Mayan Culture Area
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Mayan Culture Area



Describes Mayan Culture Area, including calendrical systems, Spanish conquest, corporate community structures, and current situation in Chiapas and Guatemala

Describes Mayan Culture Area, including calendrical systems, Spanish conquest, corporate community structures, and current situation in Chiapas and Guatemala



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Mayan Culture Area Mayan Culture Area Presentation Transcript

  • The Maya Culture Area Peasant Societies: Past and Present
  • Overview of the Mayan Culture Area
    • The Maya are best known for the following:
    • A complex system of calendars (upper left)
    • A numerical system based on 20
    • Steep sided stone pyramids with combs, such as this one at Tikal (lower left)
    • Intricate weaving
    • Religion combining Christianity with Maya world of the spirits.
    • Primary focus will be on Guatemala
  • Mayan Culture Area: Mexico and Guatemala
    • The Maya Culture Area includes Chiapas (purple)
    • The Yucatan Peninsula (Northeast on map)
    • Guatemala (gray shade, first in Central America) along with Belize, Honduras and El Salvador
    View slide
  • Guatemala: By Way of Introduction
    • Imagine you check into a hotel room
    • After two hours, two soldiers enter your room, search it for a few minutes, and leave
    • You go to the desk to find out what happened; the clerk hasn’t a clue what was going on—or won’t say
    • Imagine another scenario:
    • You receive a note: “Don’t worry about your funeral. It’s all paid for down to the flowers.”
    • The first: happened to my wife and me in 1969
    • The second: a lawyer advocating for human rights in 1982.
    • Welcome to Guatemala!
    View slide
  • Guatemala: The Land of Eternal Springtime
    • It is a lovely country; mountainous, scenic lakes like Lake Atitlan with volcanos in the background
    • There are nicely appointed hotels with great scenery in Panajachel—the site of Sol Tax’s Penny Capitalism about the Indian market there
    • (I don’t think this capitalist model’s name is Penny—but who knows?)
  • Guatemala: The Land of Eternal Markets and Fiestas
    • And of course the community has markets, like this one in Chichicastenango
    • Whose decorative weavings can be had by the highest (tourist) bidder
    • Not to mention fiestas
    • Where the Dance of the Conquest (Baile de Conquista) mocks the conqueror
    • Pedro de Alvarado, who entered the Plains of Xelaju in 1524 and defeated the indigenous military chieftain Tecun Uman there.
  • Guatemala: Tourists and Peasants
    • Yes, I recommend Guatemala for a visit
    • If you’re a tourist, that is (The Maya Inn is great !)
    • However, if you are a peasant, present or former, then that can be another story
    • I don’t recommend the real Maya inn
    • These women are not your standard models, except for the real Guatemala
  • Guatemala: La Tierra del Terror Eterno
    • Of course, Guatemala is a democracy
    • You are free to protest these conditions if you are so inclined (above)
    • Such as those protesting the passage of CAFTA; the sign calls President Berger an assassin
    • There is one drawback though
    • You just might wind up dead
    • (Two were killed at that CAFTA protest, and ten wounded)
    • As I said, welcome to Guatemala
  • Guatemala and Chiapas
    • Both Chiapas, Mexico, and Guatemala have the following in common:
    • Mayan-speaking peasants populate the rural areas
    • Both were subjected to states—first the Maya kingdoms, then Spanish overlords, and now independent states
    • Both form the backwaters of the national, and now globalized, economy
  • Mayan Culture Area: Pre-Columbian Sites
    • Principal Mayan Sites
    • Palenque: Political center; Pakal’s tomb, temple of the Inscriptions
    • Copan: Site of 18 Rabbit, recorded history; major site of Mayan Collapse, AD 900
    • Chichen Itza: site of Toltec conquest of Maya, AD 1000
    • Tikal: Ceremonial and Mayan market center
  • Theocracies
    • Maya: Divine kingships may have been city states
    • Kings symbolized by lilies and fish that were life-giving to raised fields.
