Sooner or later this day would come: the day I sit down to write about books for Yucatán Today. It seems to be what I do everywhere but here, and to tell the truth…It’s been quite an adventure. The reason is simple: I wanted to make a list of books following two rules. First, that they were available in both English and Spanish. And the second, that they were set in Yucatán, even if only in a small (but important) way. You must know, as I do now, that this is a complete and utter utopia.
Juan Villoro, whose mother and grandmother are Yucatecans, was the first name that came to my mind. I thought he must have a book set in Yucatán, and after a brief dive into Goodreads, I came across “Palmeras de la brisa rápida.” It’s a 200-or-so-page chronicle where the author recounts his road trip through Yucatán. Not the Yucatán of the 21st century, but the Yucatán of 1989. So expect to get a glimpse of the customs and daily life of that era. Although it is only available in Spanish, it’s a perfect read for anyone with some fluency in the language.
If you are a fantasy lover, I have an option for you: “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-García. And yes, it’s only in English (see what I meant before?). In this novel, which takes us back to the 20s, a deity of Xibalbá enlists the help of a young woman to regain his immortality. The journey begins in Yucatán and takes us to meet other figures of Mexican folklore in different states.
If you’re looking for novels in Spanish, I have been told the “Flor Negra” trilogy by Ramón Valdés is quite good. You can also read “La muerte del Ruiseñor” by Carlos Martín Briceño, which recounts moments in the life of Guty Cárdenas, a famous Yucatecan composer. Interested in an option in Maya and Spanish? “Danzas de la noche/U yóok’otilo’ob áak’ab,” by Isaac Esaú Carrillo Can, should do the trick.
An option available in both Spanish and English (finally!): “Las mejores leyendas mayas” by Will Rodríguez Manzanilla. It’s a book for children that has five fantastic legends accompanied by beautiful illustrations. Another much more varied one is “Leyendas Mexicanas” by Editorial Fractales. It has photographs and illustrations, and its Spanish is quite simple.
This is a bit of a complex genre for me, as it’s not one I frequent. In my search I found bilingual books (Maya-Spanish), such as “Amor bajo la lluvia” by Feliciano Sánchez and “U K’aay ch’i’ibal/El canto de la estirpe” by Villegas Carrillo. Would you like a poetry book by a young Yucatecan? Find “Un faro en lontananza” by Pedro Peón Espejo at ProHispen (Col. Mexico).
As a footnote, a few poems can be found in the Chilam Balam, for example, in the one from Tizimín. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Yucatán is a great producer of poetry in Maya and Spanish-Maya, so the recommendations can be almost endless.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Olivia Camarena for its use in Yucatán Today.
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