Spanish-American Colonial Texts

Tikal Central Complex Temple IIRoughly five hundred years before the Spanish conquest, the ancient Maya civilization that once erected breathtaking stone temples and civic complexes dissolved into small- and mid-sized regions of power and influence. The jungle swallowed their monuments and the Spanish conquerors, chaplains, and missionaries of the sixteenth century suppressed most of what remained of the pre-conquest culture. Of particular loss were their fan-fold “books” made from lime-bleached amate and adorned with the majestic figures characteristic of Maya art. Only three such confirmed items survive today—the Madrid, Paris, and Dresden codices—Folio from Madrid codexall of which had already been whisked away to Europe long before their existence became known to the world. Still, Maya epigraphers could not meaningfully decipher these or their stone inscriptions until the latter part of the twentieth century. In the absence of authentic and comprehensible material, the written accounts of the Spanish establishment arose as the authoritative sources of historiographic and ethnographic information on the pre-colonial civilizations and populations. A number of these colonial texts are commonly recognizable, but perhaps the most recognizable of all is Popol Vuh.Continue Reading

El Palo Volador

Published Translation. Sixteenth-century Franciscan mendicant friar Juan de Torquemada describes the Indian practice of erecting a “flying mast” at major festivals and the missionary attempts to end its practice. (Copy of the published English translation of “Del palo volador de que usaban estos indios en sus fiestas principales.”)Continue Reading

(Re)writing (Hi)story

Invited Panelist. The end of the Fifth Great Cycle in Maya cosmology (12-21-2012) is nebulous and poorly characterized. This is almost entirely the consequence of exclusive reliance upon the inadequate writings of epistemologically-conflicted Europeans.Continue Reading

Disparities of Discourse in Popol Vuh

Conference Paper. Francisco Ximénez’s transcription and translation of Popol Vuh is not as straightforward and sterile as is generally presumed. The task requires intricate management of the textual and semiotic grids, both in the the Quiché transcription and in the Spanish translation.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