Events 2017-2018

2017–2018 Lecture Series

Volume XXXX, Number 2 – WINTER/SPRING 2018

January- Dr. Manuel Aguilar Moreno: California State University

Lecture: Friday, January 26, 2018, 7:00 pm (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100e)

Controversial History of Chocolate in Mexico

The purpose of this talk is to provide an overview of the history of chocolate in Mexico from the pre-columbian times to the present. I will speak about a few cases of the role played by the cacao or chocolate in the colonial society of Mexico. The cases will show us the continuities of some of the attributions and meanings of the appreciated commodity that Latin America, and particularly Mexico, gave to the world as part of a complex process of transculturation. The first case deals with the image of a monkey hanging from a cacao tree in a paradisiacal garden. It was painted in about 1550 in one of the walls of the cloister of the Augustinian Monastery of Malinalco, by indigenous tlacuilos directed by the monks.  The second case of study is the analysis of a manuscript entitled Acerca del Chocolate, which is a treatise that discusses whether the chocolate breaks the ecclesiastical fast. It is attributed to an anonymous Spanish Carmelite theologian friar writing in Rome, Italy about the issue, in response to the inquiry of either a Monsignor or a Bishop living in Mexico, approximately in 1730. The manuscript was formerly owned by Mexican historian Federico Gómez de Orozco, and is kept as Manuscript 426 (MSS 426) in the Library of the University of California, San Diego. The third case is the analysis of the meaning of a dramatic sculpture located in a side chapel of the Cathedral of Mexico City, known as “The Christ of the Cacao.” Finally, the fourth case is an incident that happened in the Cathedral of San Cristobal de las Casas, in which the consumption of cacao led to murder.

Saturday workshop – January 27, 2018, 9:00 am – Noon

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6s, the Anthro Lab)

Ulama: A Survival of the Mesoamerican Game

Ulama, the distinctively Mesoamerican ballgame, has a history dating back 3500 years. The game was such an integral part of the society, that nearly 2000 ballcourts have been reported in the territory extending from the American Southwest to El Salvador. The institution was complex and carried diverse meanings and functions, such as: portal to the Underworld, the setting for reenactments of cosmic battles between celestial bodies, fertility rituals, warfare ceremonies, political affirmation of kingship, setting for human sacrifices, etc. The central importance of the ballgame is attested to by the fact that is clearly portrayed in the art of the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Toltec and Aztec and was an important element in a pan-Mesoamerican cosmovision. The Spanish immediately recognized that the ballgame was a great deal more significant than merely recreation and so vigorously suppressed its playing. Interestingly, a modern form of the ancient game, known as Ulama, has survived in a small number of remote communities outside of the city of Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico.  Between 2003 and 2010, I led a multi-disciplinary investigation about Ulama that involved 8 Cal State L.A. students. The study focused on the history, folklore, and the social significance and cultural context of the game. This lecture presents some of the results of our research project.

Workshop: Making Ulama Rubber Balls

Immediately after the lecture, we will have a hands on activity to do experimental rubber balls similar to the ones of Ulama (active participation in the workshop is limited to 20-25 persons). 

February – Kaylee Spencer: University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Maline Werness-Rude: Ventura College

Lecture: Friday, February 16, 2018, 7:00 pm (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100e)

Critical Steps: Staircases and Design in the Architecture of the Northern Maya Lowlands

Ancient Maya stone architecture tends to follow relatively consistent, predictable patterns. Many structures have a single, clear facade. That this is conceptualized as a literal face is made explicit in a number of instances. Architects at early Classic Tikal emblazoned buildings with multiple facemasks, for instance, while later Puuc, Chenes, and Rio Bec builders made their temple superstructures into massive monsters whose toothy maws engulf the viewer upon entrance. Stairways are integral elements that contribute to the ideas of facing, both literally and metaphorically, and if a second face is defined it must necessarily face towards something. Thus, steps are, in one way or another, critical to the visual identity of the majority of Maya sites. Most scholarly attention focused on ancient Maya staircases considers their hieroglyphic texts and patronage in relation to dynastic agendas and historical chronologies, or as infrastructure that supported elaborate ceremonies and their conspicuous display.

The present work acknowledges the importance of steps in relation to the broad categories of inquiry just described while characterizing common approaches to ancient staircase design in the Northern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Along with describing some basic staircase design typologies in the Northern Maya Lowlands, we examine how staircases can create visual alignments between buildings even as they facilitate dialogues across groups of structures. Furthermore, we begin to explore how discrete design factors, including differences in stair types, riser heights, vantage points, and other formal qualities impact the viewer’s experience of space and performance. Ultimately such work suggests particular performative aspects of staircase design, not only as it affects participant movement, and external views thereof, but also as it relates to plaza construction and other aspects of urban framing and experiential positioning.

