Anthropology •  Biography and Latin America

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Joseño: Another Mayan Voice Speaks from Guatemala

Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán
Edited and Translated by James D. Sexton

James Sexton met Ignacio Bizarro Ujpan in 1970, when Sexton traveled to Guatemala for the first time as a graduate student in anthropology. Ignacio became Sexton's research assistant and, as the men's friendship grew over the years of fieldwork that followed, Sexton asked Ignacio to keep a detailed journal. In his diaries, Bizarro chronicles more than a quarter century of the turbulent history of Guatemala, returning again and again to the themes of community solidarity, civil violence, alcohol abuse, resistance to repression, political turmoil, and the reinforcement of traditional and religious values that color daily life in the Maya communities of Guatemala's highlands.

Joseño: Another Mayan Voice Speaks from Guatemala covers the period from 1987-98 and is the fourth and latest volume of Ignacio's diary, the authentic life history of a common man, a campesino, a principal (elder) in his town, and a Tzutuhil Indian whose life has spanned the ongoing struggle for democracy and economic justice in Guatemala. His vivid and plain-spoken account of life among the Maya during the war between guerrillas and the army in the 1980s and 1990s offers detailed descriptions of the atrocities committed by both sides and brings the reader into a Mayan world richly textured with indigenous beliefs and practices. Ignacio's diary also records the Mayan cultural revitalization sweeping Guatemala, as well as the fortunes of the Indian peoples who have so often been pawns in the vicious power struggles between Left and Right.


James D. Sexton is Regents' Professor of anthropology at Northern Arizona University and is the author of many articles and books on cultural change in Guatemala's highland communities.

Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán has served in numerous civil and religious offices in his town of San José la Laguna. He writes in his spare time, when he is away from his cornfields and coffee groves and when he is not helping his wife with her weaving projects. Bizarro has also collaborated with James D. Sexton on Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (UNM Press).


"This book, if taught within a context to synthesize its detail, is among the best of first-person narratives in Latin American and Native American studies."



" Joseno stands as a solid contribution to the genre of Central American testimonial literature. It serves as an excellent closing to the volumes that follow the life of a unique individual that straddles both the modern world and the traditional world of the indigenous community of San José la Laguna."


Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe

"The greatest strength of Joseño: Another Mayan Voice Speaks from Guatemala is its bottom-up approach and vivid description of the human condition in rural Guatemala from 1987-1998. This life history will be of interest and value to scholars from a variety of disciplines in the liberal arts and social sciences including anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and political scientists. The book will also appeal to general readers interested in contemporary Guatemala."


South Eastern Latin Americanist

6 x 9 in. 320 pages 20 halftones, 2 maps