From U k’a’ajsajil u ts’u’ noj k’áax / Recuerdos del corazón de la montaña
–U k’i’ik’el ya’ u k’eexe yéetel u k’i’ik’el wíinik, u bo’otbil ti’ ts’u’ k’áax –ku ya’alik xTuux tun yisíinsik le jkimeno’, ka tu ts’a’ u ja’il yichkíil tu’ux ku cha’akal u yiits le ya’o’.
U k’iinik agosto, tun chúunsiko’ob u meyaj u jóok’siko’ob u yiits le ya’o’. Mixmáak ts’a’ u na’ati’ u kuchko’ob le jkimeno’utia’al u jóok’siko’ob ti’ k’áax, ya’ab k’iin u xíimbalil je’el tu’utal tio’ob tumen jach náach u xíimbata’al tak yéetel tsíimin náach u bejil. Ka te’ep’i yéetel u teep’el, ka tu láak’into’ob buul áak’ab tak tu yuk’o’ob u chukwa’il beeta’ab yéetel a ja’il tu’ux tu yisíinsaj le jkimeno’. ¡Ba’ax u jeel u k’áat áanimas jMaako!
Tu jo’oloje’, tu píik’ sáastal, ka tu biso’ob ti’ juntséel ti’ le nojoch hato, tu’ux ku meyajo’ob ka tu muukkinso’ob tuunich yóok’o’. XTuuxe’ jach tu yaj óoltaj tumen jMaakoe’ yaan u yatam yéetel u paalal yéetel juntúule’ ma’ síijiki’. Tak tun tuklik tu kúuchil tu’ux ku jóok’sa’al u yiits le ya’o’ mix bik’in u k’a’ajsik u Janal Pixan, tumen tu ts’u’ noj k’áaxe’ kex ya’ab máak ku kimile’mun beeta’al u Janal Pixan mixmáak. U pixan jMaako chéen tu juunal kun bin u máan u k’áat yo’och ch’uykinsa’an tu k’ab che’ wa tu joolnaj.
Ka’aj máan k’iine’, ka ts’o’ok u meyaj le jóok’sa’ u yiits le ya’o’ ka tu líik’suba’ob utia’al u suut tu kaajalo’ob, xTuux bin tu’ux mu’uke áanimas jMaako ka tu ya’alaj ti’ yéetel tuláakal u yóol u puksi’ik’al:
–Táanil Ki’ichkelem Yuum, jMaako’, wa kuxa’anen ti’ u jeel ja’ab, le k’iin ken suunaken yaan in bisik a baakel utia’al ka mu’ukkech tu’ux muka’an a wéet ch’i’ibalo’ob: jPiil, xMaas, jDol, xSep. Yaan xan u beeta’al, kex ich óotsilil, a ki’iki’ wo’och janal tu k’iinil kili’ich áanimas.
Ti’ lelo’, ka ka’a suunajo’ob meyaj ka k’uucho’ob naats’ tu’ux muka’an áanimas jMaako ka meyanajo’ob tuláakal le k’iino’ ti’ ch’ak ya’o’. U k’iinil diciembre ka ts’o’ok u meyjo’ch’ak ya’, xTuux bin tu’ux mu’uk jMaako. Bey peek’e’ tun jáalik u muk baak, ka tu bajubaj u láaj luk’se tuuncho’obo’ ka tu machaj u baakel ka tu jaats’lantaj ka tu ch’akaj u le’ ch’iit, ka tu to’aj le baako’obo’, ka tu but’aj tu kúuchil tu’ux ku meen janal.
“The blood of the sapota in exchange for the blood of the gum collector,” reflected Doña xTuux while she cleaned the body and carefully lifted the water from the bath in one of the gum bowls.
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!
The next day, very early, Maco was buried at one side of the campsite. There were no picks to dig with, so they just placed a mound of stones over the body. XTuux was troubled: she was thinking of the widow, of the orphans and the dead man’s unborn son, but she was also distressed by the thought that no one would set a table for him on the Days of the Dead, because up there in the mountains, despite all the death, they didn’t celebrate the Day of the Dead. Maco would be a “lonely soul” begging for the food hung between tree branches or in the doors of houses.
When the season ended and the gum collectors were preparing to return to their respective communities, the cook went to the dead man’s tomb and, from the bottom of her heart, she promised:
“I swear to God, Maco, that if he gives me life to come back next year, you will rest with your elders, with Don Pil, Doña xMas, Don Dol, and Doña xSep, and in the month of the Faithful Dead, even if there’s not much, you will have your table with the things you liked to eat.”
The next year, when the gum season ended, xTuux took her machete in her fist and went to Maco’s tomb. Like a dog digging up bones, she scratched and scratched until she found the skeleton, she pulled out the bones and classified them as long, small, and round. She carried the piles over to her kitchen utensils and wrapped them in leaves of ch’iit palm, then she nestled them into her pots. She fastened them over a horse and the caravan set off for its destination.
Translated by Arthur Dixon
From the novel U k’a’ajsajil u ts’u’ noj k’áax / Recuerdos del corazón de la montaña [Memories of the heart of the mountain].
Ana Patricia Martínez Huchim is a scholar of Maya oral tradition and popular literature. In 2005, she received two national prizes for her work: her short story series Chen konel / Es por demás [It’s too much] won first place in the Alfredo Barrera Vásquez contest for Maya Language Narrative, and her poetic novel U k’a’ajsajil u ts’u’ noj k’áax / Recuerdos del corazón de la montaña [Memories of the heart of the mountain] won the Enedino Jiménez Indigenous Literature Prize. She has published many other volumes of prose, and her work has been featured in several anthologies. She is currently preparing a trilingual personal anthology in Maya, Spanish, and English. About her own work, she has observed, “My creation is particular because my protagonists are Maya women, which has not happened often in literature in Yucatec Maya. I artistically re-elaborate the memory of Maya women who performed labors that were stigmatized by society. In my texts, Maya identity is recreated as part of the characters’ environment, it flows with agility to the readers’ eyes; in the everyday lives of the characters we find Maya traditions and religious beliefs, in a plot that draws in readers. And the meaning of the peoples’ names is intimately linked to their activities and ways of being.”
Arthur Malcolm Dixon is co-founder, lead translator, and Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. He has translated the novels Immigration: The Contest by Carlos Gámez Pérez and There Are Not So Many Stars by Isaí Moreno (Katakana Editores), as well as the verse collection Intensive Care by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza (Alliteratïon). He also works as a community interpreter in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2020-2021 Tulsa Artist Fellow.
LALT No. 6 goes from the gripping true stories of literary journalism to the strange worlds of fantastic short stories and graphic literature. We highlight chronicles by Colombian journalist Alberto Salcedo Ramos, speculative fiction in a dossier curated by Mexican writer Alberto Chimal, and Yucatec Maya poetry and prose in our ongoing Indigenous Literature series.