Popol Vuh, the indigenous bible – Zenda

When you arrive at Chichen Itza, the first thing that surprises you, apart from the majesty of the pyramid and the rest of the archaeological complex, is to see a lot of tourists, accompanied by their respective local guides, clapping their hands. The acoustics of these constructions cause the handshake to become, by magic, the song of the quetzal, the magical bird of the Mayans. But before these hordes of visitors arrived at this place, other Westerners had passed through here, who instead of shooting with cell phones did so with arquebuses. Although the Mayans had already heard of the bearded warriors, it was Captain Valdivia, Gerónimo de Aguilar and Gonzalo Guerrero, who became shipwrecked after the sinking of the caravel Santa María de la Barca, and were the first to set foot in Yucatán. Valdivia ended up becoming a banquet for the indigenous people and the other two managed to flee, although they were soon captured again. Aguilar was rescued by Hernán Cortés, for whom he ended up being an interpreter. For his part, Guerrero assimilated the Mayan world and died fighting the Spanish invaders who arrived under the command of Pedro de Alvarado. This was the appetizer of what was to come later. The swords of the conquerors and the epidemics devastated this civilization during the conquest of Mesoamerica. Colonization could not destroy their culture, which has been preserved thanks to their language, the orality of their traditions and a sacred book, the Popol Vuh. The Errata Naturae publishing house has just published a new edition of this work, with a direct translation from Quiche, by Agustín Estrada Monroy, and with a series of wonderful illustrations by Francisco França.

The Popol Vuh It is the text that the Mayans use to tell how the origin of the Universe was, a story that bears similarities with the sacred books of other civilizations.

According to Thor, the Marvel superhero based on Norse mythology: “It is not the gods who decide whether man exists; it is men who decide whether gods exist.” All ancient civilizations —Romans, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Germans, Aztecs…— created a god(s) to explain the sky, animals, nature…; to explain themselves. The Popol Vuh It is divided into four narratives. The first, the formation of the universe, has many points in common with the Christian creation. In the origins, the rivers, the valleys, the vegetation were created, the animals arrived and then it was the turn of the mudmen, who disappeared and whose trail only a few monkeys remain that still roam the jungle today. Does this sound like something to you? At that time an extraordinary and arrogant being arose, Vucub Caquix, who was destroyed so that men could dwell on earth without his bad example. And behind all this there is a Creator and Shaper who engendered even the air we breathe. The second narration tells us who Hun Ahpú, one of the twin gods, was, and who his ancestors were. The third focuses on the formation of the men of corn, the birth of the sun and the establishment of the towns. The fourth, and last narration, reaches the generations of the Quiche kings and their descendants.

The Popol Vuh It is the text that the Mayans use to tell how the origin of the Universe was, a story that bears similarities with the sacred books of other civilizations, and Even with James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory. This book goes one step further than the rest thanks to its holistic concept, by postulating a broader vision of a world and showing an interconnection that engages with modern theories of deep ecology, those that go beyond anthropocentrism to provide answers to questions formulated thousands of years ago. In the Western world, we turn to Nostradamus to explain with his supposed prophecies any catastrophe that awaits us. In this work there is a teaching that shows us the path to follow, a sentence more accurate than any book, congress or conference on sustainability and climate change: «Treat all things and creatures with care or the day will come when their hug will be terrible.

Nobel laureate for literature Miguel Ángel Asturias hit the nail on the head when he defined Popol Vuh like the indigenous bible

The Popol Vuh, that has survived destruction —and the earthquake that contact with Europeans meant for the Mayans— thanks to orality and a transcript made at the beginning of the 18th century by a Dominican friar, reaches our bookstores not only as the great story of the Mayan civilization, but also in one of the most interesting treatises that tries to give answers to the great questions, those that have been asked by philosophers throughout the history of humanity, and that were also formulated in the eighties some youngsters from Vigo: About us? Where we go? Where we come from? Nobel laureate for literature Miguel Ángel Asturias hit the nail on the head when he defined Popol Vuh like the indigenous bible. Another Swedish winner, Rigoberta Menchú, recommends that we read it “at least” five times. I do not demand such a company of myself nor do I ask so much of you, but I do encourage you to do it on one occasion. His beautiful narrations, his interesting concepts —so current in this chaotic and obsolete 21st century— and his beautiful stories well deserve it.


Title: Popol Vuh. Introduction: Jose Ramon Naranjo. Iconographic research: Daniel Grecco Pacheco. Illustrations: Francisco Franca. Translation: Agustin Estrada Monroy. Editorial: Errata Nature. Sale: all your books

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Popol Vuh, the indigenous bible – Zenda