I had already been working as an archaeologist in rural Yucatán for three field seasons, when I got the feeling that I was spending all of my time gingerly connecting myself with the wrong Maya. My colleagues were the living Maya, and although I love the tender craft of excavating precious artifacts, my heart was stolen by the laughter & language of the living Maya. This led me to the idea of painting a mural in celebration of this culture in Yaxhachen in early 2014, under the trance of the idea that culture is best expressed through the arts. Perhaps that isn’t a universal sentiment, but the idea still sticks. Folkloric art, especially, is cultural, yet somehow ranges on a tendency to be inoffensive. Moreover, large-scale art projects are described as inclusive, uplifting, community building—especially when you have lots of hands involved. The original concept for Ko’ox Boon was to paint a wall with a local artist’s mock-up. After a week of being on the ground, a mural organically grew into a six week long arts and creativity camp for primary school kids. In 2014, this camp provided a diverse curriculum and arts opportunities for 78 kids.
Now, there are 191 kids enrolled & hundreds of adults participating in regular community center programming.
Mandi oversees all programs, development projects and fundraising for Ko'ox Boon and Community Engaged Learning programs for Millsaps College Yucatán. Mandi is a writer from Yazoo City, Mississippi. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from Millsaps College in 2012 & her M.A. in English from University of Louisville in 2014.
Allie Jordan, Marketing Director
In the summer of 2013, Mandi and Allie made the brutal bike ride under the Yucatecan sun from Kaxil Kiuic to Yaxhachen, and it was then that Allie fell in love with the community. In early 2015, Allie began building a formal set of visual records of the community through photography and videography. During the community’s first-ever visit of Kaxil Kiuic, an official viewing of the these videos induced excitement from the crowd of children, mothers, aunts; and all the while reinforced Allie’s ideas of the power of media and representation. Throughout the six weeks of Camp Ko’ox, Allie photographed portraits of 150 campers and community volunteers, which eventually culminated in the “Somos Yaxhachen” photo gallery at the KB Museo en Vivo. At the end of the living museum celebration, campers and their families were invited to take their photos to hang in their own homes. As each person removed his or her photo away from the larger body, a realization was made that through Ko’ox Boon we are each an important part of a whole. Additionally, Allie focused on aiding counselors Liz and Sara in cultivating photographers out of children that had previously never used a camera. This proved most rewarding and allowed for an organic, grassroots media process to take way within the documentation of Camp Ko’ox 2015. With each passing day at camp, Allie became more and more impressed with the visual storytelling desde sus ojos (through their eyes). So impressed that she’s still in awe. Allie Jordan is a photographer living in Mérida, Yucatán who is currently serving as the International Communications Liaison for Millsaps College, a position she created for the college two years ago. She received her B.A. in communication studies from Millsaps College in 2013.