“This book catapults the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and history into the twenty-first century. The authors bring a sophisticated and nuanced approach to early colonial Spanish writings. They apply their comprehensive knowledge of archival records—gleaned over decades of research—to this iconic and heavily cited account of sixteenth-century Yucatec Maya peoples. This book is a singular work that will be the definitive edition to read and cite for the next fifty years.”
—Patricia McAnany, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“A touchstone of Maya research with unquestionable importance, this book will have a resounding impact on the field for years to come.”
—John F. Schwaller, University of Albany
The Friar and the Maya offers a full study and new translation of the Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán (Account of the Things of Yucatan) by a unique set of eminent scholars, created by them over more than a decade from the original manuscript held by the Real Academia de la Historia in Madrid. This critical and careful reading of the Account is long overdue in Maya studies and will forever change how this seminal text is understood and used.
For generations, scholars used (and misused) the Account as the sole eyewitness insight into an ancient civilization. It is credited to the sixteenth-century Spanish Franciscan, monastic inquisitor, and bishop Diego de Landa, whose legacy is complex and contested. His extensive writings on Maya culture and history were lost in the seventeenth century, save for the fragment that is the Account, discovered in the nineteenth century, and accorded near-biblical status in the twentieth as the first “ethnography” of the Maya. However, the Account is not authored by Landa alone; it is a compilation of excerpts, many from writings by other Spaniards—a significant revelation made here for the first time.
This new translation accurately reflects the style and vocabulary of the original manuscript. It is augmented by a monograph—comprising an introductory chapter, seven essays, and hundreds of notes—that describes, explains, and analyzes the life and times of Diego de Landa, the Account, and the role it has played in the development of modern Maya studies. The Friar and the Maya is an innovative presentation on an important and previously misunderstood primary source.