DER Documentary

Yucatec Maya Deaf Sign

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by Hubert Smith
color, 31 min, 1977 / 2015
in Yucatec Maya Sign Language with English subtitles

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In 1976, Hubert Smith set out with a group of researchers to visually document Yucatec Maya society within the village of Chican. This project resulted in the 4-part series, The Living Maya. During filming, however, it was impossible to ignore the use of sign language in the village. Smith and his team saw a lot of the deaf residents, filmed them often, and went back to have these sign exchanges translated. Now it is time to share a story solely about them.

This video contains two conversations in Yucatec Maya Deaf Sign. The first episode features three deaf young men discussing their encounters with snakes. In the second episode, village bachelors tackle a common topic: who can carry out a successful courtship? Full of frank good humor, this conversation also shows a hearing man participating. He not only understands, but also contributes to the conversation using deaf sign.

Margaret Mead, who served as an advisor to the project before her death once remarked, “The language is one thing, but what is remarkable is that the entire community uses it!”

Related Resources
Study Guide

Related Films
The Living Maya
A Life Without Words

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