"Just the leftovers!" Pre-Christian ritual in highland Maya colonial documents

Author(s): Sergio Romero

Year: 2015


In this paper I will present an analysis of colonial texts in indigenous languages that describe or paraphrase pre-Hispanic ritual. I will present comparisons between the structure and poetics of such texts and those of contemporary Christian sacramental practice as attested in sixteenth and seventeenth century doctrines and catechisms. Based on the analysis of intertextuality, I will show that pre-Hispanic ritual genres became a template for the Spanish mendicant friars and their native collaborators charged with the translation of Catholic ritual and prayer into highland Maya languages. Eventually, this led to two opposed Christian ritual traditions. The first, represented by the Dominican Domingo de Vico's Theologia Indorum, closely followed pre-Hispanic poetic and lexical templates. The second, represented by the diocesan Antonio del Saz' sermons, sought to distance itself from any discursive repertoire with potential "pagan" associations. These two incarnations of Christian language were solutions to tensions among Spanish clergy resulting from different views of the Maya and of evangelization. However, they also reflected tensions among Maya elites torn between continuity and adaptation to Spanish colonial rule. Christian language underwent constant changes and readjustments but Spanish clergy never really succeeded in exorcizing the linguistic traces of pre-Hispanic ritual.

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Cite this Record

"Just the leftovers!" Pre-Christian ritual in highland Maya colonial documents. Sergio Romero. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395108)


Language Maya Ritual

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;