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T E N Finding theVirgin Mary The Virgin Mary Moon Goddess of the colonial Maya people was a virgin, a bisexually active woman, and perhaps a bisexually active man. I look at this sentence and believe that something has gone awry, and indeed something has. The categorizations and boundaries that modern Western peoples prescribe for sexual acts cannot be applied to the colonial Maya. They were not “freer” with sexuality than we are in the modern West, nor is the issue that they did not have sexualized identities at all. Rather, the colonial Maya used a sexual discourse to understand many of the things around them, to contemplate life and death. And the Virgin Mary Moon Goddess, rather than embodying a single sexual identity, signified this search for understanding: she symbolized the hybrid sexual discourse of the colonial Maya. SEXUAL ACTS, SYMBOLS, AND DESIRES Searching for the Moon Goddess and finding the Virgin Mary is a historical irony. The conceptualization of the Virgin from the perspective of the friars certainly was not that of a sexual being nor that of a goddess. However, the friars themselves taught the people about parallels between Maya traditions and Catholicism. The Maya nobles at the time of the conquest did not plan to hide the identity of the Moon Goddess within the Virgin Mary, but here too they soon strategized to understand parallels between Catholicism and Maya tradition. The Moon Goddess and the Virgin Mary for both the friars and the Maya nobles were more than personified figures who had particular identities. The two were important signifiers: for the friars the Moon Goddess signified the sexual decadence of the devil, while the Virgin Mary signi- fied the most desirable and chaste state of being for humans, and particularly for women. For Maya noblemen the Moon Goddess signified the vitality and sexuality of creation, while the Virgin Mary signified the colonizing goddess , the Spanish parallel of the Moon Goddess. By the end of the colonial period, both views were hybridized into the figure of the Virgin Mary Moon Goddess. In completing this book, I have used a method of historical writing that is most prevalent in what have been called the new cultural and political histories .1 This method has shown that the meanings of documents require significant interpretation, that the texts themselves express and hide meaning in a particular cultural context. I have found it necessary to attempt to understand the cultural and psychological premises in the act of Maya writing. As an ethnohistorian analyzing a particular group of people long dead, I am aware of the dangers involved in such an interpretative framework. The people may seem frozen in time, the culture may seem static,2 the cultural and psychological tools which we use may be inappropriate. However, I believe that it is necessary to use these tools with great care in order to find some connections between culture and history. To me the most important aspect of historical writing is in the search for metaphorical connections between the subjects and issues.3 I have attempted to bring those metaphorical connections, and the tools that I have used to make the connections, to the foreground. I have analyzed the Maya in order to understand the historical connections between colonialism, gender, and sexual desire.4 In most of the texts that I have used, Maya writing ostensibly was about politics, religion, ritual, and warfare but subtextually was about gender and sexual desire, important themes related metaphorically to the other issues. In the Books of Chilam Balam, sex was used to understand past events and leaders and to signify warfare. In the Ritual of the Bacabs, sex symbolized diseases, cures, and the ritualistic involvement of the gods. In the Songs of Dzitbalché, sex was connected directly with a variety of ritualistic and religious ceremonies . In the petitions, sex was a form of complaint that signified a strategic inversion of power relationships. These differences were results of the different purposes of the documents, but it is important to note that none of the docu2 4 2 From Moon Goddesses to Virgins ments in isolation can be permitted to stand for the true views of the colonial Maya. I have shown throughout this book that these documents were written for particular purposes. They were produced to emphasize some points and deemphasize others. They promoted strategies to gain some form of power. Nobles wrote about the sexual behaviors of other...


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