Maya Diaspora, mental health, Participatory Action Research, Maya migration, liberation psychology
This paper engages the theme of psychological-physical-spiritual health among displaced Maya communities. To pursue knowledge about the communities’ visions for thriving in the United States, I worked with Maya leaders in Ohio to coordinate a series of dialogues utilizing a Participatory Action Research paradigm. Participants exposed ways in which Western institutions (including hospitals, mental health providers, and schools) reenact elements of colonialism and fail to offer culturally sensitive care. The participants emphasized a key missing element in their well-being: renewing the relationship with the Earth that they lost through colonization and forced migration. To separate physical/mental health from these elements would deny the current ecological realities at the heart of the migrants’ existence. It would also recreate Eurocentric false division among mind, body, soul, and spirit. Maya focus group participants claimed that a decolonial approach to healing could be initiated by returning land to the communities, which they could use for cultivation, community gathering, food sovereignty, and sacred practices. Praxis participants offered critical guidance in re-imagining health and healing in community with each other and with the Earth, which they identified as the sources of flourishing, identity, cultural history, belonging, and spiritual connection.
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