Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg

Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg (1814 – 1874) was born September 1814 in Bourbourg, France. After his ordination in 1845, Brasseur was recruited by Abbé Léon Gingras to serve in Québec. While his superiors insisted on additional studies in ecclesiastical history, Brasseur instead delved into the archdiocesan archives there at Québec and “published” his Esquisse biographique sur Mgr. de Laval, premier Evêque de Québec. Brasseur then left for Boston where he had previously formed a good relationship with Bishop John Bernard Fitzpatrick. Brasseur then returned to France in late 1846 or early 1847. He joined an expedition to Mexico where he resided from 1848 to 1851.

In 1852 Brasseur published Histoire du Canada de son église et de ses missions depuis la découverte de l’Amérique jusqu’à nos jours. This work, however, was met with significant controversy and Brasseur was lambasted for an affected, careless style punctuated with a looseness and inattention to factual detail. The Canadian backlash eventually prompted Brasseur‘s bishop to withdraw his imprimatur, albeit somewhat ambiguously.

Brasseur next traveled to Guatemala in February 1855 where he resided in and around the capital city, in Rabinal, and in San Juan Sacatepéquez until his departure in January 1857. Several months later, Brasseur published the first volume of his Histoire des nations civilisées du Mexique et de l’Amérique-Centrale. In 1861, Brasseur published Popol vuh. Le livre sacré et les mythes de l’antiquité américaine. This was the first of his series loosely titled “Collection de documents dans les langues indigènes, pour servir à l’étude de l’histoire et de la philologie de l’Amérique ancienne.” The second volume came out in 1862 titled Grammaire de la langue Quichée Espagnole-Française mise en parallèle avec ses deux dialectes, Cakchiquel et Tzutuhil, tirée des manuscrits des meilleurs auteurs guatémaliens. Although these three works deal directly with Popol Vuh content, Brasseur is very evasive about his source material.

In 1872 Brasseur printed a Bibliothèque Mexico-Guatémalienne précédée d’un coup d’œil sur les études Américaines. In this work Brasseur contradicts his prior statements concerning his Popol Vuh source material. Brasseur died in Nice, France in 1874.

Popol Vuh

Fresco depicting scene from Popol VuhPopol Vuh is a religious text of the Central American Maya indians. Stated more precisely, Popol Vuh is a periconquest oral mythistory (myth + history)  of the highland Quiché (K’iche’) Maya. The mythic component comprehends a creation story, a diluvian suggestion, and epic tales of anthropomorphic ancestors. The myth transitions into history through its tale of an eastward ancestral migration to observe the first dawn through which the sojourners acquire fire and evolve distinct languages, tribes, and clans. We are told how the Quichean tribes arrived in the western highlands and there is an anecdotal account of how the Quiché rise to prominence over their Cakchiquel and Tzutuhil relatives. Popol Vuh also describes a society that, anthropologically speaking, seems to depict settlement and intertribal conflict of the terminal late classic period (roughly AD 790 to 1000). Popol Vuh concludes with regnal genealogies leading to the time of the Spanish conquest (AD 1524). Ontologically speaking, Popol Vuh exists as a product of exponential supposition and as a consequence there are really two distinguishable conceptual and physical Popol Vuh entities.Continue Reading

Rethinking the Context of Popol Vuh

Doctoral Dissertation. Although seventeenth-century Dominican priest Francisco Ximénez is credited for conservation of Popol Vuh, no critical attention is given to his personal agency and his ecclesiastical agenda. The oversight is particularly disconcerting where he plainly states in his prologue, “Esta mi obra, y trabaxo discurro q’ avra muchos q’ la tengan por la mas futil y vana de las q’ he trabaxado, asi lo pensaran muchos; y yo lo discurro al contrario, porq’ entiendo ser la mas util, y neçesaria.” My investigation is founded on answering the question: Why did Father Ximénez believe conservation of this text to be his crowning achievement? I answer this question by examining the four prologues of the Ayer manuscript to uncover Ximénez’s significant interaction with the text.Continue Reading