Watch This: “Ixcanul” an amazing looking Mayan-language film!

I cannot wait to see this film, Ixcanul, which roughly translates to, “the internal force of the mountain which is boiling and looking for eruption,” in Kaqchikel Mayan. In fact the entire film is in Kaqchikel, written and directed by Jayro Bustamante who is 1/4 Maya. Even though about 60% of Guatemala’s population is Maya, Maya stories are rarely told, especially not on the big screen.

So far it has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes critics rating, which is kind of amazing!

Watch This: Dance of the Maize God

This looks like a very interesting new documentary about looting and the destruction of cultural heritage happening in the Maya region.

“If you don’t know the history of your culture, you don’t know anything.”

The scene of the temple being bulldozed and the human remains being pushed around like trash made me positively sick to my stomach. I wouldn’t exactly compare looting to rape as they do here, and I wish there were more Maya voices represented in the trailer, but the Nightfire Films website says “The story is told by villagers, looters, archaeologists, scholars, dealers and curators. For each, these vases have a radically different value and meaning,” which definitely makes me excited to watch this when I can!

Maya Revival indegogo

“Today’s Maya regaining their history and culture by learning the glyphs and calendars of their ancestors and spreading the knowledge in their own communities.”

That’s the goal of this new indegogo being run by a fellow UCLA anthropologist, Bruce Love. I’ve heard of the organization “Mayas for ancient Mayan” before, but this is the first time I’ve seen their actual work in action. And I’m THRILLED that this is happening, especially that it is driven, not by Dr. Love, but by Maya communities themselves in their desire to revive ancient knowledge.

One of my biggest issues with modern archaeology and anthropology is that it is usually driven by outsiders, usually American or European scholars that set the research agenda in indigenous communities. I am always very excited to see internally driven projects that address issues and questions being asked by the people being “studied.”

Also, not incidentally, this is exactly the issue the novel I just finished addressed – the power inherent in having access to and knowledge about you own history. Though, of course, in my fantasy book access to ancient knowledge allows people to perform magic…

My first publication!

Well, it’s official. My flash fiction piece Ixtab Takes a Day Off was posted up at Abyss & Apex Magazine!

I wrote this as an homage to one of my favorite stories, Dostoyevsky’s Dream of a Ridiculous Man, which is about a man contemplating suicide who changes his mind after an encounter with a little girl.

This was my first real attempt at flash fiction. It literally took two hours to write the first draft and I’m still happy with the piece, so yay!

I’m actually experiencing all kinds of emotions. Intense pride. Excitement. There might be a little fist-pumping boogie around the room to very mediocre pop music with my 4 year old happening.

Though I also feel a little…let down or something.

I’m beginning to suspect that every milestone along my writing journey will feel like this. Every time I achieve a goal, I see the next goalpost in the distance. Being an obsessive, type-A person, I just move right on to the next thing. Finish a book. Get a short story published. Edit a book. Query agents. Done and done.

Next is getting an agent and starting the publication process. Then publish a book. Then pen my best selling series. And then I RULE THE WORLD…okay that last part isn’t a realistic goal. To be fair, none of this feels realistic. But it’s happening so I figure I’d better pay attention and make sure I’m enjoying the journey!

PS Profanity warning in the story…sorry mom.

PPS Haha, just kidding, my mom actually taught me how to curse.

Thinking about Belize

As I am working on my (almost finished) novel, I’ve been thinking a lot about Belize these days. The book takes place all across Central America and Mexico, but it is really the deep jungle that I hated/loved/miss/hope to never go back to. Especially my time at the Programme For Belize where I learned many things: what it’s like to be genuinely hungry, what it’s like to have fungus growing on your nether bits, how to use a machete, what it means to feel truly competent and confident in your abilities as a human being, how to survive in the wild, that people are ultimately the same everywhere, that life without technology can be truly wonderful. I could go on.

One thing I definitely miss is the wildlife. Especially howler monkeys which used to serenade us every evening. I got to see hundreds of these guys as well as spider monkeys and a few other kinds of monkey.

Also the coati, SO CUTE.

And, of course the jaguars and other big cats, which I did see in the wild exactly once. Yes, I wet myself a little.

I, however, do not miss the fer-de-lance, fondly known at the two step snake (because you will get bitten, then take exactly two more steps before you die…which is actually an exaggeration. Really you will likely only lose the limb that gets bitten, just don’t get bitten on the nose…). I did come face to face with a few of these, including one literally face to face. They tell me I levitated backwards though I have little memory of that. I also killed a few with my machete, Very Carefully.

The best part about these snakes is that they are aggressive. I heard stories of people being chased through the jungle by one of these territorial pit vipers.

Though the fer-de-lance was deadly, the real danger in the jungle was packs of peccaries. Look at this photo – see how cute they look. Until you look into the mother’s eyes. Look at them, see the cold evil? These things travel in packs and, if disturbed, will shred your ankles with their sharp tusks. Then, when you finally fall over on bloodied stumps, they feast on your corpse (okay I’m exaggerating, but only a little. I did see local guys that killed fer-de-lances like they were nothing frantically climb trees to avoid peccaries).

In addition to snakes and wild boar, the animal that truly terrified me while there…. the ocellated turkey. Don’t laugh. Check out the razor sharp spurs on that sucker. It’s hard to see it, but they are like little stiletto blades. Dual wielding even.

One of these lovely birds decided that our camp’s pit-toilets were in her territory. If you needed to piss, you needed a buddy. One person would distract the turkey while the other made a mad dash for the toilet. Once inside (behind the trash bag hung up for privacy) you had to hurry, lest the screaming mad bird notice you and attack while your pants were still down.

Living there for so long was an amazing/terrifying/life-changing experience that’s for sure. I do hope someday we can take our little Danger Monkey there to experience some of it.

Oh Guatemala

I have not really posted much about the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator, Rios Montt.  Mainly because I have been awestruck that it was happening at all.  When I spent time in the region (mostly 1998-2006) I felt like Guatemala was a nation very, very far from anything like a trial against Montt.

But then it happened and I watched in awe as this country mired in a long history of colonial/corporate abuses did something no other country has – tried in a fair court of law its former dictator.  When he was found guilty, I danced with joy at the way that democracy was happening in this beautiful, amazing place.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been so crushed when the high court of Guatemala simply overturned Montt’s conviction.  I’m so sad to see this unfolding, to watch the hopes of the people who were tortured, raped, and murdered by this man dashed on the pillar of cronyism and, well. let’s just call it evil.

Boing Boing has had some shockingly good coverage of the events as they unfold if you want to know more.

photo: Daniel Hernández-Salazar.

Maya Temple of the Night Sun

This is slightly old news, but just watched the little National Geo video about it HERE and remembered how cool this is.

“Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar.”

This temple was at the ancient Maya city of El Zotz, not too far from where I worked in Central America.  Amazing.

Happy B’ak’tun 13!

Happy 4 Ajaw 3 K’ank’in! We’ve got a clean slate to create the new world however we would like – lets make it full of peace and joy.

Rather than making fun of those who thought this was the end of days, I will just recommend a fantastic book on the incredibly nuanced and complex ancient (and in some cases, modern) Maya conceptualization of time as something sacred.  If you really want to understand the Maya calendar and the ways in which the ancient Maya viewed the passage of time across the cosmos, there is no better book than Time and Reality in the Thought of the Maya by Miguel León-Portilla.