Francisco Ximénez

Father Francisco Ximénez (1666 – 1729) came as a Dominican missionary to the New World in February 1688. His companions were initially dispatched throughout the province to learn the native languages. However, Ximénez was delayed by the completion of his novitiate and his subsequent acceptance of an administrative assignment at the seminary, but by 1691 the young priest was in San Juan Sacatepéquez learning Cakchiquel. He attained sufficient mastery in only two months so as to be sent to San Pedro de las Huertas to assist Father Francisco de Viedma who was convalescing a broken leg. In December 1693, Ximénez began his service as the Doctrinero of San Raimundo and in August of 1701 Ximénez began his curacy of Santo Tomás Chichicastenango (also known as Chuilá and virtually any combination thereof). Father Ximénez was the Curate of Rabinal from 1704 through 1714. During this time he also served as the Doctrinero, Vicario, and Predicador-General of that district beginning as early as 1705. Father Ximénez served in various other capacities until his death in late 1729 or early 1730. Sadly, he was appointed Presentado, but died before the letters of patent could be delivered.

Ximénez’s writings exhibit a clear passion for the native languages. He was also clearly invested in the history of the region and was commissioned to compile a history of the region. The first volume of his Historia de la provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Gvatemala includes a modified version of Popol Vuh, specifically, chapters two through twenty-one of Book One, Qve trata del tiempo de la gentilidad. As for his initial transcription and translation of Popol Vuh, most believe it occurred during his 1701-1703 curacy of Santo Tomás Chuilá (Chichicastenango) based on the caption of the title page. Interestingly enough, this very title page reads Empiezan las historias del origen de los indios de esta provinçia de Gvatemala. Ximénez never actually refers to the mythistory as “Popol Vuh.” In any event, his writings remained posthumously in the possession of the Dominican Order at the Convent of Santo Domingo, that is, until General Francisco Morazán expelled the clerics from Guatemala in 1829 causing these and other items to pass to the Universidad de San Carlos. In all there is rather little biographical information available and there are no known portraits.

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

Ma(r)king Popol Vuh

Refereed Journal. Joe Bray, Miriam Handley, and Anne C. Henry have argued that “to mark a text is also to make it; [and] features such as punctuation, footnotes, epigraphs, white space and marginalia, marks that traditionally have been ignored in literary criticism, can be examined for their contribution to a text’s meaning.” In 2007 The Newberry Library disbound the oldest surviving text of Popol Vuh for conservation. That process made it possible to examine a number of paratextual markers calling into question popular perspectives of Popol Vuh as Indian auto-ethnography. This refereed article published at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seeks to raise modern awareness of the manuscript’s paratext and its meaning for traditional assumptions of Popol Vuh’s survival and its narrative/textual boundaries.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