9941 - The Uses of the Mayan Past and Present

Initiated by John Lloyd Stephen’s explorations of Central America and the Yucatan in the 1840s, a series of Anglo-Americans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries visited the region and wrote extensively for their home audiences about ancient Mayan civilizations, the indigenous peoples they found, the continuing impact of Spanish customs on the region, and the nature of contemporary society in the regions they visited. This paper will examine John Lloyd Stephens writings on Central America and the Yucatan, showing how they contributed to a durable framework for Anglo-American views of both ancient Mayan civilization and modern Central America and Yucatan. Although Stephens gave credit to ancient Mayans for creating a civilization and cities of the highest rank, he remained at best ambivalent about the Mayan present. The paper will argue that a presumed contradiction between an exalted past and a degraded present is a crucial component of Anglo-American views of Latin America, and a central part of the “orientalization” of Latin America by Anglo-Americans.

Palabras claves: John Lloyd Stephens, Yucatan, Central America, Mayan, Mexico

Autores: Kolesar, Robert (John Carroll University, Ud States of Am / USA)


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