Travel writing, the literary exploration of other cultures, has long been a tradition in the English-speaking world. This book turns the tradition on its head and records what is surely the first Maya literary exploration of the United States. The authors were Tzotzil-speaking Zinacantec Maya who accompanied Robert Laughlin, the compiler of ""The Great Tzotzil Dictionary of San Lorenzo Zinacantan"", on two trips to the United States. These were action-packed journeys. On the initial voyage, in 1963, they were in the United States for the assassination of President Kennedy. 'The murderer had never met the President. He never had spoken a single word to him. He didn't even know him!' one of the Zinacantecos reports. They also met Margaret Mead at an American Anthropological Association meeting and flew on their first plane, which they referred to as a 'buzzard machine'. On the second trip, in 1967, they visited the Navajo and Zuni reservations, stormed the Pentagon with a protest march, and met the Mexican actor Cantinflas, who had just had a facelift. It took Laughlin several years to persuade his companions to write about their travels. Laughlin notes that Romin Teratol confided to him before returning to Zinacantan, 'If I tell people what I saw, nobody will believe me.' Published here with Laughlin's more academic account of his introduction to life among the Zinacantec Maya, these remarkable travelogues shed light on both Maya and American societies.
Romin Teratol and Antzelmo Peres, now deceased, were important participants in the Harvard Chiapas Project, one of the best known long-term field research projects in anthropology. Robert M. Laughlin is curator emeritus of Mesoamerican Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution. Carol Karasik is a poet, writer, and editor who has worked on books and films in the fields of anthropology, art, ecology, and educational philosophy. She lives in Chiapas, Mexico.