March- Dr. Adam Kaeding, Archaeology Manager, 106 Group

Lecture: Friday, March 16, 2018, 7:00 pm (Hamline: Drew Science 118)

Colonial Maya Negotiation: Cultural Survival and Adaptation on the Yucatán Frontier

The Spanish conquest of the Maya provides one of the classic scenes of colonialism. This epic event has long been depicted with stories of intrepid missionaries and fearless conquistadors dedicated to the arduous yet noble task of carving civilization out of the savage jungles and its unenlightened residents. More recently, people have presented this story from the opposite perspective; featuring the fierce resistance launched by a proud, complex, and advanced civilization against the invasion of a rapacious army of marauders lusting for gold. While elements of both versions are rooted in historical fact and evident in the archaeological record, neither perspective sufficiently tells the story of the colonial period Maya. Realities of the colonial period– including the widespread, sincere, and sometimes rapid adoption of certain Spanish traits and customs; as well as the survival, proliferation, and adaptation of ancient Maya practices and traditions – insist that the process was far more nuanced. Using archaeological and historical examples from an understudied frontier region of the Yucatán Peninsula, this talk introduces how a system of negotiation highlighting daily interactions between individuals of both Maya and Spanish descent functioned as a critical element of colonial life for centuries.

Saturday workshop – March 17, 2018, 9:00 am – Noon 

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6s, the Anthro Lab)

History and Archaeology: A Complimentary Approach

Standard archaeological signatures of colonialism in Yucatán are often ephemeral, especially outside of colonial population centers like Merida and Valladolid. Likewise, frontier areas are often underrepresented in historical records. A decades-long military conflict that consumed the region starting in 1847 resulted in a scarred and reshaped landscape as well as the intentional destruction of vast collections of written documents. Finally, partly due to the lasting effects of that conflict, archaeological researchers long avoided the area, focusing instead on coastal sites to the north, east, and west, or the jungle sites to the south. This workshop will explore some of the ways that historical and archaeological evidence are used to bolster each other in order to populate the historical landscape much more fully than either field can do alone.
Maya Society of Minnesota – Dinner and ReceptionFriday, April 6, 2018    6:00 PM  Reception      6:45 PM  Dinner      8:00 PM Lecture The Maya Society of Minnesota will hold its 2017-18 Dinner and Reception On Friday, April 6th, 2018, at the Church of the Epiphany in Plymouth, MN. We will begin with a reception for our speaker, Dr. Mary Jane Acuna, beginning at 6:00 pm. Appetizers and refreshments will be available. The dinner follows and will be highlighted by Yucatecan and Nicaraguan dishes. Menu: Cochinita pibil, Nacatamales (Nicaragua), Mexican Rice, Salad, Pastel de Tres Leches, Wine, beer, and water included Dinner pre-registration is necessary in order to prepare the correct amount of food. This should be a fun evening, we hope you will be able to attend. You can attend the lecture only at 8:00pm without charge. You can pay for the dinner at the Friday, March 16th, lecture or send a check prior to March 28, 2018 to the Maya Society of Minnesota, P.O. Box 40313, Saint Paul, MN 55104.  $30.00 person.Lovation: Church of the Epiphany – 4900 Nathan Lane, Plymouth, MN 55442

April- Dr. Mary Jane Acuña: Director of the El Tintal Archaeological Project and Research Associate at Washington University in St. Louis

Lecture: Friday, April 6, 2018, 7:00 pm (***Location Change: Church of the Epiphany – 4900 Nathan Lane, Plymouth MN  55442 following the Annual Dinner, see details above.)

The archaeology of El Tintal, Petén, Guatemala: a little known, large ancient Maya city 

Located in northern Petén, Guatemala, only 23 km from the famous site of El Mirador, El Tintal spreads over approximately 11.6 sq. km., includes over 1,100 structures, and is characterized by a complex hydraulic system. Traditionally referenced as a Preclassic (ca. 800 B.C. – A.D. 150) site, the occupation ran well into the Late Classic Period (A.D. 500 – 800). In this presentation, we will review El Tintal’s cultural and political context from the Preclassic through the Late Classic Periods with results from four years of archaeological research at the site by the El Tintal Archaeological Project.

Saturday workshop – April 7, 2018, 9:00 am – Noon 

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6s, the Anthro Lab)

A Preclassic Maya Watery World in Northern Petén, Guatemala

Recent investigations in northern and northwestern Petén are providing more evidence that suggests the region and environment were a lot wetter than previously understood. Using evidence from archaeology, iconography, paleoenvironmental studies, survey, GIS analysis and modeling, we can re-evaluate the early settlements, the human adaptation to the natural landscape, and Preclassic Maya geopolitics.
Images: 3D northwestern perspective of the civic-ceremonial core of El Tintal with the Triadic Group in the back (survey and map by C.R. Chiriboga) / View of Pyramid Catzin rising over the canopy. It is one of three monumental buildings at El Tintal with views extending as far as El Mirador and other sites (Photo by M.J. Acuña).

