documentary about modern day Mayans and how they fare in the modern world. Chiappas, Mexico and throughout Guatemala contain sizeable populations of indigenous peoples, including Mayans. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Mayan groups make up 51 percent of the national population. Themes of environmental exploitation, oppression and cultural extinction were prominent.
Transfer Evaluation Specialist and member of the Multicultural Committee Sarah Pike said she felt a strong connection to the issues discussed in the film, due to her indigenous ancestry.
“In the course of studying my own ancestry and DNA, not only are we Mexican, but (we) actually have indigenous genetic markers and they’re from the Chiapas area...could very well be Mayan,” Pike said.
Pike recounted the story of her grandfather’s parents, along with his older siblings immigrating to the United States, particularly Houston, Texas with the hope of a better life. However, the reality was vastly different. Pike said like many ethnic minorities in those days, her grandfather faced heavy discrimination and racial prejudice,
“My grandfather was coming of age in a time when it was not seen by the white Anglo-Saxon community as a good thing,” Pike said.
While he was growing up, her grandfather lived in a segregated neighborhood within Houston’s city limits, his father worked as a farmer.
Pike said in that timeframe, and even today, many immigrants assimilate in some way which often leads to cultural eradication. Latinos, Pike said, often assimilated to life in anglo-America. For her grandfather, it meant changing his last name from a Mexican spelling to an Italian spelling. Changing his name to Cerillo didn’t lessen the prejudice and discrimination Cerillo often faced. Pike also said he had trouble obtaining any other job except manual labor jobs of the most degrading kind, like many Latinos of that era.
Pike’s grandfather cleaned at a movie theater, cleaning buttery popcorn off of the fancy carpet floors.
Cerillo was never the same after this particular job. She said her grandfather couldn’t stand the smell or taste of buttery popcorn even after completing school and becoming an accountant.
Imparting intercultural knowledge to DSU students and the larger community through these films is part of the Multicultural Committee’s goal.
Pike and her associates on the committee, including Wynter Miller along with DSU Political Science Professor Dr. Steven Doherty, are hosting bi-monthly multicultural documentary film screenings Every other Tuesday at about 5:30 p.m. up to the time of graduation.