Forgotten Latino History: New Book Retells Epic Mayan Creation Story

An illustration from "Popol Vuh: A Retelling" by Ilan Stavans, with illustrations by Gabriela Larios.
Forgotten Latino History: New Book Retells Epic Mayan Creation Story

Every culture has its story of creation, and while tales like those in the Bible and “Beowulf” have vastly been preserved, the origin story of Latin America is largely unknown. Ilan Stavans, a writer and professor on Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, decided to remind the world of the rich and important history of the K’iche’ Maya people of Guatemala. His book, Popol Vuh: A Retelling, is out now.

The Popol Vuh: The Latino Version of the Bible, the Viking Saga & “The Odyssey”

Much like many European analogies, The Popol Vuh, also tells the story of the rise and fall of a people. It celebrates the history and mythology of the K’iche’ people in Mesoamerica – the Maya cultures that inhabited modern-day Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

An illustration from "Popol Vuh: A Retelling" by Ilan Stavans, with illustrations by Gabriela Larios.
Forgotten Latino History: New Book Retells Epic Mayan Creation Story

It’s believed that the Latino epic was passed down from one generation to another orally until it was first written down by K’iche’ nobility in the 1550s. It was later translated into Spanish at the beginning of the 18th century by the Dominican friar Francisco Ximénez. The Popol Vuh is a story about survival, indigenous oppression, and endurance, that Stavans believes should be known worldwide.

Stavans’ Retelling of the Popol Vuh

Stavans decided to divide the tale into four parts. The first one tells the story of the sacred Maya creation myth of how the world was created and how people originated from the experiments of the gods. The second part focuses on the story of Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, the hero twins who take on the Mayan underworld gods of Xibalba. The third part explains how the K’iche’ nobility came into being, and the fourth one concludes with the arrival of the Spaniards and the consequent destruction of the K’iche.’

An illustration from "Popol Vuh: A Retelling" by Ilan Stavans, with illustrations by Gabriela Larios.
Forgotten Latino History: New Book Retells Epic Mayan Creation Story

Throughout the book, you’ll find beautiful illustrations by Salvadoran folk artist Gabriela Larios. Explore the depths of Latino history with Popol Vuh: A Retelling and share the knowledge with friends!