Sacred Bird Messengers of the Chamula Maya
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
336 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- 9780826365132 | November 2023
Tsotsil-Maya elder, curer, singer, and artist Maruch Méndez Pérez began learning about birds as a young shepherdess climbing trees and raiding nests for eggs to satisfy her endless hunger. As she grew into womanhood and apprenticed herself to older women as a curer and seer, the natural history of birds she learned so roughly as a child expanded to include ancestral Maya beliefs about birds as channels of communication with deities in the spirit world who had dominion over human lives. In these testimonies dictated to her lifelong friend, anthropologist Diane Rus, Méndez Pérez describes her years of dreams, instruction, and experience, a narrative that sheds light on the basic values of her Chamula culture and cosmovision and that has remarkable parallels to concepts of the ancient Maya as interpreted by scholars.
"This book is a masterpiece. Méndez Pérez has not only given us a narrative of inestimable importance, but Rus has enabled us to compare her understandings and knowledge of birds with those of other Maya peoples in Mesoamerica."--Christine Eber, author of Women and Alcohol in a Highland Maya Town: Water of Hope, Water of Sorrow
"An extraordinary document. . . . It is not just a fascinating study of an indigenous woman's wisdom about birds, the sacred, and their role in the workings of the cosmos, it is also an exemplary model of intercultural conversation and experimentation. . . . A work of great ethnographic density and expressive beauty."--Pedro Pitarch, author of The Jaguar and the Priest: An Ethnography of Tzeltal Souls