    • The calendars were the sources of history—and predicting the future
    • Writing recorded the events of Mayan history and society—from the elite standpoint
  • Mesoamerican Writing
    • Main writing systems: Mayan, Aztec, Zapotec, Mixtec
    • Writing systems: Phonetic, Pictographic, Ideographic were all present
    • Writing Media included:
    • Codices: Writing on skins or bark (such as the Dresden codex, upper left
    • Murals: of pictures similar to writing
    • Stone carvings on pyramids (such as the glyphs on the stairs of this pyramid in Copan, lower left)
    • Stelae: stone tablets
  • Mayan Writing System: Logosyllabic
    • An emblem glyph, represented by a knot in center, representing hair knot in back
    • Prefix has two symbols ku and ajaw, which together mean “Supreme Lord”
  • Mayan Numerical System
    • To decipher numerals, see next slide
  • Commonalities of Meso-American Peoples: Counting Systems
    • Counting Systems
    • A Base 20 (vigesimal) counting system
    • Numerical systems and placeholding
    • Zero: a shell
    • One: a dot
    • Five: a bar
    • Places are vertical
    • Illustration: see chart, preceding panel
  • Mayan Numerals Used in Long Count Calendar
    • The Maya also used a long count calendar based on these numerals.
    • See next page for deciphering this chart.
  • Calendrical Systems: Mayan Long Count
    • Long Count: linear dating system of Maya history
    • Units included the following:
    • Kin: day
    • Uinals: 20 kins
    • Tun: 18 uinals or 360 kins
    • Katuns: 20 tuns or 360 uinals or 7200 kins
    • Baktuns: 20 katuns or 400 tuns or 7200 uinals, or 144,000 kins
    • Use in dating of historical documents and glyphs
    • 3114 BC the most widely accepted base date, when calendar first began
  • Calendar Systems: Lunar Calendar Round (Tzolkin)
    • See explanation on diagram or in next panel
  • Calendrical Systems: Lunar Calendar
    • Lunar calendar: 2 cogged (toothed) “wheels”
    • 13 numbered days
    • 20 named days (animal, plant, or other natural object)
    • Used for divination—predicting the future or revealing the unknown
    • This was known as the Tzolkin
  • Solar Calendar: The Haab
    • Left: The tzolkin or lunar calendar
    • Right: the haab, or solar calendar
    • Day (purple shade) shows four-part date (13 Ahau of lunar calendar meshing with 18 cumku of the solar calendar
    • Se next panel for explanation
  • Calendrical Systems: Lunar and Solar Calendar
    • The system also had a third calendar, the 365 “vague” or solar year (the Haab)
    • Divided into 18 months of 20 days each
    • Five intercalary days at end of year to bring number up to 365 days
    • The lunar and solar calendars “meshed” day by day with four elements each day
    • Example in diagram: 13 ahau (lunar) 18 cumku (solar)
    • Solar and lunar calendars began with same number: 1 and Reed, every 52 years
    • The 52 nd year was one of crisis
    • The world would undergo renewal—or destruction
  • Calendars, Syncretism, and Peasants
    • The Calendar system has persisted to the present
    • Shamans use the calendar to make their predictions
    • With the Spanish Conquest, the Mayan adopted the elements of both Christianity and Mayan beliefs
    • The calendar is but one
  • Origin of Corn
    • Although squash was the first cultivated crop, corn became the mainstay of the Mayan (and other Mesoamericans)
    • Left: Teosinte and Corn Stalks
    • Right: Teosinte ear (left), Hybrid (center), and Maize ear (right)
  • Maize and Deities among the Maya
    • Development of larger and more varied corn (maize) occurred rapidly (upper left)
    • Intensification meant the need to settle down and displaced nomadic foragers.
    • It is hardly surprising that maize became deified (as this carving of the god of maize represents, lower left)
    • The corn god was one of several deities—and they took on names of Catholic saints after conquest.
  • The Cross: A Case of Syncretism
    • The cross was one symbol the Maya readily adopted.
