When Don Patterson's twenty-seven-year-old daughter turned to him for advice about her professional future, Patterson in turn reflected on his almost thirty-year experience working on major archaeological sites in Mexico and Central America. His autobiographical account examines his professional journey, the people and institutions that made it possible, and the decisions, both good and bad, that he made along the way.
Patterson draws from ancient Mayan mythology, weaving the tale of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Hero Twins, and their voyage to Xibabla, the underworld, into his own story in order to provide an analogy of the journey through life and the daily challenges and pitfalls one must overcome. Each of the book's eight chapters are named after the houses of testing in Xibalba and reflect the people, environments, financing, and politics of the different archaeological projects Patterson worked on throughout his career. The resulting story is part Indiana Jones and part analysis of the problems facing modern Mesoamerica between globalization and national patrimony.
Don Patterson has worked with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico for the past twenty-five years. He currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and is working with the mayor of San Miguel as the Municipal Director of Environment and Ecology.