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Travelers to the Other World

A Maya View of North America

Romin Teratol and Antzelmo Péres Translator and Coordinator, Robert M. Laughlin Editor, Carol Karasik

Publication Year: 2010

Travel writing, the literary exploration of other cultures, has long been a tradition in the English-speaking world. This book turns the tradition on its head and records what is surely the first Maya literary exploration of the United States. The authors were Tzotzil-speaking Zinacantec Maya who accompanied Robert Laughlin, the compiler of The Great Tzotzil Dictionary of San Lorenzo Zinacantán, on two trips to the United States. These were action-packed journeys. On the initial voyage, in 1963, they were in the United States for the assassination of President Kennedy. "The murderer had never met the President. He never had spoken a single word to him. He didn't even know him!" one of the Zinacantecos reports. They also met Margaret Mead at an American Anthropological Association meeting and flew on their first plane, which they referred to as a "buzzard machine." On the second trip, in 1967, they visited the Navajo and Zuni reservations, stormed the Pentagon with a protest march, and met the Mexican actor Cantinflas, who had just had a face-lift.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press


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Title Page

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pp. 9-10

At a time when everyone spoke of the disintegration of the American family, it was remarkably heartening and strange to participate in the welcome extended to my friends Romin Teratol and Antzelmo Péres as they traveled across the United States and were invited into the homes of my family members, of my wife’s family...

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Tzotzil Maya Pronunciation

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p. 11

For those game enough to pronounce the Tzotzil words, the vowels are a as in father, e as in gem or a in fame, i as in safari, o as in cold or the au of caught, u as in the oo of moon. The j is h, as in Na Chij; tz is ts, as in Tzotzil; x is sh, as in Xun. An apostrophe (’ ) signifies a constriction of the throat, as in...

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Visits to the Underworld

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pp. 13-21

Years ago, I spent a period of time in the remote Maya highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala. What I found in there was, to me, a seductive revelation—small houses with high-peaked thatch roofs and the smells of wood smoke and damp lanolin suffusing the air; tiny...

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First Steps

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pp. 23-55

Long before Romin Teratol and Antzelmo Péres accompanied me to what was for them the mysterious other world of the United States, we had already shared a wealth of experiences, become deeply involved in one another’s lives. When my wife and I took our first steps...

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Innocents Abroad and Back Home

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pp. 57-67

In my grand plan to compile a dictionary so comprehensive that it would confound the Ladinos and my own people who still deny Indians a language, granting them to be only speakers of “dialects,” and wishing to have a third party to sharpen our wits, Romin and I...

Voyager’s Prayer

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pp. 69-70

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Part I: Journey to the American West

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pp. 71-164

When he arrived at my house, he found me drunk. When he arrived at my house, he found me asleep. I thought I was supposed to meet him early Sunday morning in Na Chij, because I was going to pass by Stzellejtik to talk to my mother-in-law. But no, he arrived to pick me...

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Part II: Journey to the American East

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pp. 165-223

Compadre Lol sent me a request in the year 1967 that he wanted me and Antzelmo to come to his country. The government did us a favor here; they issued our documents for us. When they were ready, my compadre Lol came all the way to Zinacantán to pick us up. But the...

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pp. 225-238

Thirty years later, in the 1990s, Zinacantec travelers had become quite sophisticated; aware of social, economic, and political problems at home and across the border to the north. Rather than acting as objective anthropologists, they now have embraced advocacy...

Literature Cited [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 239-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780826348906
E-ISBN-10: 0826348904
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826348883
Print-ISBN-10: 0826348882

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 15 halftones
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 773829345
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Travelers to the Other World

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Subject Headings

  • Laughlin, Robert M. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax. Spanish & Tztozil.
  • Peres Peres, Antzelmo -- Travel -- United States.
  • Torre, Domingo de la -- Travel -- United States.
  • Zinacantán (Mexico) -- Social life and customs.
  • Tzotzil Indians.
  • United States -- Description and travel.
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