April – Chief Leonel Chevez

Lecture: Friday, April 27, 2018, 7:00 pm (Hamline: Drew Science 118)

Lenca Cosmovison: Aku and the Lords and Ladies Sky Holders

The Lenca lands today include the modern republics of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and small enclaves in Costa Rica such as Sarapike , and in Panama – Veraguas, where one kingdom called Managuara. The Lenca have a long history that according to caves and symbolism, dates back to paleolithic times. They have evolved in culture and governance that started in mythical times and continues today. It is the only hereditary chiefdom in Central America. The Chief will deliver a master class to unpack what he refers to as “Managuara the Great”.  He will make reference to the sacred Macaw or Guara, who in the beginning nested above Managuara, instructing the royal clan on how to organize the kingdom, the measurements of its land, the distribution of land and power through the council called Guancasco.

Saturday workshop – **CANCELLED, SEE BELOW:

Instead of having the usual English workshop on Saturday there are actually 2 workshop-style options for folks to participate.

Thursday 4/26, 6-8pm 
Opening words by Sharon Day. Presentation by Chief Leonel Antonio Chevez with his paintings.
All My Relations Gallery 
1414 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404
(Native community, artists, Latinx community, and Maya Society of MN invited. Open to the public. Light refreshments.) 
Link to Facebook event details:

Sunday 4/29, 12-2pm 
Spanish-language workshop-style presentation at Electric Machete Studios 
777 Smith Ave St. Paul, MN 55107
Link to Facebook event details:

June- Dr. Kelli Carmean: EKU Foundation Professor and Professor of Antrhopology, Sociology, and Social Work

Lecture: Friday, June 8, 2018, 7:00 pm (Hamline: Giddens 100e)

Historical Fact and Creative Fiction in the Writing of House of the Waterlily: A Novel of the Ancient Maya World

[English]  House of the Waterlily is historical fiction based firmly in archaeological evidence and Maya hieroglyphic decipherment. It is set in the lowland jungles of present-day Guatemala, around 830 AD, in an era archaeologists call the Classic Maya collapse. It is told from the point of view of elderly Lady Winik, formerly elite, who survived the fall of her city. Old Winik recounts her life’s tumultuous story to her young granddaughter, Lily Bean, telling of a time when highborn like her did not toil in the dirt of a dusty cornfield. Instead, they lived in luxury in fine palaces in grand painted cities. The world was rich with wisdom and astronomy, vibrant with ceremony atop magnificent temples, with libraries and fine jade, with great art and splendor. And we listen as well as Lady Winik tells the gripping story of what happened to change that brilliant world—and her own life’s known trajectory—and bring Maya civilization, quite literally, crumbling into ruins. 

[Español]   Casa del Nenúfar es una ficción histórica basada firmemente en la evidencia arqueológica y el desciframiento jeroglífico maya. Se encuentra en las selvas bajas de la actual Guatemala, alrededor de 830 dC, en una era que los arqueólogos llaman el punto del colapso del Maya Clásico. Se cuenta desde el punto de vista de la anciana Lady Winik, antigua élite, que sobrevivió a la caída de su ciudad. El viejo Winik relata la historia tumultuosa de su vida a su pequeña nieta, Lily Bean, relatando un momento en que la nobleza como ella no trabajaba en la tierra polvorienta de un campo de maíz. En cambio, vivían en lujosos palacios en las grandes ciudades pintadas. El mundo era rico en sabiduría y astronomía, vibrante con ceremonias encima de templos magníficos, con bibliotecas y jade fino, con gran arte y esplendor.  Escuchamos también a Lady Winik cuenta su historia emocionante de lo que sucedió para cambiar ese mundo brillante -y la trayectoria conocida de su propia vida- y llevar a la civilización Maya, literalmente, a derrumbarse en ruinas.

Saturday workshop – June 9, 2018, 9:00 – Noon 

(Hamline: Giddens 100e)

Part 1: Maya Calendars (including the 2012 Baloney) & Emblem Glyphs. Workshop concludes with drawing your birthday in glyphs, and creating your very own emblem glyph.

Part 2: Join Dr. Kelli Carmean as we discuss House of the Waterlily!

House of the Waterlily is an excellent introduction into the world of the Classic Period Maya in large part because Carmean is a fine storyteller who weaves her narrative as beautifully as a ‘fine-spun’ huipil. This book would be an excellent addition to the course reading list for undergraduate students who are studying the ancient Maya.” ~ Scott Simmons, UNC Wilmington.“Although fiction, House of the Waterlily is a powerful platform from which to begin a discussion of vast catastrophic events in the context of daily life in the late Classic period of this fascinating pre-Columbian civilization.” ~ Rob Swigart, author, Xibalba Gate: A Novel of the Classic Maya.
Until Nov 30, there’s a 25% discount on paperbacks (Promo Code CAR495) at checkout. assist the cause of cultural heritage, all royalties will go to MAM Mayas for Ancient Mayan: