Monday, April 06, 2009



That’s why I haven’t had a cheese steak.

My brother, who’s been living in Philly for the last eight months and will most likely leave as soon as he wraps up his graduate program, when I saw him over the weekend and related to him something I had just heard from Allen Christiansen at the U Penn Maya Weekend.

Namely that, tangled up within contemporary Mayan conceptions of ancestry, is the very potent possibility that we come to know the things that matter -- histories, remedies, right ways of being -- because the blood of the ancestors resides in our blood and helps us remember these things.

But unlike the euro-centric idea of ancestry which is top heavy with begats and begottens, in the Mayan world view one isn’t born into ancestry -- ancestry is tethered to place.

Nine months is usually what it takes to make the ancestors of a place your own: a period of gestation in which you live there, eat the local food[1] and contribute to the community.

After that you are of that place and the ancestors are your ancestors -- and once the ancestors have got your back, baby: you're golden. (Provided, of course, you do your part with the prayers and the flowers and the offerings and stuff.)

[1] Corn tortilla is the food that matters most to the Maya -- it bears a powerful resemblance to the Catholic Host in their world view.

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