Ancient Mesoamerica


Ruud W. van  Akkeren  a1 c1
a1 Vrije Universiteit, Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam and Erasmus Universiteit, Postbus 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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Pre-Hispanic America's most celebrated literary monument, the Popol Wuj, was written in the 1550s, although our only copy is an early-eighteenth-century text by the Dominican friar Francisco Ximénez. We lack direct information about the Popol Wuj's authors. Some scholars have proposed that the indigenous scribe Diego Reinoso was its creator. However, Reinoso wrote another K'iche' document, the Título de Totonicapan, and a close examination of that text learns that he disapproved of the political faction represented in the Popol Wuj. Its advocates were a lineage called Nim Ch'okoj, Great Kinkajou. Dennis Tedlock has suggested that the Nim Ch'okoj were the Popol Wuj's composers. They introduce themselves at the end of the text as the Fathers and Mothers of the Word. A scrutiny of both documents and early Colonial papers reveals that, by the 1550s, a political conflict was under way between the two highest offices in the K'iche' power structure: the Keeper of the Mat and the Vice-Keeper of the Mat. The Popol Wuj seems to have supported the first faction, and the Título de Totonicapan supported the second faction.

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5 My translation here is tentative. Wachib'al(al) means “image” or “depiction” but also “representative.” The author may actually refer to a drawing in a pictographic document or may want to say that, through these offices, the three main chinamit were represented in the power structure of Ismachi, and later in that of Q'umarkaj.