Reviews of Campesino: The Diary of a Guatemalan Indian

"Excellent Retelling of a Turbulent Time.  I read this book in the late 80s and found it exacting and deeply sad.  I had traveled to Guatemala during the time the storyteller was discussing, but saw my journey through innocent eyes of an American backpacker who believed the world was safe and loving.  Over the years the story would come back to me, as I became more jaded in my outlook, more knowledgeable, and needed to document my memories.  I could not find this book anywhere and it was with joy that I finally did.  The book came in excellent condition, in record speed (overseas post), and took me back to the colour, the scent ~ of a remarkable time in a remarkable place among remarkable people."

        --B. Michel, Ballerina, Australia,, 30 January 2010

"Campesino is pure dynamite for anyone interested in the Highland Maya and their historical plight...I highly recommend this book for its sensitive look at the daily life among the Native Americans of Guatemala."

        --Thomas J. Blumer, Lancaster, South Carolina,, 18 November 2008.

"Campesino: The Diary of a Guatemalan Indian edited by James D. Sexton is a cloth book about real people caught in political violence."

        --Joann Davis and William Goldstein, Publishers Weekly, Feb., Vol. 227 (5), 1985: 325. 

"A Mayan who speaks Spanish fluently and heads a business cooperative, Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán, straddles two worlds.  His day-by-day log of life in Guatemala during the past few years reflects his country's poverty, rampant alcoholism and disease as well as community solidarity and hope for change.  Along with recounting the persecution he suffered for launching the business cooperative, Ujpán's diary, written in straightforward prose, is punctuated by descriptions of political violence, government repression, student riots and protests.  This autobiographical document casts light on the question whether U.S. support for right-wing elites is the most effective way to save Latin America from communism."

        --Genevieve Stuttaford, Publishers Weekly, 10 May, Vol. 227 (19), 1985: 217.

"Campesino may be one of the most consequential books published by UofA in the 25-year history of the press."

        --John Swagerty, The Arizona Republic, Phoenix, 4 June 1985.

"...this is exactly the type of study State Department planners, members of Congress and members of the Reagan administration should be reading."

        --C. W. Buchholtz, Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colorado, Sunday, 16 June 1985.

"The firsthand account of the underside of present-day Guatemala gives voice to millions of Central American peasants through the words of Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán, A Tzutuhil Maya.  As clashes between national army and guerrilla forces escalate in the late 1980s, murder, kidnapping, rape, extortion and spying become more commonplace."

        --Green Valley News, Green Valley, Arizona, 2 July 1985: 11.

"The summary of political events is an important aspect of this book, which is a valuable resource for college, research, and larger public libraries."

        --Louise Leonard, Library Journal, July 1985.

"...Campesino is a valuable and revealing book.  It is as urgent as today's headlines.  Because of the insights, the recollections and the candor of Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán, it is a personal message to us from a stranger who tells us what he has suffered, what he believes in, what he dares to hope for. And in the course of the telling, the stranger becomes a friend."

        --Alix Arlene Ingham, The Flagstaff Times, 14 August 1985: 7.

"Campesino adds its own unique measure to our knowledge. That is sufficient grounds for applause."

        --Diane Chapman, New Times, Phoenix, 11-17 Sep. 1985.

"This view from the bottom as recorded by a Tzutuhil Maya from 1978 to 1983 is a grim portrayal of the daily struggle to exist by millions caught in the cross fire of Government troops and guerrillas throughout Central America."

        --Book Forum, Volume 7 (21), 1985: 25.

"Centered upon contemporary daily life in a small village on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, Campesino illustrates the complex interrelationships among local, national, and international events. Written in a simple and readable style, the diary will be valuable not only for anthropology students, but for anyone interested in contemporary Guatemala and Central America."

         --Edward H. Moseley, Choice, Dec. 1985.

"...Campesino is a fascinating and important account that contributes significantly to anthropological study in Meso-America and to an understanding of the continuing violence in highland Guatemala."

        --Jim Handy, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Volume 11 (21): 151-153.

