A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language
by David & Alejandra Bolles
Modern Stories, Songs, and Other Folk Material from Northwestern Yucatan
The material which follows comes from two collections: that of Manuel J. Andrade and that of our own.
The Andrade Material
Manuel J. Andrade was actively collecting stories during the early 1930's under the auspices of Carnegie Institution. In looking through his collection we have come to the conclusion that at first he collected his material by copying it down by hand as it was told to him. Then in 1931 he was able to get a aluminium disk recording machine which he used through 1933 to record his material.
There are two microfilms of Andrade's work on stories available from Microfilm Collection of Manuscripts in Cultural Anthropology: Series 19 No. 108 which is a transcription of the Andrade recordings by Refugio Vermont Salas, and Series 49 No. 262 which is Andrade's actual transcription work.
It is interesting although at times confusing to go through these two microfilms. This is because in some instances there are parallel stories told by the same story teller (principally Bernardino Tun of Piste) to be found on each of the microfilms. However, the stories as transcribed by Andrade are not at all the same as the stories transcribed by Vermont Salas when one compares the stories word for word. It is apparent that when Andrade arrived in Yucatan with the recording machine he was able to get some of his informants to retell some of the stories which he had taken down by hand earlier. Naturally enough the retold stories came out differently from the ones he had transcribed.
One of the notable things about Andrade's own transcriptions (versus the transcriptions by Vermont Salas) is that the Mayan in Andrade's transcriptions is rather strained and in some instances un-Mayan grammatically speaking. In a recent (1991) conversation with Facundo Meex Ocan, a long term resident of Piste and a person who knew the various Carnegie workers including the co-author's (DDB) father, he noted that Andrade never did have a very good speaking knowledge of the Mayan language, and this would explain the strained Mayan of the Andrade transcriptions. Because of the limited value of the Andrade transcriptions in terms of informing the reader how the Mayan language functions, and furthermore, because the Andrade transcriptions give the reader a mistaken impression of the Mayan language, none of his transcribed material is given here.
It should be mentioned that Vermont Salas has only transcribed 62 of the Andrade disks. The total collection contains 102 disks: thus there is some recorded material not yet transcribed.
Of the various informants with whom Andrade worked only one is known to us. Bernardino Tun was one of the contact men for the Carnegie Institution archeologists who were working at Chi Cħeen Itza under Sylvanus Morley. Bernie, as he was called by the Morley group, would help in getting workers for the excavations and would also be a job foreman at a particular site. For example, during the early 1930's Bernie Tun was the foreman for the co-author's father, John S. Bolles, who was in charge of excavations at Las Monjas. We have no information on how old Bernardino Tun might have been at the time, but judging from the various pictures of him and from the fact that he wore a uith (a wrap-around apron worn over the ex (loin cloth), something rarely seen today and worn only by the very oldest men), it seems that he might have been in his 50's during the 1930's. He died some years later when rocks fell on him while he was digging a well.
The original transcriptions by Andrade and Vermont Salas were done according to an orthographic system developed by Andrade. However in the presentation of the Andrade material here we have altered the orthography to match the one we have been using throughout this book.
In the following collection of stories, those stories which are from the Andrade collection are so marked in the subtitle. Further, for the stories based on the recordings the Vermont Salas transcript was consulted in conjunction with listening to the recordings. It should be mentioned that there are various false starts, extraneous sounds, and other such to be heard on the recordings and Vermont Salas made an attempt to capture all this. However in the transcriptions presented here such extraneous utterances are not transcribed.
Our collection dates mostly from the late 1960's, but efforts to enlarge the collection continue down through the present. Part of this collection was published in 1972 in a booklet entitled Tzicbaltabi ti in Mama uch caachi (Stories my mother was told long ago).
Since the purpose of the material which was published by us was to make readable material available to the Mayan readers the stories were edited. The amount of editing done on any one story depended on the quality of the story as recorded. In some instances very little editing was done but in others the editing was extensive. An example of the type of editing which was done is that if the story line was confused we rearranged the story to eliminate this confusion. Another example is that some of the story tellers would use a considerable amount of Spanish vocabulary when such usage was unnecessary. We decided that in those instances where there is a Mayan word in common use we would replace the Spanish word with a Mayan word. An example of this is that Martina Yu Chan would frequently use le señorao (that woman). This we changed to le xunano (that woman) which is a common and perfectly understandable Mayan word.
Some of the stories in our collection are of general knowledge. In these cases, especially where we have collected various versions, a composite story was formed from the various versions. In these cases co-author Alejandra Kim Bolles is listed as the story teller since it is in fact her version of the story which is being used.
Following is a list of the story tellers from whom our stories have been collected. Many of these people are relatives of the co-author's family.
Manuela Chan de Yu, the co-author's (A.K.B.) grandmother, was born on the Hacienda Santa Rosa near Muna in the early 1870's and died in Mérida in 1967. She was raised as an indentured servant on the hacienda, or as the Maya themselves say, as a slave. She was married twice; first to a Mayan man who had the last name of Cen, and later after he died to a Korean imported indentured servant Jose Yu. Mam Uela, as she was called, seems to have been attracted to song and had a store of little ditties, many of which were two or three liners.
Ladislao Cen Chan was born in the 1900's on the Hacienda Santa Rosa, and was one of two children of Manuela Chan's first marriage. He lived most of his life in Ticul and died there in 1989.
Martina Yu Chan was born on the Hacienda Santa Rosa in the 1910's and is a child of Manuela Chan's second marriage. She learned many of her stories when she was very young from two people: Jose Cuuc of Cacao and an old lady from Yaxkopil. She is married to a Korean, Andres Kim Jimenez, and after bearing and raising most of her children in Ticul moved to Mérida, bringing her mother Mam Uela with her.
Ignacia Ku de Cen was born in Yaxkopil in the 1890's and died in Ticul in 1971. She was the first wife of Ladislao Cen Chan. Concerning her story "Rosario" it is important to know that her ability with Spanish was very limited.
Emiliano Poot Cħim was born in Kom Cħeen in the mid 1930's. Aside from supplying the story about the hunchbacks Don Lio has been quite helpful to the authors by listening to and helping with the interpretation of such things as H-Men chants. His knowledge of Spanish is very limited.
Teodosio Tujin was a long-time resident of Kom Cħeen and died there in 1987. In the early 1960's he worked with the co-author (D.D.B.) on excavations under E. Wyllys Andrews IV and it was then that he told the story about how the man-made mounds came to be.
Origin of the Following Stories
In the material which follows that which comes from the Andrade collection is distinguishable from ours by a note under the title stating whether the story is based on the transcription or recording of Andrade. If the subtitle of a story gives only the name of the story teller or if there is no name given then the story is from our collection.
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