Diccionario Maya Cordemex

While walking in El Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya de Mérida, my attention was caught by a very large book. It was much larger than others I had seen in museums, and newer. It was the “Cordemex Maya Dictionary”. Coordinated by Alfredo Barrera Vázquez, this is more than a translation of Mayan to Spanish. It brings together the work produced by Franciscan friars, Juan Pío Pérez, and the hard work of many people interested in the culture. [1]

The “Diccionario Maya Cordemex: Maya-Español, Español-Maya” took 6 years of relentless work by a group of dedicated specialist to complete, and was finally published in January of 1980. This dictionary was not the first book to be published regarding Maya translations. That was first seriously pursued by Franciscan bishop Diego DeLanda in the 1500’s. The next great effort to piece together the Mayan language was by scholar Juan Pío Pérez. In 1855, he published the “Diccionario de San Francisco”. It was compiled of seventeenth century manuscripts he had discovered in Mérida at the convent of San Francisco. He continued to produce works for the Mayan language, and his last book was printed 19 years after he died. That book was considered the greatest compilation until the publishing of “Diccionario Maya Cordemex” in 1980. [2]

The Cordemex, in is most primitive form, began in 1937 when the Academia de la Lengua Maya was formed, with the goal to create a system to learn and preserve the Mayan language. By 1973, the formation and search for funding for the project to take all this information and turn it into a book had begun. In 1974, INAH (Instituto Nacicional de Antroplogía e Historia) okayed the project. Settled in a small house in Mérida, the 6 year long project began. The scholars first worked only 26 hours a week, but it gradually increased to 35 hours in 1977. [3]

This amazing source of information started out as approximately 300,000 little slips of paper with the translations and examples of use written on them. The slips were then given to someone to type onto a card. These cards were reviewed several times before approved. The final result, a 1413 page dictionary translating Maya to Spanish and Spanish to Maya. [4]

This dictionary was not only important to the scholars studying the Maya language and culture, but to those Native Maya who had lost their identity during the colonial period. With books and research like this being completed, they gained sources to connect with their ancestors. A copy now sits in El Gran Museo Del Mundo Maya de Mérida for visitors to see the end result of a very dedicated group of people to enhance our understanding of an ancient language.