Reviews of Ignacio: The Diary of a Maya Indian of Guatemala

"Vol. 3 in the engaging, on-going series of diaries of a Tzutuhil Maya man from a village on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (see HLAS 45:917 and HLAS 49:764a).  This volume covers May 1983-Aug. 1987 and provides further important detail about the course and aftermath of violent repression in rural Guatemala."

    --Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS Online), Library of Congress, Volume 53.

"Ignacio, a Mayan campesino living in the mountainous region around Lake Atitlán, supports his large family by tending small fields of coffee and other crops, baking bread, and hiring himself out for small jobs. His observations are remarkable, not only for their astuteness, but also for their scope."

        -- Ruth M. Mara, Library Journal, 1 March 1992: 98.

"Ignacio is a fascinating and intimate glimpse into the daily life of an endangered cultural minority."

        -- Scott Sandli, Albuquerque Journal, Sunday, 6 September 1992.

"Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán was born in San José la Laguna (a pseudonymous town) on the shores of Lake Atitlán, 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."

        -- Paul Sullivan, Latin American Indian Literatures Journal, 1993: 156.

Joint Reviews of Ignacio and Mayan Folktales:

"The diaries (Son of Tecún Umán: 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 folktales display aspects of the Tzutuhil worldview and affective life not found in the diaries. For example, in life, a strict morality governs relations between the spouses.   In art, there is a tense, lusty, more open relationship.  In life, laziness is a scandal, nearly a sin.  In art, laziness combined with cunning can pay off.  In origin myths, the Tzutuhil rework the Garden of Eden story and somehow make it less stern that the western version.  The folktales also describe the morality of reciprocity, beliefs in ultimate justice, robust sexuality, Chaucerian priests, tricksters, and the Tzutuhil natural and supernatural landscape. Many of the tales are cautionary, reflections of what is and what ought to be, and many of them are strong, ribald, just plain racy, and funny stories.

"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."

         -- Norman B. Schwartz, Ethnohistory, Vol. 30, 1993: 491-93.

Joint Reviews of Son of Tecún Umán, Campesino, and Ignacio:

"'Son of Tecún Umán: 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). Royalties from the books are shared between Sexton and Ignacio.

"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 aspect of human life in another culture."

        --David Ortiz, Flare, Arizona Daily Sun, Thursday, 18 July 1997: A14.

"Superb three-part autobiography of a Tzutuhil Maya from Lago Atitlán told over a 20-year period."

    --Hum Hennessy, Insight Guide to Guatemala, Belize, Yucatán, 2000: 380.

"Three excellent autobiographical accounts written by a Tz'utujil Maya from Lago de Atitlán.  The books give an impression of life inside a modern Maya village, bound up in poverty, local politics and a mixture of Catholicism and superstition,  and manage to avoid the stereotyping that usually characterizes description of the indigenous population."

    --Iain Stewart, The Rough Guide to Guatemala, Third Edition, January 2006:495.

"One outstanding feature of Ignacio's story is that it is intensely personal, but in its particularity or perhaps precisely because of its particularity, it strikes universal themes.  Ignacio describes conflicts in Guatemala that have been going on even since the Spanish conquest of the country, from the bottom up so to speak, in the voice of a participant, not an outsider looking down and in from the outside.  Ignacio records the repression, poverty, insecurity, and violence that drive the unrest in Guatemala, as well as the sources of pleasure, strength, and achievement in his life and the life of his community. In telling about his own life, Ignacio speaks for Tzutuhil and other Indians in Central America and more generally for the poor of the earth. So while the book has great scholarly value, it also has the deepest sort of human (or humanistic) value."

        -- Norman Schwartz, pre-publication review, University of Pennsylvania Press.

"In the classes I teach that deal with Central America, the students are always interested in the current situation.  Information of that nature is often difficult to obtain.  Ignacio provides a current look a life in Guatemala from the point of view of not only someone living there, but of someone who is also a careful observer.  As years pass, Ignacio will continue to be important because it is one of the best autobiographies of a Mayan that is available.

"While there is a wealth of insight into rural Guatemalan interpersonal relations, I was struck by the fact that the problems that Ignacio describes have a certain universality to them.  Life as Ignacio characterizes it in his village is probably not too different from life in other societies where the law no longer works.  I would expect that people living in Lebanon, rural Philippines, Afghanistan, and elsewhere share many of the same problems and frustrations that Ignacio depicts.  Thus it is more than a book about a Maya Indian, it is also a book about humanity in a socio-political system that has gone astray."

        -- Michael D. Olien, pre-publication review, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Guatemalan Fabric

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