Thomas Hart. The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya

Thomas Hart.  The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya.  Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 2008. Pp 290.  $45.00 hardcover.

 Kristina Downs
Indiana University

The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya by Thomas Hart profiles the persistence of traditional Mayan religion in contemporary society.  Hart, who has lived and worked in Guatemala since 1993, conducted most of his fieldwork in Guatemala among the K’iche’ Maya, but argues that many of the concepts he discusses are relevant to the Maya more generally.  Although the title stresses the endurance of Mayan Spirituality, the central theme of the work seems to be change, which is often framed as a detrimental decline of the old ways.  His collaborators repeatedly mention that because of social changes, things are not seen the way they should be, the way they once were. Continue reading “Thomas Hart. The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya”


Jim Pieper, Guatemala’s Masks and Drama.

Jim Pieper. Guatemala’s Masks and Drama. Torrance, Calif: Pieper and Associates, 2006. pp284. $65.00 hard cover, $45.00 paper.

Mary Mesteller
Indiana University

Guatemala’s Masks and Drama by Jim Pieper aims to give an analysis of masks as an object as well as to discuss their role in Guatemalan culture, particularly in public dance performances, rituals, and festivals. Another function is to aid mask collectors in both acquisition and evaluation. Arranged topically, Pieper first discusses the history of Guatemala and then the history of masking in general. From there, he describes different aspects of masks as objects, and closes the book with a series of chapters discussing various uses of masks within Guatemalan folk culture. Addressing multiple audiences, the book is also multi-purpose and could be a relevant piece of introductory literature in a variety of fields. Continue reading “Jim Pieper, Guatemala’s Masks and Drama.”

Katherine Borland. Unmasking Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Nicaraguan Festival.

Katherine Borland. Unmasking Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Nicaraguan Festival. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2006. Pp. 184, notes, references, index. ISBN:0-8165-2511-0, $45.00 cloth.

Elizabeth A. Burbach
Indiana University

Nicaragua has experienced an incredibly difficult century of supposed independence, a century wherein a variety of internal and external forces to Nicaragua sought and seeks to define and redefine the economic, political, social, and cultural landscape, a situation not unfamiliar to Latin America as a whole. Katherine Borland, in Unmasking Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Nicaraguan Festival, has crafted an illuminating and thoughtful ethnographic-historical analysis of Nicaraguan festival as one arena wherein this struggle for power is played out. An Associate Professor of Comparative Studies in the Humanities at The Ohio State University at Newark, Borland illustrates Nicaraguan festival as a complex locus for the construction, assertion, and negotiation of individual, local, and national identities. Continue reading “Katherine Borland. Unmasking Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Nicaraguan Festival.”