Chicano Poet in the Lowlands of AmericaJuan Felipe Herrera
In Mayan Drifter Juan Felipe Herrera journeys to the Maya Lowlands of Chiapas on a quest for his Indio heritage and a vision of the multicultured identity emerging in America. He attempts to shed the trappings and privileges of his life in California in order to reduce his distance from the dispersed and shrinking Mayan population. In Mexico, Herrera seeks a deeper understanding of his homeland's history, its exploitation, and looks to realize his own place in relation to the struggle of his people.
Like the Mayan drifter, the text crosses and extends boundaries. In a variety of narrative voices, poems, and a play, across time, Herrera recounts how the Maya have been invaded by the Spanish, the government, the multinational corporations of the petrochemical industry, and anthropologists. The Maya survive and resist as their numbers dwindle and the forces that mount against them become more powerful.
Inspired by the Maya's resilience, Herrera envisions the disappearance of borders and evokes a fluid American self that needs no fixed identity or location.
"In this account of his return to his homeland of Chiapas, Mexico, Herrera has created something more than a memoir. It is, by his own account, a combination of literary project, spiritual quest and cultural investigation.... Herrera's work is wistful, but it also has depth. This conflicted and rewarding read will undoubtedly become a classic of Chicano literature." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Inspired by Maya's resilience, Herrera envisions the disappearance of borders and evokes a fluid American self that needs no fixed identity or location. Mayan Drifter is a literary tour de force, a kind of safari into the soul and fate of a remarkable people, a monument to what has gone, and a template for what might yet come to pass." —The Midwest Book Review
"This is a book written from the heart. Through powerful prose, Mayan Drifter lays bare the skeletal essence of a hemispheric history in which the Lacandon Maya and jungle become metaphor for the onslaught confronting the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Cast in the moving travelogue of personal memory and the ethnographic, the people of Tijuana's shanties, California's migrant paths and cities, Mexico City sidewalks, and colonial Mexican centers all form part of the mosaic. Juan Felipe's journey is a true transmigration into the essence of a conceptual and geopolitical borderland and its current dilemmas. This is a passionate and complex tale set in modern times. Full of imagery and color, at times joyful and hilarious, and at others tearfully sad, Mayan Drifter speaks to us all. Juan Felipe Herrera offers us a book to read, and reread, to think with and ponder; in Mayan Drifter we hear the voices of humanity that speak out powerfully in eloquent prose." —Roberto Alvarez, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Arizona State University