The greatest strength of Joseno is its bottom-up approach and vivid description of the human condition in rural Guatemala from 1987-1998. This life history will be of interest and value to scholars from a variety of disciplines in the liberal arts and social sciences, including anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and political scientists. This book will also appeal to general readers interested in contemporary Guatemala.
Joseno: Another Mayan Voice Speaks from Guatemalaby Ignacio Bizarro Ujpban
James Sexton met Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan in 1970, when Sexton traveled to Guatemala for the first time as a graduate student in anthropology. Ignacio became Sexton's research assistant and, as the men's friendship grew over the years of fieldwork that followed, Sexton asked Ignacio to keep a detailed journal. In his diaries, Bizarro chronicles more than a quarter… See more details below
James Sexton met Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan in 1970, when Sexton traveled to Guatemala for the first time as a graduate student in anthropology. Ignacio became Sexton's research assistant and, as the men's friendship grew over the years of fieldwork that followed, Sexton asked Ignacio to keep a detailed journal. In his diaries, Bizarro chronicles more than a quarter century of the turbulent history of Guatemala, returning again and again to the themes of community solidarity, civil violence, alcohol abuse, resistance to repression, political turmoil, and the reinforcement of traditional and religious values that color daily life in the Maya communities of Guatemala's highlands.
Joseño: Another Mayan Voice Speaks from Guatemala covers the period from 1987-98 and is the fourth and latest volume of Ignacio's diary, the authentic life history of a common man, a campesino, a principal (elder) in his town, and a Tzutuhil Indian whose life has spanned the ongoing struggle for democracy and economic justice in Guatemala. His vivid and plain-spoken account of life among the Maya during the war between guerrillas and the army in the 1980s and 1990s offers detailed descriptions of the atrocities committed by both sides and brings the reader into a Mayan world richly textured with indigenous beliefs and practices. Ignacio's diary also records the Mayan cultural revitalization sweeping Guatemala, as well as the fortunes of the Indian peoples who have so often been pawns in the vicious power struggles between Left and Right.
Those of us who read the other diaries will feel a bit sad that this is the last we will hear from Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan. He is just an ordinary man, yet through his eyes we have witnessed Guatemalan history from ground zero. His courage and fortitude will long inspire us, while the events he witnessed will haunt us forever.
- University of New Mexico Press
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Read an Excerpt
The Violence in Santiago Atitlan
The [following] event took place on Sunday, 21 October 1990. In the night, all the zajorines were gathered together in the cofradia of Santa Cruz, the same place where they worship Maximon. The zajorines had gathered together to perform a costumbre to Maximon in order to pray for a miracle to eliminate the violence and killing. Everything was prepared, when suddenly, minutes before the ceremony was to begin, a man with his face covered entered the cofradia. This man then asked all those present, with the exception of the alcalde, Don Martin Queju, to leave, as he had some business to discuss with the alcalde. The zajorines complied and went outside. The alcalde, Martin Queju, and the primer zajorin [first shaman] remained inside. After a few minutes, shots from an automatic weapon rang out. It is said that the man with the covered face, after having murdered Senor Queju, calmly walked out onto the street and left.
When the rest of the zajorines reentered the cofradia, they saw the body of the alcalde bathed in blood. He had been killed with fifteen bullet wounds. Also, Maximon had been wounded by gunfire and was half destroyed.
Preparing the Cofradia
On Sunday, 20 June, we began to tie special white sticks (used by our fathers) in grids under the part of the ceiling that covers the altar of the holy image. We planned to attach aromatic leaves and flowers to the grid. We finished at nine o'clock at night on 22 June.
Then I went to the mountains to look for some aromatic leaves that in the Tzutuhil language are called c'o jotz, but I don't know what they are called in Spanish, since only we natives use them. By the grace of God, everything went well.
I was on the mountain alone when a woodpecker arrived to sing. We Maya worry when a woodpecker sings on the left side of a person, which is considered a bad omen, but when it sings on the right side of a person, it is considered a good omen, or sign of good luck. Thus it was when a woodpecker blurted out a song above in a tree that was directly in front of me, not to the left or to the right. The truth is that it troubled me and I said, "Woodpecker, guardian and alguacil of the world, are you giving me good or bad advice? May the god of heaven and earth bless you and me."
The bird sang only one song. After picking the leaves, I walked slowly down the mountain because it was steep. At three o'clock in the afternoon I arrived home.
Meet the Author
James D. Sexton is Regents' Professor of anthropology at Northern Arizona University and is the author of many articles and books on cultural change in Guatemala's highland communities.
Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán has served in numerous civil and religious offices in his town of San José la Laguna. He writes in his spare time, when he is away from his cornfields and coffee groves and when he is not helping his wife with her weaving projects. Bizarro has also collaborated with James D. Sexton on Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (UNM Press).
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