Reviews of Joseño: Another Mayan Voice Speaks from Guatemala

"Although Joseño is as valuable for its revelation of quotidian life as the last three volumes are, perhaps the most useful contribution of this fourth volume is the possible juxtaposition between Menchú and Ignacio along the lines of the mentioned controversy. Throughout the years, Ignacio has achieved prosperity and, through a centrist perspective, although cynic on occasions, he managed to survive in the brutal world of the Guatemalan highland in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The violence of Ignacio’s world is a constant threat under the surface that emerges not only in the relationship of the Mayas and the State, but also in the ruling Ladino class and among the very Tz’utujiles. Through the eyes of the diarist, we can see a man trapped between the army and the rebels... In fact for Ignacio the State as well as the rebels are harina del mismo costal [flour from the same sack], and none of them has in mind the best interests for him and his people.

"...For those instructors who continue using Menchú and incorporating the controversy of Stoll et al., the careful addition of Joseño and the theoretical and ethical topics that surround this work could prove valuable in the classroom, helping in the process to open the eyes of students to the often disconcerting and frequently mythologized world of the Mayan highlands.

    --Alvis E. Dunn, University of North Carolina, Vol. 26, No. 47, Mesoamérica (January-December 2005:195-196).

"Si bien Joseño es valioso por su revelación de la vida cotidiana, como los son los tres volúmenes anteriores, quizá la contribución más útil de este cuarto tomo sea la yuxtaposición posible entre Menchú e Ignacio en las líneas de la mencionada controversia.  A lo largo de los años, Ignacio ha prosperado y, a través de una cosmovisión centrista, aunque en ocasiones más bien cínica, se las arregló para sobrevivir en el mundo brutal del altiplano guatemalteco en el último cuarto del siglo XX.  La violencia del mundo de Ignacio es una amenaza constante bajo la superficie, que surge no sólo de las relaciones entre los mayas y el Estado, sino tambíen la clase gobernante ladina y entre los propios tz'utujiles.  A través de los ojos del diarista podemos ver a un hombre atrapado entre el ejército y los rebeldes... De hecho, para Ignacio el Estado como los rebeldes son harina del mismo costal y ninguno de ellos tiene en mente el mejor de los intereses en él ni en su gente.

"...Para aquellos instructores que siguen usando a Menchú e incorporan la controversia de Stoll et al., la cuidadosa adición de Joseño y los temas teóricos y éticos que rodean esta obra puede resultar provechosa en el salón de clases, ayudando en el proceso a abrir los ojos de los estudiantes al mundo a menudo desconcertante y frecuentemente mitologizado del altiplano maya."

    --Alvis E. Dunn, University of North Carolina, Volumen 26, Numero 47, Mesoamérica (Enero-Diciembre de 2005, págs. 195-196)

"Fourth and final volume of excerpts from diary kept by a Tzutuhil Mayan whom Sexton, an anthropologist, met in 1970; present volume covers period from 1987-98.  Introduction sets out editorial method, historical background; somewhat tendentious comparison of this life story with Rigoberta Menchu's.  Text deals with daily life in a highland village from a centrist political perspective.  Useful notes, bibliography, and glossary.  Good for classroom use."

    --KR, Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS Online), Library of Congress, February 2005, Volume 60.

"For readers who are unfamiliar with the Tzutuhil Mayas, Ignacio's diary provides an interesting introduction to the people and their culture as well as insight to their plight.  For those who are familiar with other Mayan societies, Ignacio will offer additional and comparative data in a very fascinating, personalized account."

    --Mary H. Preuss, Penn State, McKeesport, Latin American Indian Literatures Journal, Vol.   20:140-145, No. 2, Fall 2004.

"One can also see in Sexton's and Bizarro Ujpan's, Joseño, that during their thirty years of  working together, some of the anthropological distance has been replaced by a genuine friendship and caring relationship...The insights gained by such a long working relationship are certainly among the strengths of this book.

"From a collective vantage point, the books reviewed here present the reader with an interesting and wide array of methodological an theoretical perspectives.  They provide us with multiple lenses and voices to consider in constructing our understanding of the present-day Maya."

    --Gloria Delany-Barmann, Western Illinois University, Latin American Research Review, Vol. 39, No. 3, October 2004.

"With the civil war winding down in the 1990s, cultural revitalization emerges as a new theme in the diary.  Several fascinating examples of traditional and modern religious practices occur throughout the book and Bizarro Ujpán's position as alcalde of the cofradía of San Juan Bautista is especially influential in this regard.

"The greatest strength of Joseño: Another Mayan Voice Speaks from Guatemala 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."

    --Mark Thompson, Texas Christian University, South Eastern Latin Americanist, Summer/Fall   2003.

"In 1983, the Spanish version of I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala was published, based on tape recordings made over a one-week period.  It was promoted as an autobiographical work that focused on the violence in Guatemala during the 1970s and early 1980s, especially as it affected the Quiché Maya.  Rigoberta Menchú's effort on behalf of the Maya brought her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.  However, Menchú's book is not a true autobiography.  She did not actually experience many of the events she described.  Instead, it is a composite of events that happened to various Mayans.  Joseño, on the other hand, is a true autobiography that presents the events as he saw them, hence the title of the book.

"Joseño is the fourth and final book in a remarkable series of diaries of a Tzutuhil Maya Indian living in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala...A wide variety of interesting accounts are included in this diary, for example a shaman and his efforts caring for the sick, and the economic difficulties Ignacio faced helping his daughter train to become a teacher.  There are also events that provide reminders of the recent past: the discovery of mass graves of Indians, assassinations of Indians, massacres of villages, police accused of kidnapping, and periodic confrontations between government soldiers and guerrillas.

