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March 21, 2022

Love of poetry and Maya culture leads former JCCC student to success.

Former JCCC student Ignacio Carvajal is a professor, a student of Indigenous languages, a researcher and a published poet. His many titles frequently cross over.

Sales of his newest publication, poetry chapbook “Allow: A Litany” (La Resistencia Press), will benefit the International Mayan League, which supports immigrants to the United States from historically Maya regions.

“Allow” is structured as a prayer:

“allow for the heavenly madness of our youth
to be the marble that we keep
tucked in a leather pouch
for when it becomes necessary”

Carvajal had been working on “Allow” for four years. He had previously published “Plegarias,” a collection of poetry dedicated to his mother. He will return to JCCC next semester for a reading of his newest work.

It All Started at JCCC

“I first met Ignacio in one of my classes, where he was doing excellent work,” said Professor Bill Stockton. “A fellow student told me that he was giving a poetry reading at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art later that week, so I went and heard an astounding talent.”

Stockton encouraged Carvajal to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship, a highly selective scholarship for the nation’s top community college students looking to complete a bachelor’s degree.

JCCC faculty and staff got word that Carvajal had won the scholarship, and immediately set about to surprise him. An announcement party was arranged for him in the Writing Center, where he worked.

“When I arrived early, there were decorations, a big cake and ice cream,” said Stockton. “The College President and Vice President came, along with professors who had worked closely with Ignacio and his best college friends.” 

Stockton fondly recalls Carvajal’s initial surprise and a call to his family to tell them the good news.

“It was a beautiful moment, quite possibly the most wonderful of my college career,” said Stockton.

Where Can JCCC Take You?

Carvajal wanted to explore new interests while at JCCC. He branched out and got involved.

“I worked as a peer writing tutor at the JCCC Writing Center—such a cool job,” he said. “I often got to work with international students and English learners on their writing. I also took honors courses with many different professors.”

Carvajal earned his associate of arts, graduating with honors in 2009, before transferring to study literature at the University of Kansas (KU).

“Without [JCCC], I would have never been able to obtain the scholarship to attend KU and study literature,” he said. “The mentors I had there supported and encouraged me immensely.”

What Came Next After JCCC?

Carvajal pursued writing and academia even further. He earned his doctorate in Latin American Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and is now an Assistant Professor of Literature and Language in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at KU. He is also affiliate faculty in the Indigenous Studies Program and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

During his studies, his passion for learning about Maya culture emerged. His knowledge of Latin American culture and Mayan languages from Guatemala, particularly K’iche’, drive his work.

Carvajal’s research came into play in his new article in The Latin Americanist journal, “Writing Ajawarem: Establishing Authority Over People and Territory in Three Sixteenth-Century Texts in the Highlands of Guatemala.” In it, Carvajal details how Indigenous leaders in Mesoamerica attempted to preserve native authority structures even while adapting to the burdens of Spanish Catholic colonizers in the 1500s and 1600s.

It All Started Here

Since JCCC, Carvajal’s award-winning work has crossed many academic interests, including ethnohistory, linguistics, poetry, cultural preservation and immigration.

“Ignacio was the finest student I have met in my over-thirty-year career at JCCC,” said Stockton. “He was also among the nicest, funniest and most amusing. He's a charmer, a dancer through life, a magical presence.”

Find Your Tomorrow!

JCCC can help you explore any interest! Get involved in what excites you.