The highlands of Chiapas are smoldering with death.
In the winter of 1997, paramilitary agents ambushed and killed many Mayan villagers in Acteal, Chiapas. Gifted writer Juan Felipe
Herrera has composed a stirring poem sequence--published in a bilingual format--written in response and homage to those who died, as well as to all those who call for peace and justice in the Mexican
highlands and throughout the Americas.
Fierce, anguished lyrics. . . . Herrera handles complex, wrenching material with a chilling tone that is at once furiously resistant, unsentimental and deeply wounded. The back-to-back English and Spanish allows the reader a fluid read in either language.
Juan Felipe Herrera has done a commendable job of bringing the horror of this time to poetry.
The simple, enduring ebb and flow of village life . . . is shattered forever by man's unnatural acts; the fields are drenched in blood and the people murdered. That Thunderweavers
is a hard book to read is a tribute to the power of Herrera's elegiac verses.
Thunderweavers is a story of violent displacements in the lives of the most impoverished residents of southern Mexico, the Tzotzil Tzeltal
campesinos. It deals with the destruction of a people and all evidence of their lives:
Why am I Tzotzil?
Why was I born in this land of so many storms?
I plant corn and yet
I reap gunpowder
I plant coffee and yet I reap mad spirits
I plant my house and yet I reap the viscera
of this fallen earth.
The sections are written in the voices of
four women from a family in Chiapas: Xunka, a lost twelve-year-old girl; Pascuala, the mother; grandmother Maruch; and Makal, an older daughter who is pregnant. Each voice weaves into the others and
speaks for still other members of the larger Mayan and Native American family.
Herrera, a major Chicano poet known for his expansive, surreal writing, here takes on a spare and lyrical
style in the tradition of Rosario Castellanos, recalling as well the canto legacy of Pablo Neruda and the testimonial call of Ernesto Cardenal. Thunderweavers is a poetic account of
transcendence and continuity in the midst of chaos, suffering, and war-a Mayan cycle of personal, physical, and spiritual struggles that Indian women have been continuously engaged in for th-a past
five hundred years.