"Campesino: The Diary of a Guatemalan Indian is the sequel to Sexton's earlier book, Son of Tecún: A Maya Indian Tells His Life Story, which is also based on the life of Ignacio.  While each book adds importantly to the ethnographic picture for highland Guatemala, together they represent a major contribution to the autobiographical literature for Mesoamerica.  In Campesino there is an additional value, one reaching far beyond Guatemala and the shores of Lake Atitlán.  Its passionate coverage of the human costs of oppression and revolution is relevant not only to much of Latin America and the developing world in general, but to those holding national political office in the United States and countries abroad."

        --Michael H. Logan, American Anthropologist, Vol. 89 (1), March 1987.

" altogether lovely and compelling story of a simple man, already tough in his stubborn dedication to personal honor, who, as a peasant farmer and leading light in a small farm cooperative, faced the temptations and the abuses of bureaucratic power with a marvelously calm sense of self-esteem...

"This fine book is a diary kept by the peasant, or campesino, at the behest of the editor, who does a useful job of annotating, so that events are put into understandable perspective."

        --Karl Hess, Reason, January 1986: 46-48.

"Campesino is the sequel to Son of Tecún Umán and is the real life story of Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán a Tzutuhil Maya Indian, living in Guatemala...The book is very easy to read and gives a very detailed account of the present history of Guatemala.  I personally found the book to be an eye-opener and would definitely purchase it for my library."

       --The Book Report, Fall 1986.

"Ignacio's daily perseverance in view of grinding poverty and violence brings a sense of urgency to events in Central America."

        --Anti-Interventiefront Bulletin, (Sago) Antwerp, The Netherlands, January 1986.

"As in its companion volume, Son of Tecún Umán, this recently published diary of Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán, a Tzutuhil Maya from Lake Atitlán, vividly presents a daily portrait of the life of indigenous folk in Guatemala... Indeed it is refreshing to read an account unmarred by the infiltration of rightist or leftist views...

"Prof. Sexton is to be highly recommended for another excellent work which will be very useful to scholars and lay readers truly interested in the life and struggles of the Indian peoples."

        --Mary H. Preuss, Latin American Indian Literatures, Vol. 2 (1), Spring, 1986: 50-1.

"...The long footnotes of the translator-editor are a rich treasure in their own right...This magnificent report also has survival value.  It will outlive many more pretentious social, economic or political analyses, for it portrays the joys and sorrows of a patient, industrious Mayan Indian, lineal descendant of those who built the great ceremonial cities of Uxmal and Tikal and whose brothers are even today seen every Sunday morning burning incense to their rain and corn gods in front of the church of Chichicastenango.  The volume is an instant classic."

        --Raymond E. Crist, Latin America in Books, July 1985.

"In 1981 Sexton edited the first volume of the daily struggles of Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán as Son of Tecún Umán.  Now comes a sequel which carries this autobiography from early spring 1977 to spring 1983.  It is difficult to imagine a better way to begin to understand the current issues of Central America."

        --Guy Gran, World Development, Vol. 14 (5), Summer 1986.

"Campesino is the second volume in what promises to be a valuable series documenting the ongoing political conflict in Guatemala...For anyone wishing to know about contemporary Guatemala, especially the politics of its countryside, these two books are critical to is extremely important for the study of Central America in its current upheaval to have someone like Bizarro Ujpán chronicle events from his vantage point on the shores of Lake Atitlán.  We await the next volume in this series."

        -- Kathleen Logan, Southeastern Latin Americanist, March 1989.

"Diary of a Maya, Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán, vividly depicts Guatemalan rural life, 1977-83, when political violence and repression peaked, leaving Ujpán and others like him caught between guerrillas and military.  Sexton's introduction and conclusion frame and provide context for the diary."

         -- James Howe and Paul Sullivan, Handbook of Latin American Studies Vol. 49, 1989: 764a.

"Sequel to Son of Tecún Umán (see HLAS 45:917) in which a Guatemalan highland Indian relates his life story to 1977, this volume covers the years 1977-83.  Valuable account of various aspects of contemporary life in the highlands including changes in religious beliefs, formation of peasant cooperatives, and military activities both of the guerrillas and the national army."

        --Steve C. Ropp, Handbook of Latin American Studies, Vol. 49, 1989: 6160.

