The (Dis) Articulation of Colonial Legacies in Calixta Gabriel Xiquin's Tejiendo Los Sucesos En El Tiempo/ Weaving Events in Time

Article excerpt

The bilingual collection of poetry Tejiendo los sucesos en el tiempo/ Weaving Events in Time (2002) by Maya-Kaqchiquel writer and spiritual guide Calixta Gabriel Xiquin, is characterized by political denouncement to the social violence Mayas experienced during the Guatemalan (post)civil war period. (1) The poems root this violence and historical marginalization in colonial legacies that continue to exist in the country. These legacies also forcibly displace thousands of Guatemalans, including Gabriel Xiquin, to the United States. However, besides political denouncement, Tejiendo los sucesos en el tiempo/ Weaving Events in Time equally expresses and inscribes not only Maya cultural and spiritual practices, but also affirms another way of remembering and recording contemporary Guatemalan history. The book provides a public cultural record that is critical of official historical accounts.

Calixta Gabriel Xiquin's text is a lyrical textile. Each of the seven sections, "Roots," "Uprooting," "Quest," "Taking the Word," "Refuge," "Testimony," and "The Return," encode the varied forms of physical, sexual, and epistemological violence historically waged against indigenous peoples in Guatemala. (2) All the sections denounce the established (neo) colonial systems that provide the foundation for transnational capitalism that exploits Mayas today. To counteract these systems, the text inverts (neo) colonialism by centralizing Maya culture and spirituality as important tools for resistance. Structurally, the language and use of free verse make the poems read like narratives that tell a story much like in the oral tradition. Many of the poems, like "Indian," "Writing," "The Walk of the Poor," and "Poem," read like personal, and spiritual conversations between members of the Maya community, outsiders, as well as with the spirits of Maya ancestors, the earth and heavens.

Gabriel Xiquin's aesthetic style is one that Native American scholar, Janice Gould in "American Indian Women's Poetry: Strategies of Rage and Hope" (1995), describes as a shared element in indigenous writings: "Our poetry, as story and record, is part of the fabric of oral tradition, transliterated finally into the rhythms, structures, and techniques of contemporary verse. It is woven out of the life stories we tell one another, sometimes in tears, sometimes in rage, stories recollected, envisioned, and breathed into existence" (798). It is through these stories that Tejiendo los sucesos del tiempo/Weaving Events in Time articulates Maya cosmologies as a discourse that affirms Maya resistance and survival. Taking this context as a point of departure, in this article I analyze four poems, "Indian," "Writing," "The Walk of the Poor," and "Poem," to argue, first, the ways in which language and the production of Eurocentric knowledge in the West sustains the everyday systematic violence and marginalization of indigenous peoples. And second, I show how these colonial legacies are challenged through the appropriation of Spanish language to affirm Maya culture, history and spirituality.

COLONIAL LEGACIES AND CULTURAL RESISTANCE

In the poem "Indian," the violence of colonization is made visible by noting the ways in which colonialism continues to exist through the codification of language, as it is explicit in the title of the poem. It gives testimony to the everyday experience of Mayas in Guatemala where the term Indio is many times used in derogatory ways by non-indigenous Guatemalans to justify and establish racial hierarchies. (3)

The adjective "Indian" is the first line for each of the ten stanzas. The repetition of the term underscores the visible presence of the concept in Guatemalan society. The denouncement becomes urgent, in the seventh stanza, particularly as the speaker lists the material conditions of Maya communities in Guatemala, where they are denied basic necessities like the right to formal education, medical attention and drinking water. …

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