History and Politics
Coe, Michael D. Breaking the Maya Code. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999. Chronicles the work of several scholars involved in the eventual decipherment of the meaning behind the Mayan glyphs.
Coe, Michael D. The Maya, 7th edition. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2005. A classic reference manual on the Mayans and essential guide for the traveler that includes useful color plates.
Demarest, Arthur. Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Written by a prominent archaeologist who has worked on numerous projects in Guatemala, this book explores the ecological aspects of the rise of Mayan civilization and the role of internecine warfare in its demise.
Harrison, Peter. The Lords of Tikal: Rulers of an Ancient Maya City. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000. Traces the history of Tikal from its humble beginning to its apogee in the late 9th century A.D.
Montgomery, John. Tikal: An Illustrated History of the Ancient Maya Capital. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2000. Wonderfully illustrated with photos, maps, and drawings, this is a good introduction to Tikal for the visitor and casual Mayanist.
Lovell, W. George. Conquest and Survival in Colonial Guatemala: A Historical Geography of the Cuchumatán Highlands, 3rd edition. Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004. Quickly becoming a classic, this landmark work covers the Spanish conquest and the survival of the local indigenous culture despite the ravages of colonial legacies while linking the roots of the past to more recent sociopolitical conditions.
Arnson, Cynthia J., editor. Comparative Peace Processes in Latin America. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1999. Provides a good analysis of the peace process that led to a negotiated settlement of the civil war in Guatemala and other countries as well as issues concerning the roles of truth-telling reports, the search for justice, and reconciliation.
Burgos-Debray, Elizabeth, editor. I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. London: Verso, 1984. The classic autobiography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú.
Grandin, Greg. The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004. This thought-provoking book argues that the Latin American Cold War was actually a struggle between two differing notions of democracy, with its main achievement being the elimination of grassroots attempts at building social democracy. It uses Guatemala as a case study and concludes, somewhat convincingly, that the version of democracy now being extolled as the best option in the war against terror is itself a product of the same.
Handy, Jim. Revolution in the Countryside: Rural Conflict and Agrarian Reform in Guatemala, 1944–1954. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994. A good in-depth look at the Agrarian Reform Law and the Guatemalan political scene during the Arévalo and Arbenz years.
Manz, Beatriz. Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Written by an anthropologist, this book centers around the Ixcán village of Santa María Tzejá, whose inhabitants were caught in the violence between the guerrillas and military during the civil war.
Perera, Víctor. Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. A must-read for travelers to Guatemala, covering sociopolitical aspects of the Guatemalan civil war as well as environmental issues in a well-written travel narrative style.
Sanford, Victoria. Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. A highly recommended read with well-researched information from a number of different sources, including eyewitness testimonies from massacre survivors, interviews with members of forensic teams, human rights workers, high-ranking military officers, guerrillas, and government officials. It is an instrumental book for understanding the full scale of the genocidal civil war and the attempt to rebuild society in its aftermath.
Schlesinger, Stephen C., and Stephen Kinzer. Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005. This is a classic book on Guatemala and its historical relationship with the United States. First published in 1982, it covers in much detail the 1954 CIA-orchestrated coup ousting Jacobo Arbenz.
Stoll, David. Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. A controversial book postulating the theory that the Ixil Mayans of Nebaj, Chajul, and Cotzal were not so much enamored with revolutionary possibilities for social change as much as simply caught between the opposing fires of the military and guerrilla forces with widely differing sociopolitical agendas.
Stoll, David. Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1999. Also quite controversial, this work directly challenges much of the testimony presented by Rigoberta Menchú in her autobiography as embellishments or fabrications while granting that the atrocities described therein were accurate depictions of events during the civil war.
Wilkinson, Daniel. Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Part travelogue and part history book, this is a fascinating, well-written account of the American author’s experience in Guatemala; it manages to uncover many of the issues relating to the origins and unfolding of Guatemala’s civil war as told by those who survived the violence.
LaFeber, Walter. Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. Traces the historical roots of Central America’s armed conflicts along with the role of U.S. hegemony in perpetuating them.
Benz, Stephen Connely. Guatemalan Journey. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996. A humorous, insightful, and well-written account of an American traveler’s experiences living in Guatemala during the late 1980s.
Huxley, Aldous. Beyond the Mexique Bay. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1934. A classic take on early 20th-century travel in Guatemala by a well-known author.
Shaw, Christopher. Sacred Monkey River: A Canoe Trip with the Gods. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000. A superbly written adventure-travel narrative packed with historical and natural history anecdotes about the mighty Usumacinta River, which flows along the Mexico-Guatemala border.
Stephens, John Lloyd. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán. New York: Dover Publications, 1969. A classic book and a must-read for the traveler to Guatemala, also featuring the fantastic illustrations of Stephens’s friend and traveling companion Frederick Catherwood. It created quite an interest in the region, particularly its Mayan sites, when it was first published in 1841.
Wright, Ronald. Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 2000. Another good read with insights on culture, history, adventure, and anthropology by a writer with an evident love for the modern-day Mayan people.
Goldman, Francisco. The Long Night of White Chickens. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 1998. This well-written novel is a tale of intrigue set in 1980s Guatemala governed by military dictatorships. It’s an entertaining read and does a nice job of bridging the gap between the seemingly parallel worlds of the United States and Guatemala.
Gieseman, Peter, and Ange Bourda. Six Architects. Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2003. An art- photography book documenting the architecture of the Guatemala City Seis Arquitectos firm.
Moller, Jonathan. Our Culture Is Our Resistance: Repression, Refuge and Healing in Guatemala. New York: PowerHouse Books, 2004. A beautiful photographic collection of highland Mayan culture in the aftermath of the civil war with wonderful guest commentaries from Rigoberta Menchú, Francisco Goldman, and various other authors of books on Guatemala.
Beletsky, Les. Traveller’s Wildlife Guides: Belize and Northern Guatemala. Northampton: Interlink Books, 2005.
Lee, Julian C. Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Maya World: The Lowlands of Mexico, Northern Guatemala and Belize. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000.
Peterson, Roger Tory, and Edward L. Chalif. A Field Guide to Mexican Birds: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Describes and illustrates 1,038 species.
Primack, Richard B., et al., eds. Timber, Tourists, and Temples: Conservation and Development in the Maya Forest of Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1998. Covers the delicate political and social issues implicated in conserving the region’s remaining rainforests as told from the perspective of social scientists, conservationists, and biologists working in the field.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com