    • The Christian cross—sacrifice of Jesus Christ to bear the burden of men’s sins
    • To the Maya, the tree of life was the ceiba tree (lower left)
    • The trunk grows straight and the branches grows in four cardinal directions
    • The canopy is the home of bats (underworld creatures)
    • This is the navel of the world
  • Maya at the Eve of the Conquest
    • Sociopolitical Organization
    • Patrilineal Clans
    • Joint Land Tenure
    • Warring Kingdoms: Quiche dominated
    • Tributaries to various cycles of states, including Toltec
    • Calendrical System
    • Base 20 system of numbers
    • Writing combining glyph types
  • The Spanish Conquest of the Maya
    • In 1523, Pedro de Alvarado, one of Cortez’s lieutenants entered southern Mexico
    • Southern Mexico conquered in 1523
    • Conquest of Xelajú and Utatlán in 1524
    • Protracted wars: Yucatan campaign ended in 1546
    • Lake Petén was not conquered until 1692
  • Factors in the Mayan Conquest
    • Surrender of one Mayan city state did not mean the conquest of all
    • This meant they had to be subjugated one by one
    • There was a disincentive: southeastern Mexico and Guatemala lacked gold or silver found elsewhere in New Spain (Mexico)
    • Central America was not a priority in the Conquest or in colonization
  • A Sequence of Post-Conquest Cultures (La Farge)
    • Conquest Period: 1521-1600s
    • Colonial Indian: 1600s-1724 (abolition of the enconmienda)
    • Transition Period: 1724-1821 (consolidation of Indian communities)
    • Recent Indian I: 1821-1880s (Conservative Era)
    • Recent Indian II: 1880-Present
  • Spanish Colonization: Town Government
    • Offices were staffed by Indians themselves
    • Enforced the quota system of labor
    • Assessed each household for tribute
    • Administered the allocation of land
    • Handled other daily affairs
    • Structure of Local Indian Government:
    • Caciques (chiefs) became the administrators
    • Alcaldes (mayors) and regidores (council) made the decision
    • Mayores were the police and messengers
  • Spanish Colonization: Religious Governance
    • Priests directed the town’s church
    • Sacristans oversaw church’s daily administration
    • Cofradias or officers were assigned care of each saint and its celebration
    • Alter boys handled menial chores
    • Syncretism: Each saint “fronted” for indigenous spirit
  • Closed Corporate Communities
    • Communities were both closed and corporate
    • Corporate
    • Estate: communal land
    • Body of rights and obligations
    • Rights: usufruct land rights
    • Obligations: community service
    • Focus of service: civil-religious hierarchy
  • Communities as Corporate: Civil-Religious Hierarchy
    • Civil and religious organizations became fused into a theocracy
    • Hierarchy of offices
    • Lowest: messengers, police
    • Middle level mayordomo of cofradias (religious brotherhoods or “committees”)
    • Upper level: mayors, council, top cofrades
    • Service in the civil-religious hierarchy was obligatory
    • Financial support of office came from the members themselves
    • They had to provide yearlong service without pay
  • Communities as Corporate: Civil-Religious Hierarchy
    • Course of a Cargo Career:
    • Youths began as messengers
    • Early to middle age: many became mayordomos, officials of the cofradia
    • Elders became senior officeholders: councillors. mayors, senior mayordomos
    • Principales or pasados (e.g. moletik in Zinacantan) were honored elders who completed the cargo career
    • Leveling mechanism of wealth from the costs of cargo led to reduced stratification
    • Individual wealth was thus directed to good of the community
  • Communities as Closed: Structural Barriers
    • Community endogamy: individual could marry only within the community
    • Community “markers” included the following:
    • Distinctive dress style that identified one’s village (zigzag blouse design identifies this woman from Almolonga)
    • Dialects that differed among villages
    • Product specialization within a community
    • Regional markets connected local economies like his one in Chichi-castenango
    • Semimonopoly of crafts would ensure demand of each community’s products
  • Regional Economies of Colonial Central America
    • Hostile symbiosis existed between haciendas (landed estates) and closed corporate communities, which provided the reserve labor
    • Conservatives also fought liberals
    • Conservatives: economic strategy would maintain national self-sufficiency
    • Liberals: Wealth was possible only through economic development and external commerce
  • Liberal Reformas: Roots
    • Economic Strategy
    • Country needs to industrialize
    • Key: Produce exports
    • Guatemala: lucrative export proved to be coffee
    • Origins: Costa Rica had a booming coffee economy by 1840s
    • In 1860, coffee proved successful
    • Justo Rufino Barrios assumed office in 1871 (above)
    • Cantel: Site of a massacre of an entire town council in 1884
  • Liberal Reformas: Land
    • Rationale for Land Reforms under the liberal
    • Coffee farms needed land “locked” in communal land
    • Incentive lacking for Indians to plant the crop
    • Land Reforms
    • Privatization: only land registered to private individuals was recognized
    • Result: land grabs were made of communal property
    • Some communities vanished; others were restructured
  • Liberal Reforma: Labor
    • Coffee requires massive labor inputs
    • Tending seedlings, weeding, and
    • Picking and processing beans (left)
    • Labor Reforms:
    • Restoration of labor quota system
    • Debt peonage was legalized
    • Fincas de mozos: worker-producing farms
    • Vagrancy laws (1930s)
  • Liberal Reforma: Impact on Communities
    • Land became a commodity
    • Communal land mostly nonarable
    • Communities became dependent on labor markets
    • Corporate institutions eroded
    • Politics dominated political part of the civil-religious hierarchy
    • Religious movements entered communities
    • “ True” Catholicism displace folk beliefs
    • Protestantism entered the scene.
