The War for the Heart and Soul of a Highland Maya Town

Overview

After a decade of military occupation known as la violencia, the Tz'utujil-speaking Maya of Santiago Atitlán stood up to the Guatemalan Army in 1990 and forced it to leave their town. Yet that act of solidarity did not close the widening internal divisions that threaten to destabilize the community from within. Ironically, after 500 years of resistance to physical and spiritual conquest, many Atitecos now seem eager to abandon traditional Mayan culture.

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The War for the Heart and Soul of a Highland Maya Town: Revised Edition

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Overview

After a decade of military occupation known as la violencia, the Tz'utujil-speaking Maya of Santiago Atitlán stood up to the Guatemalan Army in 1990 and forced it to leave their town. Yet that act of solidarity did not close the widening internal divisions that threaten to destabilize the community from within. Ironically, after 500 years of resistance to physical and spiritual conquest, many Atitecos now seem eager to abandon traditional Mayan culture.

In this compelling ethnography, Robert S. Carlsen explores the issue of cultural continuity and change as it has unfolded in this representative Mayan community. Drawing on documentary evidence, he argues that local Mayan culture survived the Spanish Conquest remarkably intact and continues to play a defining role in the religious and social life of the community. At the same time, however, he shows how the twentieth-century consolidation of the Guatemalan state has steadily eroded the capacity of Mayan communities to adapt to change and has caused some local factions to reject—even demonize—their own culture.

This book reflects fifteen years of field research in Atitlán, where Carlsen learned Tz'utujil, was accepted into a local cofradía (Mayan/Catholic religious society), and was a first-hand witness to la violencia. It thus presents a rare insider's perspective.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
A vivid, complex, and concise portrait of cultural continuity, social cohesion, and conflict in a town of Tzutujil Maya-speaking people of Guatemala.... Carlsen launches into an exploration of the capacity of these people to persist through centuries of oppression and of the culture to survive and regenerate even under circumstances of extreme violent repression.... a novel and eminently readable approach to local-level social and cultural history.
Choice
A vivid, complex, and concise portrait of cultural continuity, social cohesion, and conflict in a town of Tzutujil Maya-speaking people of Guatemala.... Carlsen launches into an exploration of the capacity of these people to persist through centuries of oppression and of the culture to survive and regenerate even under circumstances of extreme violent repression.... a novel and eminently readable approach to local-level social and cultural history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292711945
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Pages: 226
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword: Complex Performance in Santiago Atitlán by David Carrasco
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part One. Establishing Place and Imagining Community
1. What in the World Is Going On in Santiago Atitlán?
2. The Atiteco Mayas at the End of the Twentieth Century
3. The Flowering of the Dead Coauthored with Martin Prechtel
Part Two. History, Peripherality, And Social Pluralism
4. Conquest and Adaptation in Santiago Atitlán
5. On Enlightenment, Liberalism, and Ladinos
Part Three. Death Of Community, Resurrection Of Autonomy
6. Under the Gun in Santiago Atitlán
7. When Immortals Die
Epilogue
Notes
Glossary
Bibliography
Index
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