Ignacio: The Diary of a Maya Indian of Guatemala


Central America from the eyes of a peasant illuminates the complex problems of the region: the nature of the social, personal, economic, medical, and religious matters as well as the political issues related to the great masses of Latin America's poor.

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Central America from the eyes of a peasant illuminates the complex problems of the region: the nature of the social, personal, economic, medical, and religious matters as well as the political issues related to the great masses of Latin America's poor.

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Editorial Reviews

Albuquerque Journal
"Ignacio is a fascinating and intimate glimpse into the daily life of an endangered cultural minority" (Albuquerque Journal, Sunday, September 6, 1992).
The diaries (Son of Tecun Uman: A Maya Indian Tells His Life Story 1981; Campesino: The Diary of a Guatemalan Indian 1985; Ignacio) and the folktales weave together to provide one of the most important sets of documents we have for Guatemala and Mesoamerica... The Bizarro-Sexton team is a rare good event for Mesoamerican scholarship. They have produced documents of great value to ethnographers, historians, political scientists, community developers, folklorists, and the general audience. The documents will be mined and minded for generations (Ethnohistory, Vol. 30, 1993).

"Son of Tecun Uman: A Maya Indian Tells His Life Story," "Campesino: The Diary of a Guatemalan Indian," and "Ignacio: The Diary of a Maya Indian of Guatemala"--have been a collaborative endeavor with a Guatemalan resident of a small village, Ignacio (not his real name).

"The books make fascinating reading for the specialist and general audiences. Ignacio's topics range from politics to religion to the local economy. He also includes details of his upbringing, marriage, children, and grandchildren, and personalities from his village. The writing style is direct and Sexton's translation is meticulous. Ignacio's life history illustrates what anthropology is about--trying to understand aspects of human life in another culture (Flare, Arizona Daily Sun, Friday, July 18, 1997).

Indian Literatures
Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan was born in San Jose la Laguna (a pseudonymous town) on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, in 1941. The story of his life, and of a turbulent, perilous period of Guatemalan history, is now available to us in an unparalleled trilogy of diaries written by Bizarro, translated and edited by James Sexton. Ignacio: The Diary of a Maya Indian of Guatemala is the third volume of this remarkable series (Latin American Indian Literatures Journal, Fall 1993).
Mark Zimmerman
Thus Ignacio emerges as a man who by this third volume is quite able to articulate the pattern of abuses to which the poor and indigenous are subjected in Guatemala, and yet who, like the vast majority in the years of reasserted military hegemony from Rios Montt on, is unwilling to opt for armed revolutionary resistance. For Ignacio, and perhaps a large segment of the poor he may indeed represent, hope for change lies in the combinations of tradition and modernity, of the socioeconomic transformations fostered under the new electoral policies as they filter into the local communities. Ignacio knows quite well that the national politicians 'always...favor the millionaires and never the suffering people" (220). However, sick of guerrilla-miliary war, sick of abuses and violence that seem to lead nowhere, he is hopeful that the national government can change enough to improve wages and keep prices down, while he (and here his own protagonizing role) becomes increasingly involved in the local community and its political struggles as he works to bring new educational and entrepreneurial cooperative projects and win support from political candidates who Rigoberta might well consider as progressive. These are the attitudes which ethnographer Sexton sees as significantly representative in the Mayan areas of Guatemala. If this is so, we may have some inkling as to why the Indian uprisings of the early 1980s did not represent a deeper, more extensive revolutionary movement that could lead to a potentially transformative conjuncture. Here we are, then, at the deepest, most significant level of Ignacio's texts as testimonio. To put it in terms of the older Marxist (Lukacsian-Goldmannian) categories evoked earlier in this discussion, Rigoberta may represent the "potential consciousness" of Guatemalan Indians, but Ignacio may well represent their "real consciousness" (Literature and Resistance in Guatemala: Textual Modes and Cultural Politics From El Senor Presidente to Rigoberta Menchu by Marc Zimmerman, 1995:88).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812213614
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1992
  • Pages: 336

