5799 - ¿They raise birds for their pleasure¿: women, children, longing, and desire in Landa¿s Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan

While filled with tantalizing details of daily practice from Landa’s memory and first hand observations, the portrayal of women and children in the Relacion is particularly deceptive. Landa’s work is better understood as Colonial era fantasy, a highly selective reconstruction of those elements of Yucatec Maya life burned into the friar’s memory. In his writing about Maya women and children, Landa’s anxieties and desires are fully exposed and these depictions reveal as much about Landa’s values as they do those of the Maya.

When women appear in the Relacion, most frequently it is in the context of Landa’s anxiety over the spiritual authority of certain Maya women and their lack of adherence to Spanish codes of female behavior. Frank expressions of physical desire lurk behind his descriptions of the behavior of young Maya women and his condemnations of their licentiousness. Landa looks more fondly upon the children of Colonial Maya society, who he describes as healthy and well loved, although he was utterly unable to explain the persistence of child sacrifice despite recording the Maya rationale in his writings.

The depiction of Maya women and children we read today in the Relacion is not purely imaginary but it is the product of Landa’s imagination, memory, and anxiety over his failed conversion of the Maya. Women and children were farthest from his reach and their lives proceeded with less impact from the Colonial enterprise than any others. For these reasons and others to be explored in this paper, the Relacion reveals Landa’s desires for power and control of an imagined Colonial Maya resistant to his message of salvation. In his hostile longing for dangerous Maya women we see the clearest expression of a fictionalized and selective memory at work.

Palabras claves: Maya, women, children, Colonial, fantasy

Autores: Ardren, Traci (University of Miami, Ud States of Am / USA)


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