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Guatemala Formally Recognizes Its Indigenous People

Submitted by: LUCITÀ

Categories: Human Rights, Green Jobs & Career News

Posted: Aug 18, 2008 – 11:11 AM EST


Grandfather Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj is named Ambassador for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala

Aug. 18 /CSRwire/ - GUATEMALA CITY,GUATEMALA. - August 18, 2008 - In a groundbreaking move toward national reconciliation and unity among its peoples, the Guatemalan government has formally recognized the Maya and other native cultures in this Central American nation, granting them an official government seat to represent their rights and interests. 13th generation Maya Kiche spiritual leader and head of the National Mayan Council of Elders of Guatemala, Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj, has been chosen by Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom Caballeros as the Ambassador Extraordinary Itinerant of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala.

The Ceremony
On Saturday, August 9, 2008, Grandfather Cirilo as Don Alejandro is affectionately known, was formally inaugurated in his new role as Ambassador by President Colom. The date was chosen to coincide with and commemorate the Day of Indigenous People of the World, instituted by the United Nations in 1994. Attended by close to 2,000 people, the event marked an unprecedented step by a head of state to recognize the rights of all of its people and work toward full solidarity and collaboration with and among them.

Inauguration ceremonies began at sunrise on August 9 at the site of an ancient Mayan temple in Guatemala City, where the attending Elders led a traditional fire ceremony in front of 250 indigenous people, mostly from Guatemala. The ceremonies then moved on to the National Palace, the former seat of Guatemala's government and the building that marks the precise center of Guatemala. A chorus of indigenous children from San Juan Sacatepequez greeted the attendees. The formal act of bestowing Grandfather Cirilo with the title of Ambassador was accompanied by speeches by President Alvaro Colom and other luminaries. The day concluded with traditional Mayan dances and a marimba concert.

Impact and Purpose of the New Post
As Ambassador of the Guatemalan government, Don Alejandro is authorized to represent the interests of the indigenous people of Guatemala and abroad. This recognition and the significance it carries fall in line with an ancient Mayan prophecy that says the people of the center will bring together the north and the south. Don Alejandro's international work over the last 20 years, along with President Colom’s own study of and immersion in the teachings of the Mayan elders—he is the first ordained Mayan Priest elected into public office—represent a joint will and active effort toward unity, equality and peace not only for the people of Guatemala but ultimately all peoples throughout the world. In the light of continued oppression of indigenous communities both in Guatemala and elsewhere, the Guatemalan government and its new Ambassador certainly face tough challenges. Both men, however, expressed their strong positive sentiments about the newly formalized relationship between government and people:

"The assignment I have received today is a great responsibility," said Grandfather Cirilo in his inauguration address. "In the Maya tradition, these are the Carriers of Time. I am at your service. I am following in the steps of my ancestors, without violence, without hatred, without intrigue, because valiant men deal with dialogue, while cowardly mean deal with weapons. What we need now, without distinction of race, color or creed, is to understand that we are all humans and we have the same needs and the same feelings. I ask of you, Ministers of State, let's forget about racism, let's walk together; we are beings of equal value." He closed his speech with a nod of respect to President Colom and his government, asking them to understand that he accepts the role of Ambassador not as an employee of the State but as a representative of native people.

In his address, President Alvaro Colom talked about his long personal interaction and study with the Mayan elders, a path taken by few heads of state in office today. "I have had the honor to meet many of the indigenous elders who are here today," he said. "We have shared many things in the past 14 years. It is this connection with them, walking at their side, learning from them, has transformed my life. It transformed me so much that it has made me President today." Paying respect to the ancient Mayan values and traditions, he said "the Mayan worldview isn't about the number of indigenous posts or the number of native "acts" performed by the government. The worldview of the Maya is something you live every second of every day, with twenty life principles and with profound respect, [governed by] full consensus."

President Colom also announced the upcoming re-inauguration of the Council of FODIGUA, the Fund for Indigenous Development, whose original mission and goals had been virtually forgotten in previous administrations. "We're going to have a FODIGUA dedicated to indigenous issues, the preservation of language and culture, the establishment of the ancient houses of knowledge … and more support for the councils of elders to help them implement their vision, their prophetic heritage, and their love for their people."

Attending the inauguration ceremony were elders representing every indigenous population in Guatemala, along with select VIP’s including:

  • President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala
  • Don Alejandro Oxlaj
  • Jerome Lancerio, Minister of Culture of Guatemala
  • Miguel Angel Amaya y Amaya, Grand Elder of the Maya Kakawira ethnic community in El Salvador
  • Dr. Francisco Quiroga Navarrete, representing the indigenous people of Colombia
  • Joseph Giove, founder and executive director of Common Passion
  • Adam "Yellowbird" Armon, President of the Institute of Cultural Awareness (ICA) in Arizona
  • Steve Copeland, producer of The Shift of the Ages, an upcoming documentary film about the Maya people and their culture
The Minister of Culture of Guatemala, Jerome Lancerio, noted that this recognition will bring new relevance to the role that the indigenous peoples of the Americas play not only at home but throughout the world.

"This event has sought unity and solidarity among indigenous entities and a national celebration that promotes the beginning of a new era for indigenous peoples in Guatemala. This historic moment signifies that the Guatemalan government has a serious commitment to their indigenous people," he said.

Other key figures present at the ceremony echoed the sentiment that this event will have far-reaching consequences for indigenous peoples around the world who have been subjected to oppression and atrocities. The event is of particular interest to U.S. organizations such as Common Passion and the Institute of Cultural Awareness that are working toward a more equitable and peaceful global environment for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality or origin.

Joseph Giove, founder and executive director of Common Passion, one of the key organizations in the U.S. that has been working with Don Alejandro to advance global peace and cultural acceptance, said "The profound wisdom of our indigenous elders is as contemporary and relevant as modern science. Don Alejandro's tireless mission to invite the world to arise in unity is manifest in this historic event. What's happening in Guatemala is a model for a new way of social and political integration that is calling forth the long-awaited age of peace and harmony.'

About Common Passion is a global social collaborative connecting people from all walks of life who share compassion as a common passion. We are a non profit, non sectarian, educational and scientific consortium dedicated to validating and applying the power of collective human intention through prayer, meditation and music to ease violence and suffering in local and global communities, and to help solve the persistent problems of humankind. These challenges include replacing conflict with harmony at all levels: within individuals, between diverse cultures and interests, and between individuals and their environment. For more information about Common Passion, please visit

For more information about ICA, please visit
For more information about The Shift of the Ages please visit

For more information, please contact:

Phone: 203.878.2137
Joseph Giove Common Passion
Phone: 925.215.4017


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