Yucatec Maya Literature
Yucatec Maya Literature in LALT No. 6, selected by Silvia Cristina Leirana Alcocer:
Making a selection always implies leaving out certain names. For this dossier, I have chosen quality poets whose work seldom appears in anthologies. Fortunately, the Yucatec Maya language (or Peninsular Maya, as the writers of Quintana Roo and Campeche prefer it be called) boasts a vigorous literary movement. It is only appropriate to recall those who began this production and diffusion of texts written in Maya.
Do you remember those times / when we were young? / Do you remember those January afternoons / when I visited your house? / In the nights, at the door, / you all went out to talk. / We, the children, there, / met up in the middle of the square. // I remember the elders / who told us of their adventures. / They made us all laugh, / lengthening our nights.
Black, / White, / Yellow, / brown, / dappled. / Stray dog, / stranger dog. / They have the same heart. / But you / only buy food for the purebred dog. / But you / even take him for a walk on the square. / So you / kick the stray dog with scorn. / You / think he walks behind you for the bone you don’t throw him. / You don’t know that this dog / is death walking behind your bones.
From U k’a’ajsajil u ts’u’ noj k’áax / Recuerdos del corazón de la montaña, novel by Ana Patricia Martínez Huchim
It was the beginning of August and the work season was just getting started. No one volunteered to move the cadaver to the village; what’s more, the body would not resist decomposition since the journey lasted many days on horseback, so they wrapped him up in his blanket and that night, while they watched over him, every one of those present helped him to remit his sins, drinking chocolate prepared with the water from his bath. What more could a dead man ask for!
Dry as a stick, bearded and with long knots of hair descending to his face, he had the air of a hermit. He was plagued by guilt and uncertainty. The night before, he dreamed of women who shouted curses, insults, and blasphemies at him at the top of their lungs; in the dream, he saw himself just as he was for the first time. The image of himself was unpleasant. It had been weeks since his wife, Nicolasa, visited him on the ranch. José Jesús, his youngest son, five years old, didn’t recognize him. “Who is that, mama?” he asked with childish curiosity, pointing at him. “It’s your papa, son,” said the woman.
There are so many, Mother, / there are so many. / From my branches they hang / about to pull me down, / under my shadows they roll / like filth. // You never told me / that the dreams you cultivated / over so much limestone / would today be the sorrows / that cry over me.
While I was warming up the tortillas to eat, I went to fill my gourds with water from a bucket on the edge of the well; after that, I took my tools and put them in my satchel. Then I sat down to eat breakfast next to the stool, on top of which was a piece of salted meat and a bit of ground tomato. While I was sitting there, I started to see that the flame waxed and waned, then I saw myself walking down a narrow dirt road where I came across a little old man who was sprawled by the side of the path, moaning; his hair was long and gray, like his beard.
When we reached the house of the head dancer, there were people practicing the dances, he was indicating when they should enter the scene, he was saying what they were going to do and all, but as soon as he saw us, he ran to greet us.
“I just brought you a little bit of the stew they served at a man’s birthday,” I said to him as my lips trembled.