Telling and Being Told
Storytelling and Cultural Control in Contemporary Yucatec Maya Literatures
Publication Year: 2013
Through performance, storytellers place the past in dynamic relationship with the present, each continually evolving as it is reevaluated and reinterpreted. Yet non-indigenous actors often manipulate the storyteller in their firsthand accounts of the indigenous world. Moreover, by limiting the field of literary study to written texts, Worley argues, critics frequently ignore an important component of Latin America’s history of conquest and colonization: The fact that Europeans consciously set out to destroy indigenous writing systems, making orality a key means of indigenous resistance and cultural continuity.
Given these historical factors, outsiders must approach Yucatec Maya and other indigenous literatures on their own terms rather than applying Western models. Although oral literature has been excluded from many literary studies, Worley persuasively demonstrates that it must be included in contemporary analyses of indigenous literatures as oral texts form a key component of contemporary indigenous literatures, and storytellers and storytelling remain vibrant cultural forces in both Yucatec communities and contemporary Yucatec writing.
Published by: University of Arizona Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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List of Illustrations
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My interest in Latin American indigenous literatures began when I met Mariano Bonilla Caamal as a student in UNC–Chapel Hill’s Yucatec Maya program in the summer of 2004. I was assigned to spend several hours each day in Bonilla Caamal’s home honing my language skills, and part of this daily interaction was the stories Mario would tell over and ...
1. Who Tells What to Whom and How: Orality, Literacy, and Cultural Control
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After three days of recording oral stories, my collaborator Mariano Bonilla Caamal and his family prepared a large meal in his house and invited many of the people who had participated in the Tsikbal ich maya oral literature project. Wanting to make myself useful, on hearing the radishes had run out I volunteered to go buy some from a nearby store. Being gracious hosts, ...
2. Writing THE Word: Storytellers, Cultural Brokers, and the Shape of Indigenous Memory
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The situation possesses the trappings of an archetypal romance. Upon being confronted by the ruins of a mysterious ancient city, a white explorer turns to one of the natives for a bit of local knowledge. Setting the scene, the narrator informs us: “The Indians regard these ruins with superstitious reverence. They will not go near the place at night, and they have the old ...
3. Into the Archive: Cultural Brokers, Cultural Control, and WritingOral Maya Literature in the Twentieth Century
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The previous chapter focused on a particular story, loosely titled “The Dwarf of Uxmal,” and how the different folklorizations of such an oral text can have radically divergent meanings. These dissimilarities are even more apparent when one contrasts these versions with how the same story continues to be told within a given Yucatec Maya community. As has been ...
4. “I’ll tell you the story . . .” : Mariano Bonilla Caamal and Storytelling as Cultural Control
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In addition to being where Landa held his 1562 auto-da-fé, the town of Maní is also famous for a number of other things. It is the former seat of the Maya Xiu dynasty, home to the bilingual school Doroteo Arango that was formerly run by the Maya activist and playwright Armando Dzul Ek, and home to the sorceress mentioned in José May’s version of “The Dwarf of ...
5. Telling Maya Modernity: The Works of María Luisa Góngora Pacheco, Ana Patricia Martínez Huchim, and Briceida Cuevas Cob
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As outlined in the previous chapter, Yucatec Maya storytelling must be con-sidered an episteme, and stories such as “The Story of Juan Rabbit” contain the formulae, tropes, and narrative structures that serve as a basis from which to articulate performances of new stories like “The Waiter and the Gringo.” Overemphasis on the word tradition in the expression “oral tradition” thus ...
Appendix 1: “The Dwarf of Uxmal” as told by Luis Gonzaga (José May)
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Appendix 2: “The Dwarf of Uxmal” as told by Humberto Bonilla Caamal
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Appendix 3: “The Story of Juan Rabbit” as told by Mariano Bonilla Caamal
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About the Author
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Currently at the University of North Dakota, Paul Worley received his PhD in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009. Recent publications have appeared in Romance Notes and The Latinamericanist, and an article is forthcoming in Chasqui, as is a chapter in Diana Taylor’s Resistant Strategies, an upcoming edited volume ...
Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 2 maps, 1 photo
Publication Year: 2013