"Those of us who read the other diaries will feel a bit sad that this is the last we hear from Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán.  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."

    --Michael D. Olien, University of Georgia, Canadian Journal of Latin American Studies, Volume 28: 308-309, November 2003. 

"As primary documents these works will stand the test of time, for they offer a uniquely privileged perspective of life in a small Maya town in Guatemala over the last thirty years.  Sexton has done a fine job translating and editing, and Ignacio is a compelling storyteller and social commentator."

    --Edward Fischer, Vanderbilt University, Ethnohistory, September 2003, Vol. 50(4): 707-712.

"The chronicles of Bizarro Ujpán are interesting because he uses information from his personal experiences, and writes also about gossip and national radio and TV news broadcasts.  This tells us that indigenous people are affected not only by local events but also by regional and national political events.  The reporting of everyday life events is a good practice, because it helps us to understand the process of change and continuities in these highly touristic indigenous communities.  It shows that communities are not always in perfect balance or harmony and that there are political problems that divide families, communities, and even religious groups.  Bizarro continuously connects the past with the present by going back and forth, retelling the events and their aftermaths years later.

"...The book is appropriate for scholars and the general public interested in Latin America, particularly the Maya."

    --Víctor Montejo, University of California, Davis, Hispanic American Historical Review, February 2003, Volume 83(1): 187-88.

"The smooth narrative, whether the result of Bizarro Ujpán's constant writing or Sexton's careful editing, makes for informative, engaging and entertaining reading...Readers learn not only of events that transpired around Bizarro Ujpán, but also of his dreams and hopes.  His account contains not only ethnographic information but also the wisdom gleaned from years of tribulations.  Bizarro Ujpán and Sexton end their latest collaboration with poetic words: "We people are exposed to the sufferings of life, we have to bear them.  We cannot escape from them."  On the whole, Joseño stands as a solid contribution to the genre of Central American testimonial literature.  It serves as an excellent closing to the volumes that follow the life of a unique individual that straddles both the modern world and the traditional world of the indigenous community of San José la Laguna."

    --Robinson A. Herrera, Florida State University, Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe (E.I.A.L.), July-December, 2002, Volume 13-No 2: 1-3.

"This fourth and final personal chronicle from the pseudonymous Maya Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán covers his senior years and responsibilities from 1987 to 1998 in the also pseudonymous Lake Atitlán of "San Jose." Like the previous books, this concluding work takes in the grit of daily life in a small Maya community and blows away stereotypes about relations between Protestants and Catholics, women and men, parents and children, the Maya and the military, townspeople and national politics. Bizarro Ujpán addresses the close of Guatemala’s genocidal civil war and peace process, including the 1990 massacre and consequent expulsion of the military from neighboring Santiago Atitlán. He documents the cultural revitalization of "tradition" in the midst of on-the-edge agriculture, small business, and handicrafts commerce. Anthropologist, translator, and editor Sexton (Northern Arizona Univ.) provides a well-written introduction addressing his relationship with Bizarro Ujpán and the journaling project, the background of the civil war, and the controversies over the first-person narrative brought up by Rigoberta Menchú’s testimony.  This among the best of the first-person narratives in Latin American and Native American studies."

    --A.E. Adams, Central Connecticut State University, Choice, May 2002, Vol. 39: 1843.

"Sexton's ability to pursue the anthropological methods of life-history fieldwork with Bizarro, which now spans more than three decades, is not commonplace.  Bizarro and Sexton have collaborated for a period of over thirty years.  This fascinating, firsthand account of modern Tzutuhil Mayan lifeway as told by Bizarro and translated by Sexton, is only made possible through their long, continuous relationship.  Bizarro's is a most touching story.  Sexton, in his choice of photographs, illustrations and admirable organization of the book, brings together the beauty and the strength of the Tzutuhil Mayan culture around Lake Atitlán as Bizarro tells how his people live with modern-day political dramas as they unfold in the highlands of Guatemala."

    --Janet Carey, Littleton, Colorado, book review, February 2002

"As the fourth in a series of life stories that have drawn considerable attention from other scholars, this is a manuscript that deserves prompt publication.  The very nature of the project has compelled respect from a range of theoretical perspectives...No other work like this serial publication exists, and it's important to get the latest installment because it includes Ignacio's comments on the last ten years of Guatemalan history.  This is especially so since his significance as a counterpoint to Rigoberta Menchú will probably continue to grow as the audience for her work does.

"There will be a market for the book among Guatemala and Maya specialists, as well as the larger audience of people interested in these subjects for a gamut of reasons including development and church work, political, and cultural activism.  It will be assigned in courses on Mesoamerican Indians and Native American literature as a counterpoint to I, Rigoberta Menchú.  Some instructors will assign it instead of the Nobel laureate's testimony, with the argument that it is a more honest and representative example of how Mayas perceive their lives."

        --Pre-publication review by David Stoll, Middlebury College

"This particular diary is set in opposition to that of [Rigoberta] Menchú, representing a view of the recent situation in Guatemala from an apolitical perspective--at least compared to Menchú.  I believe this book provides a level of detail of everyday life that no other work provides.  One is able to develop a real insight into what living in a Guatemalan village is like.  It also stresses that violence continues in spite of peace accords and other agreements."

        --Pre-publication review by an anonymous reader.

Guatemalan Fabric

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