Chichicastenango: A Guatemalan Village

By Ruth Bunzel | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

This book is an exploratory study of the town of Chichicastenango in the Department of Quiché in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. The field work was done in 1930-32 and the manuscript was completed in substantially its present form in 1936. Introducing it to the public now is very much like writing a preface to another person's work. For since this was written many things have happened in the world and in the social sciences. Anthropology in particular has de- veloped new methods and new orientations, and I also have developed. It is somewhat difficult to recapture now the orientation and theoretical preoccupations of twenty years ago.

My first interest in going to Chichicastenango was to investigate problems of cultural change and at the same time to examine the dynamics of cultural integration. My thinking along these lines was somewhat as follows: In the past anthropology had been concerned with the study of presumed "pure" cultures, meaning by that those which had not yet been directly exposed to European intrusion, or in reconstructing the former "pure" cultures from the memories of those who had lived in them before they "broke" under the impact of European contact. It is true that the contemporary cultures of societies recently exposed to the full impact of European expansion did not offer attractive pictures to the ethnologist, with their declining population, loss of economic independence, social disruption, and general disphoria. However, the studies of "pure" or reconstructed cultures where we had no historical perspective were too static and gave a misleading impression of cultural stability. On the other hand the then popular studies of "diffusion" and "acculturation" which were concerned with isolating, identifying and tracing cultural "traits" told us little about the true nature of cultural change, and especially neglected the positive or synthesizing phase that follows the shock of the first violent impact.

A more meaningful study of the full process of culture change would have to be made in an area where contemporary cultures could be related to a known historic background that included the sudden impact of an alien culture followed by a period of reorganization and synthesis. Fortunately such an area exists in Middle America where "native" cultures have survived four hundred years of European

-v-

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Chichicastenango: A Guatemalan Village
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Table of Contents xxv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Economic Life 15
  • Chapter Two - Family Life 93
  • Chapter Three - Government 154
  • Chapter Four - Fiestas 192
  • Chapter Five - Man's Fate 261
  • Chapter Six - Rituals in Text Translations 305
  • Appendix I - The Market at Chichicastenango 404
  • Appendix II 410
  • Appendix III 412
  • Appendix IV - Dances 424
  • Appendix V 428
  • Glossary 430
  • Bibliography 433
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