"One of the most interesting books written about the Maya Indians of Guatemala, this fascinating work is unique in the sense that it is written in the form of a biography and presents the view of how all these conflicts affect those at the bottom.  The book is narrated from an Indian perspective...There is not a single aspect of the life of these communities, no matter how insignificant, that is left untouched by this beautifully narrated story.

"Sexton has taken an x-ray of urban and rural life in Guatemala. We are able to see from the outside and from the inside everything that has been left out in other accounts of the present situation in that country...This is a book that anyone interested in ethnic studies and in humanity in general should read."

         -- Luis L. Pinto, Explorations in Sights and Sounds, No. 11, Summer 1991.

Joint Reviews of Son of Tecún Umán and Campesino:

"Son of Tecún Umán and Campesino make a single and remarkable chronicle.  It is a tale of one man's life career, of changes in a community and its way of life, and of the local effects of tremendous change in Guatemala.  The diaries provide a continuous record that is longer, more detailed, and potentially much more informative than anything ever written about a Mesoamerican Indian and his culture.

"These books are an unexcelled resource that will teach generations to come what it means to be a campesino who is a son of Tecún Umán. Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán and James Sexton have produced two books that add up to one masterpiece."

         --Michael Salovesh, Mesoamérica (Guatemala and New Hampshire),  No. 12, 1986: 465-472.

"Perhaps the best depictions of native life before, during, and after Guatemala's most recent period of Indian `rebellion and reconquest' are those provided by two native autobiographies...his [Bizarro's] life was also strongly affected by the recent period of violence, and his depiction of events and reactions during that period is an important source of information on how different kinds of Indians and Indian communities reacted to the revolutionaries, the military, and to the economic aftermath of their confrontation."

        -- Carol A. Smith and Jeff Boyer, Annual Review of Anthropology, 1987.

"The nation's rich ethnology has generated a literature of quality...For an entertaining, if somewhat politicized, view of the modern Indian and community and life, James D. Sexton's two companion diaries are interesting: Son of Tecún Umán (1981) and Campesino (1985)."

        -- Georges A. Furiol and Eva Loser, Guatemala's Political Puzzle, 1988.

"This two-volume life history written by a Tzutuhil Maya and edited and translated by James D. Sexton is indeed a unique work of great value to Maya scholars of culture, society, and contemporary history, for it is among the very few published documents in which Guatemalan Indians are able to speak for and about themselves, with a minimum of interference."

        -- Duncan Earle, Ethnohistory, Vol. 36 (1), Winter 1989.

"James D. Sexton As an editor Sexton has published two excellent autobiographical accounts originally written by an anonymous Indian from somewhere on the south side of Lake Atitlán. The books give a real impression of life inside a modern Indian village, bound up in poverty, local politics, and a mixture of Catholicism and animism, and avoiding the stereotyping which usually characterizes descriptions of the Indian population.  The earlier of the two is Son of Tecún Umán (University of Arizona Press $12.95) which takes us through from 1972 to 1977, while the second account, Campesino (University of Arizona Press $29.95), leads us to 1982 and includes the worst years of political violence.  Both books make fascinating reading and have a superb pace to them, in perfect harmony with life in the highlands.  They're both published by Arizona University Press in hardback, and are hard to find. Casa Andinista, in Antigua Guatemala, sometimes has copies."

        -- Mark Whatmore and Peter Eltringham, The Real Guide: Guatemala and Belize, 1990: 396.

Joint Review of Son of Tecún Umán, Campesino, and Ignacio

"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.

"Although several scholars have published Guatemalan life histories, not a single one of them can match the range, detail and length of Campesino, not to mention its earlier companion volume, Son of Tecún Umán.  Together, these two will provide us with the most comprehensive life history available for all of Central America."

        --Norman B. Schwartz, pre-publication review.

"The literature of the conflicts in Central America, and particularly Guatemala, deals primarily with the view from the top, i.e. government officials. This autobiography represents a view of how the conflict affects those at the bottom. The diary makes exciting reading because of the developing tension as military involvement at the village level increases page by page."

        --Michael D. Olien, pre-publication review.

Guatemalan Fabric

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