Reviews of Son of Tecún Umán: A Maya Indian Tells His Life Story

"...Bizarro's is a story told with little rancor, great simplicity, and heartfelt sincerity.  It rings with truth and deserves to be ranked among the great cultural documents of our time."

        --Bernard L. Fontana, pre-publication review, 1981.

"Although the book is primarily an anthropological study, it provides a great deal of information of interest to the general public-given the volatile nature of Central American politics...a very readable account."

        --Robert E. Shotwell, The Nugget, Oregon, 1981.

" articulate and sometimes fascinating glimpse into a culture vastly different from our own...enlightening and worthwhile."

        --Chris Wall, Los Angeles Sunday Times Book Review, 1981.

"...a fascinating book, not just for social scientists and historians, but for anyone desiring insight into a way of life most people in developed countries assume disappeared long ago...may prove to be one of the most timely books published this year."

        --Nancy Hamblin, Journal of Arizona History, 1981.

 "...By the end of the story, the reader genuinely cares what happens to Ignacio, his family, and his fellow villagers.  Since the Indian is still continuing to write his diary, perhaps a sequel will be forthcoming."

         --Nancy Hamblin, Tucson Citizen, 1981.

"Son of Tecún Umán is an excellent autobiography of a Mayan Indian.  For those interested in learning about the ways of others it will be simply enjoyable as well as informative reading."

        --Choice, 1982.

"...Editor James Sexton met Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán while doing fieldwork in 1970. Their relationship has lead to the publishing of this significant record. You will read Son of Tecún Umán to learn and understand, but you will finish it admiring the Mayan peasants of Guatemala."

        --Eloise Howerton, Bear Pause, 1982.

"...Important in understanding the Guatemalan politics as over half of the population is Mayan."

        --NACLA Report on the Americas, 1982.

"...A unique testimony that affords remarkable insights into the life of the present Tzutuhil Maya."

        --Latin American Indian Literatures, 1982.

"...The Tecún Umán of the title was a legendary hero of the Mayans.  Ignacio Ujpán, his spiritual descendant, in his constant battles against failed crops and flawed plans to earn a few dollars, is not unworthy of his ancestor.  He persists and he survives against all odds."

        --Arnold Berman, West Coast Review of Books, 1982.

"...After reading this work the reviewer is firmly convinced that, no matter how unrewarded their toil and how miserable the conditions under which they live, the Ignacios of this world will survive.  As René Dubois says: `Like runners in a race, they pass on the torch of life.'"

        --Raymond E. Crist, Latin America in Books, 1982.

"...we learn that the subject was born in 1941, farms near Lake Atitlán, has a wife, several children and a fascination with dreams, illnesses and death, as well as an absorption with time and its passing.  All quite Maya."

        --Mary Louise Wilkinson, Times of the Americas, 1982.

"...The reader is therefore given a vivid picture of what life is really like for the Indian peoples of Guatemala."

        -- British Bulletin of Publications on Latin America, Portugal, and Spain, Apr. 1982.

"...the book has been well and informatively edited and annotated, and the result is an interesting and valuable document."

        --P. G. Riviere, Journal of Latin American Studies (United Kingdom).

"...there is something compelling about the simple and sincere way that Ignacio presents his life...Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán is not as famous as Tecún Umán, the Quiché warrior prince who was killed during the Spanish conquest of Guatemala in 1524, but he is, as the title of the book suggests, the true son of Tecún Umán."

        --Gregory G. Reck, Southeastern Latin Americanist, 1983.

"In short, the study is a fascinating, if incomplete, one.  The reader can only wish that Dr. Sexton had managed to record several more such accounts from other Maya in the region."

        --Robert W. Shirley, Anthropos (West Germany), 1983.

"This highly interesting book contains both the Autobiography and Diary (1972-1977) of a Tzutuhil Maya Indian of the shores of Lake Atitlán in Sololá, Guatemala."

        --Joseph B. Spieker, Hispanic Journal, 1983.

"The endless fight for survival, lack of education, lack of basic medical facilities, bureaucratic abuses, and the despair in an impoverished environment will move all readers."

        --The Book Report, Vol. 2, Summer 1983: 33.

"Son of Tecún Umán is a pioneering study which conveys valuable information about a man and his culture."

        --Lyle Koehler, Explorations in Sights and Sounds, Summer 1984.

"Autobiography, biography, psychobiography, the case history, the life history, and the personal testimony have become something of a fashion in the social sciences, in psychology, history, and literary criticism.  In American anthropology, there has been a notable increase in life histories, including Marjorie Shostak's exemplary portrait of Nisa, a !Kung woman, James D. Sexton's edition of the life story and diaries of Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán a Tzutuhil Maya Indian from the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala, and the Buechlers' autobiography of a Galician woman named Carmen."

        --Vincent Crapanzano, American Anthropologist, Vol. 86, Dec. 1984.

"This fascinating autobiography casts a glimpse at the day-to-day life of at least half the population in Guatemala as well as large population blocks in other middle-American countries."

        --Marvin Will and Edward M. Dew, Choice, April 1985.

"...the local pluralism of beliefs and practices concerning religion, illness and curing, sorcery, and the basic tenets of world view is sensitively recorded through Ignacio's sharing of his questioning pragmatic testing, and ambivalence in many areas of life undergoing acculturation and change. ...Ignacio has handled a difficult assignment well, and with Sexton's help has opened a rare window into contemporary Mayan Indian village life."

        --Robert Hinshaw, American Ethnologist, Vol. 12, Nov. 1985.

"An excellent look at the Maya told in a Maya's own words."

        -- Charles O. and Gail B. Ellenbaum, Study Guide: Cultural Anthropology: A Global Perspective, 1992: 281.

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: 465-72.

"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.

"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.


Guatemalan Fabric

Back  Home  About the authors