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Mayan Folktales
translated by Fernando Peñalosa

These stories were told to Fernando Peñalosa1 by don Pedro Miguel Say2, a famous Q'anjob'al storyteller from San Miguel Acátan, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, who now lives in Los Angeles, California, in the Hollywood area.

 Permission to reproduce these stories not for profit is hereby granted, provided all copies contain the following notice: "From Tales and Legends of the Q'anjob'al Maya, published by Yax Te' Press, copyright 1995." In February of 1997 Yax Te' Press was reorganized as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non profit organization known as the Yax Te’ Foundation.

The Rabbit & the Coyote

The Rabbit & the Coyote
Rabbit & Coyote

This is a story of Uncle Rabbit and the coyote. The rabbit came to a big rock, and there he deceived the coyote. He was leaning on the rock when the coyote came by...

   

 

The Rabbit Throws Out His Sandal

The Rabbit Throws Out His Sandal
Rabbit Throws Out His Sandal

The rabbit was in the cave that was the abode of all the animals: the snake, the turkey vulture, the buzzard, the deer, the lion, the skunk and the coyote. They began to get together there to discuss how they could kill the rabbit mayor (the rabbit is often called the "mayor"). But the rabbit mayor was very clever...

   

 

The Jaguar & the Little Skunk

The Jaguar & the Little Skunk
Jaguar & the Little Skunk

Once there was a gentleman jaguar and a lady skunk. Mrs. Skunk had a son, who was baptized by Mr. Jaguar, so Mrs. Skunk became his comadre (godmother). And as Mr. Jaguar had baptized the little skunk, he was Mrs. Skunk's compadre (godfather)...

   

 

the Disobedient Son

The Disobient Son
Disobedient Son

There was once a boy who was rude and wouldn't obey his mother. He would go out for a walk, without having eaten. He wouldn't come back until late, about ten or eleven o'clock at night. At ten o'clock his mother was still waiting up and worrying about him.

   

 

A Mayan Life

A Mayan Life
A Mayan Life

The first novel ever by a Mayan writer, and thus the first in which the Maya themselves tell their own story. Through the eyes of Lwin, living in the hamlet of Jolomk'u, in the municipio of San Pedro Soloma, high up in the isolated Cuchumatán Mountains of Guatemala (about six hours by dirt road from the nearest town), we live the drama of an oppressed people struggling to survive and maintain their dignity five centuries after the Spanish invasion. Rich in personal and ethnological detail, the reader comes away knowing better just what it means to be a contemporary Maya

   

1. Fernando Peñalosa

Fernando Peñalosa is a retired sociolinguist who most recently taught sociology, linguistics and Chicano studies at California State University, Long Beach. For over twelve years he has been working with Maya in Guatemala and the Los Angeles area, studying their languages and oral literature. He founded Yax Te' Press to publish books by and about the contemporary Maya, mostly in Spanish, so the Maya themselves can read what has been written by or about them. In February of 1997 Yax Te' Press was reorganized as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non profit organization known as the Yax Te’ Foundation. In March 2003 the operations of the Foundation were transferred to the K'inal Winik Cultural Center at Cleveland State University yaxte@csuohio.edu.

These stories were told to Fernando Peñalosa by don Pedro Miguel Say, a famous Q'anjob'al storyteller from San Miguel Acátan, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, who now lives in Los Angeles, California, in the Hollywood area.


Fernando Peñalosa es sociolingüista jubilado de la Universidad Estatal de California en Long Beach, CA, USA. Durante más de un lustro ha estudiado los idiomas y las tradiciones orales de los mayas de Centroamérica, especialmente las del grupo maya-q'anjob'al del Departamento de Huehuetenengo, Guatemala. Fundó Ediciones Yax Te' para que los mayas mismos pudieran tener acceso a lo que ellos han escrito o lo que se ha escrito sobre ellos. Puede comunicarse con la editorial por medio de correo electrónico: yaxte@csuohio.edu.

2. don Pedro Miguel Say

Don Pedro Miguel Say, better known as Pel Say, is a person who knows the old Mayan stories, and he is always ready to tell them with charm and good humor to whomever will listen. He was born in Sai, San Miguel Acatán, January 24, 1924. Don Pedro was a merchant in Guatemala and still follows this occupation in Los Angeles, California. He learned many stories during the journeys he made from San Miguel Acatán to San Francisco El Alto, Totonicapán. At night he and the other merchants would gather around a fire and tell stories which have been passed down among the Mayas by word of mouth for centuries.

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Hay una persona quien sabe viejas historias mayas, y que está dispuesta a contarlas con gracia y buen humor a todo aquel que quiera escuchar. Esta persona es don Pedro Miguel Say, mejor conocido como Pel Say. Nació el 24 de enero de 1924 en Sai, San Miguel Acatán. Don Pedro fue comerciante en Guatemala por muchos años y en Los Angeles, California aún practica este oficio. Don Pedro aprendió muchas historias durante los viajes que emprendía desde San Miguel Acatán hasta San Francisco El Alto, Totonicapán. En las noches él y otros comerciantes se reunían alrededor de una fogata y empezaban a contar historias, las cuales han pasado de boca en boca por siglos entre los mayas.

"Al servicio de la cultura maya"

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