“Maya – Spanish – English” illustrated dictionary: an author’s lifetime work

In a exclusive interview with The Yucatan Times, Rafael Chay Arzápalo expressed how proud he feels of his Mayan roots.

“The desire to preserve our culture with a huge respect to the memory of my ancestors inspired me to write the book “Maya – Spanish – English illustrated vocabulary”.

The different topics or semantic fields are presented in alphabetical order, based on the Spanish language, followed by the Maya translation and then the English translation, accompanied with photographs to illustrate each and every word in a graphic way.

In this book, the reader will find animals, plants, fruits, vegetables, clothing, parts of the body, organs, items related to everyday living at home, school or community.

There is a whole chapter in this book dedicated to numbers and the special way the Mayans handle counting.

It is a didactical work apt for students of any level or for anybody who wants to learn Maya.

Rafael Chay Arzápalo and wife at FILEY 2016 (Photo TYT)
Rafael Chay Arzápalo and wife at FILEY 2016 (Photo TYT)

I am positive that it will a very useful educational tool for students, teachers, parents, professionals and any person (national or foreign) living in the Yucatan who might be interested in the Maya language and its rich cultural heritage.

Vocabulario Ilustrado Español / Maya / Inglés
Vocabulario Ilustrado Español / Maya / Inglés (Photo: vocabularioilusmaya.wix.com)

My second book: “Tengo que aprender Maya” (I have to learn Maya), features a CD with audio, and the methodology is to see the picture, read the words and listen to the phonetics, and this is a much more comprehensive way to learn the language.

Rafael Chay Arzápalo with Governor Rolando Zapata (Photo: vocabularioilusmaya.wix.com)
Rafael Chay Arzápalo with Governor Rolando Zapata (Photo: vocabularioilusmaya.wix.com)

And my third book, “En la selva y en los pueblos del Mayab” (In the jungle and the towns ot the Mayab), tells legends and stories of the ancient ones, in order to make the student go deeper into the customs and traditions of the Maya.

This book includes a musical partiture of the “Danza del Ramillete” (Dance of the Corsage).”

Rafael Chay Arzápalo stated that it took him 11 years to finish the “Maya – Spanish – English illustrated vocabulary”, 7 years to finish the Tengo que aprender Mayaand 4 years to come up with the third book “En la selva y en los pueblos del Mayab

“Here in the Yucatan Peninsula, we are proud of our indigenous languages, our “mestizo” roots and we believe in the great importance of keeping our authenticity.

There are thousands of Maya speakers in the Yucatan Peninsula, men and women with an active social and economic participation, that rely on their dialect as their only means of communication.

And so I consider my duty to preserve this language as a tribute to our ancestors, from whom we inherited this historical and cultural treasure”.

If you want to get a copy of this author’s lifetime work, just go to the FILEY 2016 at Centro de Convenciones Siglo XXI, Rafael is at stand number 129, or you can buy it online at:


Interview by Alejandro Azcárate