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Victor Montejo

Sculpted Stones (Piedras Labradas)

"Lost in the jungle---
several millennia
of history,
and forgotten by men---
shining millennia
of victory.

The Maya and their glyphs
stand as one
like fathers and sons
measuring the present
in the easy-going eyes
of the tourist
who stands by a stele
in Tikal stroking
a round glyph
which bares its teeth
to the onlookers
as if saying:

'After two thousand years,
we're still on our feet
among the silken
of time."

This is what the future archeologist will say
whose contemporaries
happily measure ancient skulls
and rejoice in uncovering a new tomb

While the same day, nearby,
new graves are opened by the hundreds
filled with poor campesinos, Maya
who have fallen on top of the hieroglyphs.

This collection of poetry comprises twenty-six poems by Victor
Montejo of the Jakaltek Maya of Guatemala. They vividly express the
values of traditional Mayan culture, while at the same time exposing
the brutal 30 year war of extermination which his people have endured.

Victor weaves a story of how it feels to live in exile, using
both comedy and scathing irony. He describes the clash of cultures
with lyric intensity. He, like Rigoberta Menchu, knows first-hand the
brutality of being Indian in the land of his ancestors.

At the present time Victor is teaching anthropology in the United
States. Thanks to his publisher (Curbstone Press) I am able to share
with you some of his beautiful work.

Interrogation by the Ancestors/Remembrance

"We, their descendants,
have been duped
so many times
by foreigners
who've specialized
in confounding
and jumbling up our histories.

We can neither take it lightly
nor accept it
because we,
the native peoples,
are the ones they disfigure.

Just think:

What can we say
to the ancients?"

Yet today we Maya
remain hushed up
and have even forgotten the message
that might inspire us to break the silence.

That's why if our ancestors came back to life
they'd give us thirteen lashes
to cure the amnesia of centuries
which has made us forget our names.

First Congress of Indigenous Literatures of the Americas

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.

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