Antigua, Guatemala - The University of Texas at Austin

Summer Session I
Spanish Literature at Casa Herrera
Faculty-led summer abroad program
Where is Guatemala?
This is Mexico and Central America,
also called “Mesoamerica”
This is Guatemala!
It all starts in Guatemala
Antigua is Guatemala’s past colonial
capital – 1541 to 1776
A view of the Agua volcano
Suspended between the
cones of Agua, Acatenango
and Fuego volcanoes,
Antigua is one of the most
beautiful colonial cities in
the world.
In its day this was one of the
great cities of the Spanish
empire, ranking alongside
Lima and Mexico City and
serving as the administrative
center for all of Central
America and Mexican
Fuego and Acatenango volcanoes at
Ruins of the convent of Capuchinas
Church of La Merced
Streets of Antigua
Cathedral of Antigua
Casa Herrera in Antigua
 Built in 1680, the Casa Herrera is a new research, conference and
teaching facility located in Antigua, Guatemala, operated by the
Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at
Austin in collaboration with the Fundación Pantaleón.
 As an extension of the university’s Mesoamerica Center, the Casa
Herrera focuses on disciplines that contribute to the study of
Mesoamerican opportunities for education and research.
 It facilitates learning and dialogue in many fields of study, among
scholars and students from many institutions and nations in
Central America and beyond.
This is Casa Herrera
Casa Herrera Mission Statement
 Casa Herrera’s mission is to create new opportunities
for education and research, facilitating learning and
dialogue in many fields of study among scholars and
students from institutions and nations in Central
America and beyond. In addition to its primary role as
a place of scholarly research and teaching, the Casa
aims to be an important venue for community
engagement with academia and the arts through
regular public programming such as lectures,
concerts and performances.
Casa Herrera at the center of
Mesoamerican culture
 While Mesoamerican art,
archaeology and
anthropology represent
the Casa’s primary
research focus, it also
explores a wider array of
interdisciplinary activities
and uses that resonate
with UT’s mission.
Study at Casa Herrera and be here
Our summer program
 Using Maya literature, texts about the Maya, and
selected works from the Guerrilla Period (1960-1990),
this program explores Central America in a sociohistorical context. Students analyze the imagery and
symbolism of various narrative forms to gain insight
into common things of group identity such as nation,
community and cultural values.
 Emphasis will fall on contemporary Maya literature.
Mayas? They have literature?
 There are an estimated 7 million Maya living in this area at the
start of the 21st century. Ethnic Maya of Guatemala, have
managed to maintain substantial remnants of their ancient
cultural heritage.
 The largest populations of contemporary Maya inhabit
Guatemala, approximately 6.5 million.
 In Guatemala, the largest and most traditional Maya populations
are in the western highlands. In Guatemala, the Spanish colonial
pattern of keeping the native population legally separate and
subservient continued well into the 20th century. This resulted in
many traditional customs being retained until now.
Maya area in Mesoamerica
Another look
Maya Heritage
 The Maya people are known for their brightly colored
textiles, which are woven into capes, shirts, blouses,
huipiles and dresses. Each village has its own distinctive
pattern, making it possible to distinguish a person's home
town on sight. Women's clothing consists of a shirt and a
long skirt. Maya religion still prevails throughout the rural
 The unique religion is based on the cult of maize (corn),
associated to the flesh from which the first human beings
were created. It is a cosmological religion that links every
day of the year to the movement of the stars and planets.
Popol Wuj
 The Popol Wuj is the most significant work of Guatemalan
literature in the K’iche’ language, and the most important of PreColumbian American literature.
 It was originally written around the 1550s in K’iche’ Maya, but
employing a Latin alphabet.
 It was translated into Spanish by the Dominican priest Francisco
Ximénez in the beginning of the 18th century. Due to its
combination of historical, mythical, and religious elements, it has
often been called the Maya Bible. It is a vital document for
understanding the culture of pre-Columbian America.
What is it about?
 The text offers an account of the origin of the world
to the twins’ (Junajpu and Xbalanque, also sun and
moon) victory over the lords of the underworld. The
Popol Wuj then continues with the creation from
maize of the first humans, signaling the emergence of
the K’iché people, followed by the history of their
rulers up to the arrival of the Spaniards. The Popol
Wuj empowered those rulers to make claims even
under Spanish rule.
