on October 6, 2013
If you dream about Chiapas, are planning to go or have returned, buy this book.
While it is, based on sumptuous Jeffrey Jay Foxx photography, a worthy coffee-table decoration, Walter F. Morris' terse, accurate, romantic prose captures enchanting but realistic vignettes of historical and contemporary Maya Chiapas.
My wife and I spent four research weeks in Chiapas, summer 2013. It was our fourth extended stay in Mayan Central America. On this venture, Palenque, Yaxchilan, Comitan, San Cristobal and its villages, including San Juan Chamula, San Andres Larrainzar, Tenejapa, Zinacantan. On our last days there we met and filmed the author, Walter "Chip" Morris. Our first meeting-moment: he was deep in consultation, in Tzotzil, with a Mayan woman about her contemporary textile patterns; there were three other village women waiting to confer. "Chip" Morris continues to earn, ex post facto, his MacArthur Genius Award. He moves seamlessly amidst the ephemeral and materialistic spirit-worlds of Mayan culture. He is "Living Maya."
And in his book of that title, so will you. If you cannot travel to Chiapas, or if you hope and plan to, or even if you have returned, you will find this book inspired.
on February 15, 2012
Walter F Morris Jr
First Edition Hardcover
This book features Maya in a remote area that has had far less influence from modern civilization. The patterns of living and worship weave a unique lifestyle. 125 full color photos, 60 line drawings and two maps. Of particular interest are diagrams of the weaving and embroidery patterns that produce such colorful garments. Text is on a brown, heavy paper, giving a back-to-the-earth feeling, while photos are on high gloss paper. Exquisite book.
It's probably not that easy to learn Tzotzil or gain the trust of people who have been pushed around and exploited for centuries. Morris no doubt did it and after considerable time and effort, emerged with a beautiful book on the highland Maya communities of Chiapas in Mexico. There are a number of other anthropological studies, framed in other ways, but this one, focusing on the textiles woven by the women, has not only great detail about the symbolism and meaning of the many designs, but also great photographs by Foxx, who also had to win the trust of the highand Maya, who often don't like photographers at all. The festivals during the year are also described and depicted in beautiful photographs as well. While short on history and long on mythology, I liked this book because 1) it puts to rest the idea that some people might have that the Maya were an ancient civilization that disappeared long ago. No, they are alive! And 2) I like the book because it deals very well with the synthesis of Maya and Spanish Catholic culture that has taken place over the centuries since the Conquistadors first arrived. I was interested to compare Morris' work with my own in Goa, another place where violent invasion and resulting merging of belief and behaviors ultimately produced a new culture. You could obtain this book just for the photos alone, but if you read the text you will gain a lot of knowledge and also respect the work that the author must have done.