Na’atik Institute opens English library in Maya Zone

The Na'atik Language and Culture Institute has an English library for its Mayan visitors. Photo: Facebook
The Na’atik Language and Culture Institute has an English library for its Mayan visitors. Photo: Facebook

Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Q. Roo — An English-language library is opening in the heart of the area’s Zona Maya at the end of the month.

The Na’atik Language and Culture Institute, a nonprofit that teaches English to over 200 students, will open it on Thursday, May 31.

“Opening a library here is a bit of a risk,” admits Catherine Gray, the school’s founder. “Libraries were a huge part of my childhood, but they’re not part of the culture here. The region is impoverished, books are very expensive and hard to find, so it’s rare to see people reading or even interested in books. There’s a municipal library, but the collection is outdated and its lending policies are so prohibitive that few people use it for anything other than Wi-Fi.”

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Felipe Carrillo Puerto is about 60 miles inland from the beaches of Tulum and surrounded by jungle. The town and surrounding communities have a population of 80,000 with 70 percent living in poverty.

Opening a library can bring endless benefits to its students.

“Learning a language requires you to spend time working outside the classroom,” says Chris Nott, a Na’atik English teacher. “Taking a book home is a perfect way to do that. And this also helps develop the study skills and love of learning that are the key to success in everything.”

Those skills can be life-changing as demonstrated in the growing number of Na’atik alumni who are going on to university, often as the first in their family.

In addition to English courses, Na’atik offers immersion experiences in Spanish and Maya to international visitors through the Study Abroad Yucatán program. The library would not have been possible without this segment of Na’atik’s language-learning community.

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Some international visitors are short-stay vacationers while others are students who study for months. Many go further by volunteering at the school and others become generous donors who have funded projects such as the new library. Ten percent of the Study Abroad program’s revenue goes directly into the nonprofit.

Na’atik will also bring on a full-time librarian to maintain the collection and organize programming. The librarian will also manage student volunteers from the local schools and the SAY program. So far three SAY students have already volunteered for the summer.

Na’atik’s name comes from the Maya expression “To’on Na’atik,” meaning “we’re understanding each other.”

For more information, contact John Pope at communications@naatikmexico.org.

The public is invited to the library’s opening 7 p.m. Thursday, May 31 in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, on Calle 57 between Calle 78 and Calle 80 (map).

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