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Customer Review

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important, but infuriating, historical resource, August 15, 2001
This review is from: Yucatan Before and After the Conquest (Native American) (Paperback)
"Yucatan Before and After the Conquest" is the English translation of the 1566 work "Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan," by Diego de Landa. Translator William Gates has also provided some illuminating notes to the text. De Landa was a clergyman who was instrumental in suppressing the indigenous Mayan culture of Yucatan. In his introduction, Gates notes ironically that de Landa "burned ninety-nine times as much knowledge of Maya history and sciences as he has given us in his book." Also ironically, de Landa wrote the book as a matter of self-justification after his forced return to Spain.
So de Landa's work must be read with a very critical eye. Still, this is a frequently fascinating account of Native American life at the time of the Spanish conquest. De Landa describes Indian architecture, clothing, culinary arts, and musical instruments. He also describes the bounteous plant and animal life of the region (particularly interesting is his account of the manatees). De Landa also describes the "Europeanization" of the younger Indian generation, and explains why he destroyed priceless native texts.
This edition contains some supplemental documents implicating de Landa as the "chief author" of many of the abuses heaped upon the Indians by their Spanish conquerors. This book is an important resource, but it is also a chilling record of cultural imperialism, religious chauvinism, and personal arrogance.
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