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Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World

Garrett W. Cook, Thomas A. Offit, Rhonda Taube

Publication Year: 2013

Based on more than thirty years of ethnographic fieldwork in Highland Guatemala, this study of Maya diviners, shamans, ritual dancers, and religious brotherhoods describes the radical changes in traditional Maya religious practice wrought by economic globalization and political turmoil. Focusing on the primary participants in the annual festival in the K’iche’ Maya village of Santiago Momostenango, the authors show how older religious traditionalists and the new generation of “cultural activist” religious practitioners interact within a single local community, and how their competing agendas for adapting Maya religiosity to a new and continually changing political economy are perpetuating and changing Maya religious traditions.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. v-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

The authors thank the Baylor University Research Committee for funding in 2005 and 2006 and the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., for funding in 2007. This support as well as five years of Baylor University field schools made the study of the cult of Santiago in contemporary Momostenango possible. We are eternally grateful to the fifty Baylor students who...

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Introduction: Understanding Maya Religion in the New Millennium

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pp. xiii-41

Recently two books (Molesky-Poz 2006; Hart 2008), authored by nonanthropologists with intimate knowledge of Maya religion, have depicted an ongoing tradition of Maya religious thought and practice, a Maya spirituality, which is portrayed in both books as an indigenous religious system with roots in the preconquest Maya culture. At the same time, other research reported in recent years (Mackenzie...

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1: The Fiesta Patronál in Historical Context: The Festival System and Anthropological Theory

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pp. 1-25

Definitive works on Maya festival organization and sponsorship were produced within the mid-twentieth-century florescence of community studies (see Tax 1952; P. Carrasco 1961; Reina 1966), including Cancian’s (1965, 1967) classic functionalist depiction of the cargo system as a leveling mechanism. Waldemar Smith (1977:9) distinguished a functionalist explanation for the festival cycle...

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2: Santiago and the Cofradía: Reorganizing the Tradition

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pp. 26-54

Ethnographic research on the cofradía of Santiago between 2006 and 2009 is reported here and in chapter 5 as it responds to two goals. Here we seek to describe the current institution and to compare its organization with that of 1976. From time to time issues of agency will arise in this discussion since the individual and culture are involved in unremitting interaction. We seek to portray an ad hoc and adjusting interactive field rather than a frozen model...

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3: The Monkeys Dance: Adjusting the Performance

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pp. 55-95

A description and interpretation of the mid-twentieth-century Monkeys Dance was a key ingredient in Cook’s analysis of axis mundi symbolism and myths of regeneration within twentieth-century Momostecan culture (Cook 2000:107–18). That account was based entirely on interviews, as the Monkeys Dance was not performed during Cook’s residency in Momostenango in 1975 and 1976. The opportunity to observe and document the dance with photos and video in 2006...

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4: Foreign Characters: Visualizing Identity in the Guatemalan Highlands in the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 96-118

When most scholars discuss highland Maya dances of Guatemala, they are probably referring to the well-known dances, danzas tradicionales, or “traditional” dances performed at various holidays and festivals throughout the year, such as the Dance of the Conquest, the Deer Dance, or the Dance of the Mexicanos. The dances have captured the attention of academics, tourists, and locals alike for good reason, as they provide insight into and function as.....

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5: The Dynamics of Contemporary: Maya Religious Tradition: Agency and Structure in Selected Case Studies

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pp. 119-153

Utilizing three case studies, this chapter explores the actions of key participants in the reproduction of festival expressive culture as they respond to the changing social and economic context of the festival and seek to further their agendas. It seeks to identify the conceptual models guiding their work, finding that some derive from Momostecan and Maya tradition while others have external origins but may nevertheless be used, at least in part, to pursue traditional goals....

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Conclusion: The Future of Village-Level Indigenous Religion

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pp. 154-164

The authors began this project in 2005 with a desire to return to Momostenango to assess how the religious expressive culture was adapting to the post-peasant situation and to twenty-first-century globalization. Cook had an explicit intention of critiquing the late twentieth-/early twenty-first-century movement toward constructivism and the related replacement of the traditional Mayanist focus on villages and their cultures with a focus on ethnicity, identity, and national cultural and political contention. Ethnicity and identity are...


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pp. 165-174


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pp. 175-188


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pp. 189-200

Back Cover

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p. 242-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780826353191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826353184

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013