Rabinal Achí
 The Rabinal Achí is a dramatic work (theater) consisting of
dance and text that is preserved as it was originally
 It is thought to date from the 15th century and narrates the
mythical and dynastic origins of the Kek'chi' people, and
their relationships with neighboring K’iche’s.
 The Rabinal Achí was declared a masterpiece of oral
tradition of humanity by UNESCO in 2005.
And then, there is contemporary
Maya literature
 Guatemala underwent a violent civil war between 1960 and
1996. Its cause was both racism against Mayas, and the
dispossession of their land by the ruling Mestizo elite.
 The iconic peak of the civil war was incarnated by Rigoberta
Menchú, who became a human rights crusader and was
given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
 One of the positive outcomes of peace has been the
emergence of an intellectual Maya elite that includes all
professions (anthropologists, sociologists, lawyers, doctors.
Etc.) as well as writers, artists, musicians and other
contemporary creative manifestations.
Rigoberta Menchú
 When the Mountains
Poerts and novelists
 In the summer course, we will read Menchú’s
testimonio, but we will mainly read contemporary
poets and novelists.
 They write about their culture, their ancestry, and
what happened during the civil war.
 Most of them are alive. They will be invited to visit our
class and speak to our students.
Luis de Lión
Víctor Montejo
Gaspar Pedro González
Francisco Morales Santos
Humberto Ak’abal
Calixta Gabriel Xiquín
There will also be field trips
 Guatemala is considered one of the most beautiful
countries on Earth.
 It is a cosmic center, the heartland of the Mayas.
 During the summer we will visit the Maya town of
Chichicastenango, lake Atitlán, and the classical Maya
ruins of Tikal, which was one of the largest cities on
Earth between the 2nd and 6th centuries A.D.
View of Chichicastenango
Chichicastenango is a
traditional town of cobbled
streets. Twice a week the
town's highland calm is
shattered by the Sunday
and Thursday markets,
which attract a myriad of
commercial traders, as well
as Maya weavers from the
central highlands.
Maya principal from
Chichicastenango was founded
by the Spanish to house K'iche'
refugees from nearby Utatlán,
which they conquered and
destroyed in 1524. The town's
name is a Nahuatl word
meaning "the place of the
 The old ruins of Q’umarkaj
are only 5 miles from
Chichicastenango. Though
the city was destroyed,
efforts have been made
recently to create a museum
on the site. We sill visit the
museum. On the right you
see a scale model of how
the city was in 1524.
Maya women in Chichicastenango
Church steps of Chichicastenango
The market is by no means
all that sets
Chichicastenango apart.
For the local population it's
an important center of
culture and religion. It is the
colonial capital of the
K’iche’s, the largest Maya
ethnic group in Guatemala.
Chichicastenango market
Today the town has an
important collection
of Maya artifacts,
parallel indigenous
and Mestizo
governments, and two
churches that make no
effort to disguise their
acceptance of Maya
religious worship.
Locals adhere to the
ways of traditional
weaving, the women
wearing superb
huipiles with flower
A sea of color in the market
The emergence of the earth from the
 According to Maya legend, Earth emerged from the water at
lake Atitlán, a deep lake shaped by deep escarpments. The lake
is of volcanic origin, filling a large caldera formed by an eruption
84,000 years ago.
 The lake is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. It
is surrounded by 12 Maya villages. The largest town on the shore
is Panajachel.
 The most beautiful is the Tz'utujil town of Santiago Atitlán on
the opposite side. Boats go back and forth between Panajachel
and Santiago Atitlán.
Santiago Atitlán
 Tikal is one of the largest archaeological
sites and urban centers of the preColumbian Maya civilization.
 It is located in the archaeological region
of the Petén Basin in what is now
northern Guatemala, in the department
of El Petén.
 The site is part of Guatemala's Tikal
National Park.
 In 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World
Heritage Site.
A metropolis in the middle of the
 Tikal became one of the most
powerful kingdoms of the
ancient Maya. Though
monumental architecture at
the site dates back as far as the
4th century BC, Tikal reached
its apogee during the Classic
Period, ca. 200 to 900 AD.
 During this time, the city
dominated much of the Maya
region politically, economically,
and militarily. It interacted with

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