Link to enlarge K6042 (Las Bocas - Ceramic Vessel) THE FOUNDATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language
by David & Alejandra Bolles

An Autobiographical Note Written by Jose Sabino Uc in Yucatec Mayan in 1871

The accompanying transcript and translation is an autobiographical note written in 1871 by Jose Sabino Uc, who was 14 at the time he wrote it. Jose was adopted by Mayan scholar Karl Hermann Berendt and was with Berendt during Berendt's stay in New York during the years 1871 - 1872, and apparently stayed with Berendt for the rest of Berendt's life. In April, 1866, Berendt was in Sacluk in the Peten of Guatemala collecting linguistic data. It was in this town, now called La Libertad, that Jose's father found a wet-nurse for Jose in January of 1857. There is a note in Berendt Collection No. 179 by Berendt on what he learned at Sacluk, but there is no mention of Jose Sabino Uc. Aside from a line drawing showing a young boy teaching a girl how to write with a caption "Juliana Vasquez lernt von Sabino .... Tuxtla 1869." we have found no other mention of Jose in the Berendt material. Thus we have no information on how it was that Jose came to be adopted by Berendt. Jose's autobiographical note, while very short, is interesting on two fronts: it provides us with a look at the Yucatecan Mayan language of the Peten of the late 1800's, and it gives us some ethnographical information about the Maya of that region.

written by Jose Sabino Uc
dzibtabi tumen Jose Sabino Uc

Here in the big town of Mérida

Uay ti noh cah ti Ho,

today on the 10th day in the month of February in the year 1871

helel tu lahunil kin ichil yuil Febrero ti haabil 1871,

I, Jose Sabino Uc being my name,

ten Jose Sabino Uc in kaba,

he of the house of Couoh Uc,

H-Na Couoh Uc,

I am going to write the story of my life.

cin bin dzibic u tzolan bey in cuxtal.

There at the mouth of the big water (lake) of Akul,

Te tu chi noh ha Akul

there I was born in the land of Peten Itza its name.

ti zihen ichil u luum Peten Itza u kaba.

He of the house Menche Uc was my father.

H-Na Menche Uc in yum,

she of the house Kin Couoh was my mother,

X-Na Kin Couoh in na,

descendants of forest people which inhabited the lands,

kaxil uinicoob tu cahmatil tu cabil u cobol,

Lacantun was their name.

Lacantun u kaba.

There died my mother on the very day that I was born,

Ti cimi in na tu hahil kin cin zihen,

on the 30th day in the month of December in the year 1856.

ti lahuncakal kin ichil yuil Deciembre, tu haabil 1856.

My mother being dead

Cimen in na,

there wasn't another women in the house of my father,

ma yanhi ulak x-cħuplal ti yotoch in yum,

just three small children, my older brothers.

chen hali oxtul mehen, in zucunoob.

Then came to the Peten the priest Brother Pedro

Ca tali ti Peten ah kin Fray Pedro

with other Capuchins.

yetel ulak Capuchinoob.

There were baptized my father with my older brothers.

Ti oci ha tu hol in yum yetel in zucunoob.

Jose Uc was the name of my father;

Jose Uc u kaba in yum;

Juan and Lorenzo and Juan Jose the names of my older brothers.

Juan yetel Lorenzo yetel Juan Jose u kabaob in zucunoob.

There wasn't nearby a woman to give me breast milk.

Ma yan nadzaan x-cħuplal utial u dza ten chuuch.

My father wrapped me, he put me in a big basket.

Tu toahen in yum, tu dzahen ti boxac.

Then he got into a boat,

Ca ix oci ti cħem.

then they boated to the big river Kancuen,

ca ix u cħemul ximbalnahoob ti noh yoc ha Kancuen,

Pasion is its name.

Pasion u kaba.

Then they went up also the little river, Subim is its name.

Ca ix nacoob xan ti chichan yoc ha, Subim u kaba.

Two days we traveled.

Cappel kin c' ximbalnahoon.

Sour corn was my drink.

Pah keyem in uukul.

Then we traveled in the forest,

Ca ix c' ximbalnahoon ti kax,

then we arrived in the town of Sacluk.

ca kuchoon ti cah Sacluk.

Then my father went to the house of the chief:

Ti bini in yum tu yotoch batab:

"Lord, here is my motherless small child.

"Yume, hela in h-ma na mehen pal.

Alive I bring him to you, I give him to you.

Cuxaanto in talez tech, in kubic tech.

I am going to give my child into your hand to be amongst you."

Bin in kube in pal ta kab ich a uicnal."

So were the words of my father, so he spoke to the chief.

Lay u than in yume, beyo tu alah ti batab.

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