South Eastern Huastec, a Mayan language from Mexico, has never before been written down. Although the master storytellers of the language are long gone, today’s older generations preserve the vast knowledge of their culture in speech. That spoken heritage in South Eastern Huastec—ranging from traditional house-building techniques to herbal remedies and funerary practices—is gathered here and transcribed for the first time. Collected and recorded by Ana Kondic in the village of San Francisco Chontla in La Sierra de Otontepec, Veracruz, Mexico, between 2007 and 2011, and translated into English and Spanish, the accounts in this landmark trilingual collection provide a rare opening into South Eastern Huastec traditions, oral literature, and daily life.
Kondic divides South Eastern Huastec Narratives into five thematic sections: traditional practices, contemporary life, stories, songs, and customary foodways. Within these categories, eighteen Huastec narrators describe local beliefs, religion, rituals, and cosmology as observed in cleansing ceremonies and celebrations. They detail building methods and traditional craftsmanship, the care of children, daily routines, and use of the South Eastern Huastec language itself. They recount stories and legends—of killer coyotes, drunken horsemen, and encounters with death—and explain the preparation of tamales, coffee, and hand-pressed tortillas. Wherever possible, Kondic retains in her transcriptions the unique characteristics of each speaker’s voice—the self-corrections, repetitions, and pauses. Her morphological analysis of South Eastern Huastec will help experts understand the language more deeply. An accompanying audio-video DVD-ROM allows readers the rare chance to hear and see these narrators tell their stories in their own language.
Of the approximately 100,000 people who speak the Huastec language, only about 12,000 use the South Eastern variety presented here. As the only book recording and analyzing this endangered language, this collection of narratives is a crucial document for preserving the South Eastern Huastec language, and the remarkable culture it conveys. The book includes a CD-ROM with both audio and video tracks.
“South Eastern Huastec Narratives captures stories, legends, and songs of the Teeneks, speakers of South Eastern Huastec, a critically endangered Maya language of Mexico. Captivating narratives transmit concepts and beliefs rooted in ancient traditions and the everyday challenges of contemporary rural life. Representing a collaboration between Teeneks and Ana Kondic, this singular book makes an invaluable contribution to indigenous language and culture studies.”—Kim N. Richter, coauthor of The Huasteca: Culture, History, and Interregional Exchange