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In this rich and dynamic work, David Carey Jr. provides a new perspective on contemporary Guatemalan history by allowing the indigenous peoples to speak for themselves.
Combining the methodologies of anthropology and history, Carey uses both oral interviews and meticulous archival research to construct a history of the last 130 years in Guatemala from the perspective of present-day Mayan people. His research took place over five years, including intensive language study, four summers of fieldwork, and a year-long residence in Comalapa, during which he conducted most of the 414 interviews. By casting a wide net for his interviews—from tiny hamlets to bustling Guatemala City—Carey gained insight into more than a single community or a single group of Maya.
The Maya-Kaqchikel record their history through oral tradition; thus, few written accounts exist. Comparing the Kaqchikel point of view to that of the western scholars and Ladinos who have written most of the history texts, Carey reveals the people and events important to the Maya, which have been virtually written out of the national history.
A motto of the Guatemalan organization Maya Decinio para el Pueblo Indigena (Maya Decade for the Indigenous People) is that people who do not know their past cannot build a future. By elucidating what the Kaqchikel think of their own past, Carey also illuminates the value of non-Western theoretical and methodological approaches that can be applied to the history of other peoples. Valuable to historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, or anyone interested in Mayan and Latin American studies, this book will inform as well as enchant.
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David Carey Jr. is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern Maine. Allan F. Burns is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida and author of Maya in Exile: Guatemalans in Florida.
David Carey's Our Elders Teach Us joins an emerging literature intended to put the Maya accurately into their own history. Carey's contribution focuses on Mayan oral histories and in that regard is unique....Our Elders Teach Us is a clearly written and nonpolemical contribution that should prove valuable to historians in general and to students interested in the Maya of today.--Robert S. Carlsen, University of Colorado at Denver, in the Hispanic American Historical Review
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