‘Hocho Part 2: Hocho’ (Abrirse las orejas / To Open One’s Ears) Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa

Maria Choc Choc imagines, based on her mixed Q’eqchi’ and Ch’ol roots, how the words from the book Arte y vocabulario de la lengua ch’olti’, a 17th century dictionary written by the Dominican friar Francisco Moran would sound nowadays. The manuscript aimed at documenting  Ch’olti’ culture and was written prior to the Spanish attempt to eradicate it. Accompanying her words are the sounds of peeling the husks of “miltomates” (husk tomatoes), a folk cure used to heal “susto” (fright)  and give a voice to those that have lost it through traumatic experiences. 

La Cooperativa Nuevo Horizonte was established in 1998 in Santa Ana, in the Guatemalan region of Peten two years after the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the civil war in Guatemala. One hundred and thirty demobilized families settled here. Some of these families have fought for the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), while others were part the so-called CPRs or Communities of People in Resistance, communities that were uprooted by the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) who took refuge in isolated mountainous and jungle areas of Peten from the early 1980s. Together they started a new life from nothing and have built, through a model of solidarity and cooperation, a new community that is part of the Guatemalan post-war integration project into civilian life.

The words that Maria Choc Choc shares with us are:

Ti – Boca – Mouth
Huniebalchan – Mundo – World
Mim – Abuela – Grandmother
Mam – Abuelo – Grandfather
Maxcul Pupum – Pájaro – Bird
Tutu – Caracol – Snail
Chan – Culebra – Snake
Tuul – Conejo – Rabbit
Ch’ol – Milpa (maizal) – Cornfield
Hocho – Abrirse las orejas –  To open one’s ears

Eeb – Escalera – Stairs
Apizocab – Estrella de Venus – Star of Venus (Ishtar)
Baiquin – A qué hora – At what time
Chahc – Rozar milpa (regar los maizales) – To water cornfields
Peche – Apretar mano – Squeeze hand
Acut – Bailar – To dance
Cai – Cantar – To sing 

V – Luna – Moon
Chopin – Acostar a otro – Lay someone to bed

– Abuelo – Grandfather
Tzutz – Cabello – Hair
Tan – Ceniza – Ash
Vy al cacab – Dedo meñique – Little finger
Lochte – Garabato (vara) – Religious staff
Tun – Corazon – Heart
Acab – Noche – Night
Zuchoquin – Consolar en la aflicción – Comfort in suffering
Hocho – Abrirse las orejas – To open one’s ears
Chol – Milpa (maizal) – Cornfield
Ti – Boca – Mouth


Hocho (Abrirse las orejas / To Open One’s Ears, 2022-ongoing) is a sound work that invites us into a journey not only through a specific geography—that of the Chol’ in Guatemala—but throughout time, since the Spanish colonial invasion to nowadays. How could we listen and learn from the voices of the Ch’olti’, prosecuted and nearly exterminated by the Spaniards in the 17th century, and how could their loss be repaired in an area where both cultural and ecological extractivism has operated for centuries. This piece began as a historical research, which then quickly became a very personal journey for the artist into retracing most of the terrain covered by internal refugees during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996). 

Commissioned by TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary for TB21 on st_age, this work was also supported by extra funds from the Inga Maren Otto Fellowship (The Watermill Center, NY). 

Field and voice recordings were made with the assistance of Ameno Cordova and Stef Arreaga.



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Social Justice
Produced by:
Curated by:
20/06 2022
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa
‘Hocho Part 2: Hocho‘ (Abrirse las orejas / To Open One's Ears), 2022
2 min 58 sec
Voice: Maria Choc Choc
Location of the recording: Laguna Oquevix, Cooperativa Nuevo Horizonte, Petén, República de Guatemala
Recording made with the assistance of Ameno Cordova and Stef Arreaga

Commissioned by TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary for TB21 on st_age and supported with extra funds from the Inga Maren Otto Fellowship (The Watermill Center, NY)

Image credit:
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa
‘Hocho’ (Abrirse las orejas/To open One’s Ears), 2022
Research trip visual documentation
Location: Coban, Alta Verapaz, República de Guatemala
Date: June 26, 2021 (Day 7 of research trip)
Research Funds: TBA21 & Inga Maren Otto Fellowship (The Watermill Center, NY)
Photo: Stef Arreaga
Courtesy of Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa and Stef Arreaga
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