Read an Excerpt

Accused in the Military Detachment of the Navy: A Repression 7 to 8 March 1983

I was accused in the military detachment of the navy; I don't know exactly when.3 What I know is that during the night of 7 March they called me to the office of the military commissioner, telling me that I had to present myself to the military detachment in San Luis for an urgent matter. When I returned from the office, I had to look for the jefe [chief, head, boss] of the commissioners to accompany me. But then later, I decided to go without him. Instead, I asked a friend, Miguel, "Come with me, amigo. I might die. You need to witness what might happen and advise my family."

"Very well," he told me, "I will accompany you."

But always I was with doubt because I didn't know why they had called me. I felt somewhat nervous and a little afraid.

Tuesday, the eighth, dawned, and I went to San Martin to catch the launch, but beforehand my family was worried because the situation was delicate. When I arrived in San Luis, we went to eat breakfast. I drank a beer, and I went to the detachment, which is about four kilometers from the town. When I arrived, I had to wait until they were ready to receive me. In doing this, I met ten Martineros [people of San Martin]. I didn't know what they were doing, but there had been a lot of kidnapping and violence in their town. We had to wait for the Martineros to leave.

Then they received me in the office of the army. "Come in, what do you want?" the captain said.

"My captain, I have received your order to present myself here."

"Fine, come in," he told me. "What is your order?"

"Look, I don't have an order. I just came to present myself because you have called me to come."

"Have you served in the military?"

"Si." And then I showed him my name on my certification of service.

"What problems do you have with the jefe of the military commissioners?"

"No problem."

"Ah, very well," he told me. "Are you part of the civil defense patrol of San Jose?"

"Yes, indeed," I told him.

"Ah, fine, and you have taken your turns?"

"Of course, I have." I told him.

"How can you prove that?" he asked me.

Well, I had brought a notebook with the dates that showed I had taken turns and the notes taken of the incidents in which we had encountered persons, cars, and all of this, and I showed this to the officers. "Look, I have taken turns; these are my notes."

"Ah, very good," he told, "come forth, let's talk. I was told that you did not take turns."

"Who told you that?" I asked.

"The jefe of the military commissioners came to tell me that you are a capricious person, that you don't want to guard your pueblo."

"On the contrary," I told him, "I'm a person who likes to guard his town because we are honorable workers," I told him. "The commissioner became angry at me because he asked for a quetzal from each of us--we are more than 400 persons, which would be Q400. And this is an arrears for us poor people. Just because I was the one who said that it was better not to give him a quetzal, he accused me here," I told the captain.

"Ah, fine," the captain said, "but that's not what he told me. He told me that you were capricious, you don't want to take a turn, you don't want to take your turn guarding the town, you don't want to collaborate."

"I know that I have collaborated. I have my dates."

For sure I didn't know that the jefe of the military commissioners had accused me of anything until the captain told me. But the reason is that he once asked me for money. I told him that I didn't have any money to give away and that if he wanted money he needed to work because only the blind should be given money since they were unable to work. This was what made the military commissioner angry. He accused me of disobedience and nonfulfillment of service of the civil patrol.

Why did he want money?

He wanted a lot of money from all the civil defense patrol. Earlier, he said it wasn't much, just 25 centavos from each member of the patrol to buy some patches to put on the arm that say PAC [Patrullo de autodefensa civil]. This was money for a typical, simple strip of cloth that cost 25 centavos. Then, as we are many, he collected a lot of money [for the patches].

Then this commissioner met another woman, who had a mantel [cloth] that was blue, a little finer than the yellow ones that we were already wearing on our arms. And he commissioned more cloth, finer yet, from her, and it cost a quetzal.

Why do you think he wanted to buy new cloth from her?

He wanted to give her this business so that he would become her lover.

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