by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
An amazing moment occurred this morning, while I was picking up supplies for my garden and fixer upper house. It was a nice way to kick off the Fourth of July weekend.
I have life long friends in Mexico from my visits there, but also typically had many Mexican and Central American craftsmen constructing buildings that I designed. So I always speak to first generation Latin-Americans in Spanish to let them know that many of us respect them and are delighted to have them enrich our culture.
At the back dock, I was telling in Spanish the guy loading my raised-bed gardening soil about one of my herd dogs. She is a Spanish Shepherd from the mountains of northern New Mexico. He smiled and said in English that actually he knew English better than he knew Spanish. His first language was an Indian language in Guatemala. He told me that in his language the word for dog wast not perro, but chu-chu.
I responded, “Oh my gosh, you’re Maya.” He responded, “Yes, but how did you know?”
I told him that the word for dog in Georgia Creek and Itza Maya was chi-chi. * He said, “Oh yes, that is the word for dog in the tribe next to us and most of the tribes in the Guatemala Mountains.”
*In Muskogee Creek the word for dog is efaw. That was originally a Northwest European word.
I then went down a long list of river, plant and animal names. They were the same in both his Maya dialect and Georgia Creek. Even the name of the Chattahoochee River is Itza Maya – in fact, his Maya language, also. It means “Ancient-river-shallow.”
He spoke some his Maya language. I understood a surprising number of the nouns, but none of the verbs. That tells us something about how Chickasaw blended with Itza to become the Itzate (Hitchiti) Creek language.
Maybe it was meant to be that Georgia now has over a million Latin Americans. Most of them are indigenous Americans.
Yes, the Mayas came to Georgia over a thousand years ago and now they have come again. We both parted with a smile on our face.