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This thesis introduces the reader to two Maya theater groups who reside and work in the highland town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. What follows is an analysis of how indigenous theater, in the context of these two groups, addresses contemporary social issues, reinterprets history, and is used to invent new cultural traditions. One theater group, called FOMMA, is an all-female theater group who performs works regarding social problems that affect women in highland Maya communities. These problems include domestic abuse, alcoholism, an absence of pre-natal care, as well as a lack of education regarding contraceptive options. FOMMA's theater addresses these problems by becoming a stage for social activism, where parody is used as a theatrical tool which critiques current social norms by calling audience attention to the exaggerated characters that embody these issues. Lo'il Maxil is another Maya theater group that uses the stage as a platform for the preservation of Maya cultural traditions. This group dramatizes oral and written Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Quiché Maya myths and folktales in order to (re)create history. By performing aspects of shared cultural memories to their indigenous audiences, the members of Lo'il Maxil open up a dialogue with the communities they perform in to enact social changes. These changes include an increase in literacy in indigenous Maya languages by the members of highland communities and an increased awareness of the importance of preserving highland Maya cultural heritage in the face of globalization. Through the use of theater, both groups espouse their particular agendas while coinciding on a common goal of creating new cultural traditions. These 'new' traditions may include an increase in education and job opportunities for indigenous women, an increase in literacy and computer competency, and an emphasis on the importance of cultural maintenance and preservation. The promotion of change encourages and maintains an atmosphere of social activism where both audience members and actors are involved in crafting a new tradition of what it means to be 'Maya' in the twenty-first century.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Anthropology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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