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Unlocking Silent Histories

Maya Traditions first began collaborating with Unlocking Silent Histories “USH” in 2012 in a pilot program, offering young people involved in our Youth Education Program the opportunity to develop and share their voices through creating their own short documentaries. Today, USH has formed it’s own U.S. based non-profit organization, with a local Maya Traditions Chapter in Guatemala.


In today’s technological world, the voice of indigenous peoples remains absent from the escalating digital landscape. Having youth broadcast their perspective through digital documentaries can close this gap. By self-directing their inquiry and deciding how they choose to participate in a digital world, our students develop a sense of identify, self-awareness, and community leadership skills.

Our Work with Unlocking Silent Histories

The vision behind Unlocking Silent Histories is to provide opportunities to indigenous youth to critically analyze how they are represented in the media and to re-image our understanding of their lives, cultures, and communities through the creation of their own documentaries.

The process begins as youth reflect on how their culture and history are represented in the media, and how these depictions shape their present lives. Next, students learn storytelling. They draw on their own voice and other local perspectives to develop the storyline and the theme they wish to explore in their respective communities. With guidance from the USH Coordinator, the youth write, film, and edit their own productions. The program then works to promote cultural understanding by sharing these films with their communities and other communities. By creating dialogue, the program fosters cross-cultural understanding, as well as cultural and linguistic preservation.

USH also encourages leadership development by allowing youth who have already completed their own documentary to assist in guiding other students through the process. By promoting and supporting local youth leaders, the program is ultimately sustainable and locally managed.

The Maya Traditions Chapter of Unlocking Silent Histories is currently working in four of our communities.

I'm starting to realize that all the people in my culture and your culture are special and unique.

— Pedro, son of Clara, San Juan La Laguna

I enjoy participating in Unlocking Silent Histories, it's part of our discovery process, learning as much as possible about who we are.

— Carlos, son of Elena, San Juan La Laguna

Unlocking Silent Histories: Maya Traditions Chapter

Learn more about Unlocking Silent Histories, our partner organization, working with indigenous youth.

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