In the rural communities of the Puuc region in the Yucatan Peninsula, the past intersects with the present in the rural landscape and its archaeological vestiges. This digital storytelling project transforms the traditional relationship of anthropologist as expert into a collaborative endeavor focused on local community narratives about how contemporary Maya people view and engage with ancestral material heritage in rural areas.
Since the 1960s, a group of local agriculturalists decided to record and protect the archaeological richness of their rural landscapes. In order to combat looting, the group recorded sites and made frequent year-round trips to monitor their conservation. Their dedication to preserving the archaeological record earned them the nickname of “Puuc Angels” by the local population and archaeologists. Their vast knowledge of the archaeological landscape and ease of communication with the local population led to their recognition as custodians of the Puuc ruins. In recent years, however, the rapid urbanization of nearby cities and the disconnection between local people and their prehistoric past have been devaluing the rural lifestyle and causing the younger segments of the population to migrate to larger urban centers and reject their cultural heritage. As a result, the vast knowledge and stewardship of the Puuc Angels is in danger of disappearing, which would result in a profound deprivation of local knowledge and the loss of local stewardship over Puuc archaeological sites. This project documents the different ideas that local people have about rural lifeways in Yucatan and their relationship to the archaeological past through digital storytelling. Our objective is to explore current ideas about local identity, cultural heritage, and connection with a past that has been aggressively shaped by multiple layers of history, colonialism, and nation building.