Academic journal article Chasqui

El Reverso De la Conquista: Autohistory and the Female Chilam Balam in Carlos Armando Dzul Ek's Play on the Auto-Da-Fe in Mani

Academic journal article Chasqui

El Reverso De la Conquista: Autohistory and the Female Chilam Balam in Carlos Armando Dzul Ek's Play on the Auto-Da-Fe in Mani

Article excerpt

Introduction

As noted by Choctaw Devon A. Mihesuah, there is "enormous profit to be made from portraying Indians in the way the public wants to see them" (italics in original; 115). Although here Mihesuah specifically refers to cultural production and the representation of indigenous peoples in North America, her observation can be equally applied to the dynamics of power and representation that predominate throughout the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, given the financial incentive arising from this public desire, inaccurate portrayals of indigenous peoples often achieve a wider audience and broader acclaim than representations that conflict with these popular preconceptions. As popular symbols of indigeneity these portrayals come out of and reinforce dominant culture's consensus about the indigenous world. In response to this power dynamic in his native Guatemala the Jakaltek Maya Victor Montejo has written, "To represent themselves, the Maya must now focus their attention on the construction of texts (autohistory) that could destroy the negative images that are embedded in the minds of the ladino (non- Maya) population of Guatemala" (62). For Montejo cultural production and reproduction are not enough. Contemporary Maya writers and intellectuals in Guatemala and in other Maya-speaking regions of Mexico and Central America must take control over the means through which they are represented in the media and formulate their works as a direct response to negative images that, as a part of the country's "embedded" cultural common sense, the non-Maya public wants to see.

This article analyzes the Yucatec (Mexico) Maya Carlos Armando Dzul Ek's (1941-) play Bix uuchik u bo 'ot ku 'si 'ip 'il 'Manilo 'ob ' tu ja 'abil 1562 ("How it happened that the people of Mani paid for their sins in the year 1562"; 1998) (1) as constituting the very sort of autohistorical response advocated by Montejo. Beginning with the troubled dreams of the Maya ruler Tutul Xiu and how a sorceress or X- pul Ya'a interprets these, the play culminates with the coming of the Spanish and the auto-da-fe convened by the friar Diego de Landa in 1562. The play ends with a despondent Xiu claiming that the Maya will one day regain the political autonomy lost through this act of religious, cultural, and political conquest (a full synopsis appears below). Despite Xiu's prominence in local historiography and previously published criticism on the play, I argue that this play connects the character of the Xpul Ya'a, or sorceress, with the pre-colonial Yucatec prophet of the Chilam Balam in order to construct the Xpul Ya'a as the symbolic mother of contemporary Yucatec Maya in the same way that Mexican mestizo nationalism uses La Malinche and the Virgen de Guadalupe as symbolic mothers. As will be discussed at length later in this article, the Chilam Balam and the books he or the people who assumed this position authored represent Maya resistance to colonization and the production of an autonomous Maya culture. While La Malinche and the Virgen de Guadalupe are symbols of mestizaje and national unity that silence indigenous subjects within the contemporary Mexican nation, as a female Chilam Balam Dzul Ek's Xpul Ya'a rejects mestizaje's ethos of cultural mixing and symbolizes the unbroken continuity of Yucatec Maya culture from the Conquest to the present." Rather than entailing a rejection of Mexico's symbolic structures, however, Dzul Ek's Xpul Ya'a participates in them insofar as she represents an appropriation of the symbolic mother that adapts this symbolic position to Yucatec Maya ends.

The Symbolic Birth of a Nation: The Invention of the National Mother

In order to gain a more nuanced understanding of the Mexican national tradition of the symbolic mother that Dzul Ek's play reproduces, as few preliminary words on this tradition and its implications are in order. My concern here is not an analysis of figures like La Malinche or the Virgen de Guadalupe, topics that have been covered in depth by a number of scholars. …

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