  • Precursors of the Revolution
    • The heavy handed of successive dictators maintained an oligarchy of 20 families though the years
    • This period culminated in the Ubico regime
    • Peasants were subject to vagrancy laws
    • Either they had to plant so many acres of land in cash crops or larger amounts in corn and beans
    • Or they had to work 100 or 150 days as day laborers
    • Ubico provided liberal deals with the United Fruit Company, constructing railways oriented toward the east coast of Puerto Barrios
    • Road and telegraph networks strengthened his hand
  • The Policies of the Revolution
    • Social reforms introduced, reversed
    • Labor legislation
    • Land redistribution
    • Civil war of attrition
    • Guerrilla warfare involved Indian in 1980s
    • Communities bombed, mass emigration
    • Peace Accords of 1996 ended war
    • Guatemala has become part of global system of production.
  • The Revolution of 1944
    • In 1944, three young army officers directed a coup under the regime succeeding Gen Jorge Ubico
    • Juan Jose Arevalo was elected in 1945 (upper left)
    • Jacobo Arbenz was elected in 1951
    • He accelerated the reforms begun by Arevalo
    • Here he announces the expropriation of United Fruit Company lands. (lower left)
    • The reforms were modeled after Roosevelt’s new deal
  • The Policies of the Revolution
    • Social reforms introduced,
    • Labor legislation enacted in 1947
    • Provided for a minimum wage, 8 hour day, and similar legislation
    • Land redistribution programs were introduced
    • The high point came when President Arbenz ordered the expropriation of unused acreage of United Fruit Company properties in 1952
  • Guatemala: The Arbenz Reforms
    • Jacobo Arbenz Guzman continued the reforms set by his predecessor
    • A major land reform was the expropriation of large unused holdings of the United Fruit Company and its redistribution to the peasants
    • Much of the land had been rendered useless by sikatoka, a disease that attacks banana plant
    • As compensation, the government offered an amount based on the declared value of the land for taxes.
    • The company demanded compensation at the full market value
    • This set the stage for the overthrow, in 1954, of the Arbenz administration
  • The Counterrevolution of 1954
    • In 1952, President Arbenz expropriated land that had been out of production because of Panama Disease, that leaves the land useless for growing bananas
    • In response, under pressure from United Fruit Company, the CIA sponsored a coup in Guatemala City
    • All reforms were reversed
    • Left: typical Chiquita ad juxtaposed with a banana worker
  • The Civil War of Guatemala
    • Began in 1960, shortly after the counterrevolution of 1954
    • Guerrillas operated in the eastern zones of Guatemala to restore the reformist government
    • The rebellion was crushed in Zacapa in 1966
    • Col. Carlos Arana, seen here with U.S. military advisors, earned the name “The Butcher of Zacapa”
    • He became the president of Guatemala in 1970
    • Yet remaining factions continued the war
  • Involvement of Indian Communities
    • In 1978, a landowner in northern Guatemala was assassinated.
    • This expanded the civil war into western Guatemala
    • Entire villages were bombed
    • Indians would be herded into schools or churches, which were then set afire
    • Many Guatemalans left their communities to the border regions of Mexico (upper left)
    • As these coffins show, many were not so lucky (lower left)
  • Disappearances
    • A terror technique of kidnapping and murder was created under Gen. Peralta in the 1960s
    • Torture was commonplace, and outright murder
    • These photos provide evidence of these murders in Chontala, Guatemala
    • A boy with hands tied and shot in the back of the neck
    • A recovered skull, as if screaming—and perhaps was at the time of the murder
  • Peace Accord of 1996
    • The war became an issue even among corporations because of instability
    • Finally, under President Arzu, the government negotiated with the five guerrilla groups organized under URNG
    • The guerrillas ceased operations under those terms and the government halted death squad activity
    • The refugees were able to come home.
    • Guatemala remains an area of investment, most recently of South Korean enterprises
  • Conclusion
    • Guatemala is a classical Third World Country
    • It represents most countries of the Third World
    • African states are much worse of than Guatemala
    • Role of anthropologists: pronouncements of ethics, but little else.
    • With stories like these throughout Latin America, it is unsurprising that Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua are taking matters into their own hands.