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"Latin American Lore" Explores Mesoamerican Religiosity

Why did the peoples of Mesoamerica believe that a mystic cord transmits energy from the spirit world to the human one?

Colleen Trujillo Email ColleenTrujillo

Why did the peoples of Mesoamerica believe that a mystic cord transmits energy from the spirit world to the human one? What was the religious significance of burning incense in Mesoamerican culture? Why did the Maya invent a dance celebrating their own defeat at the hands of the Conquistadores? These and other subjects are explored in the latest issue of the Journal of Latin American Lore, published by UCLA's Latin American Center.

In their article, titled "The Cosmic Umbilicus in Mesoamerica: A Floral Metaphor for the Source of Life," in the current issue (vol. 21, number 1), Matthew Looper and Julia G. Kappelman examine one of the most widespread features of Mesoamerican cosmology, a twisted celestial cord that transmits sustenance from the spirit world to humanity. Their analysis suggests that the concept is not confined to the Maya, but is found throughout Mesoamerican art, from Olmec to Aztec cultures, and constitutes one of the great unifying religious and cosmological features of Mesoamerica.

Bryan Bayles, in "Scaling the World Trees: Ethnobotanical Insights into Maya Spiked Vessels," delves into the presence in Mesoamerican archaeological contexts of the incensario, an incense burner with molded nodules or spikes along the outer surface. He shows how spiritual/ethical and biological/natural poles in one object, the incensario, are condensed into a single powerful symbol, where creation is continually reenacted in the sacrificial act of burning offerings.

In "Masked Identities: Dance of the Conquest and Layered Histories of the Maya," Charles D. Thompson, Jr., asks why the Maya dance their own defeat? Following a review of several theoretical approaches to Maya performance and an account of the history of performance of the Dance of the Conquest, he argues that the dance should be interpreted as layered history and integrates the Guatemalan genocide of the 1980s into the interpretation of the dance.

"The Transformation of the Seed: Ritual Offerings and Trade among the Uwa of Colombia," by Ana MarĂ­a Falchetti, offers an insightful glimpse into the Uwa world. Using myth analysis, ethnographic data, along with complementary historical and archaeological information, the author examines the symbolism of ritual offerings and trade in Uwa communities of eastern Colombia.

The Journal of Latin American Lore publishes articles on the lore of and about the peoples of Latin America. Articles appearing in JLAL focus on the symbolic value and the connotative meaning of cultural manifestations. Since such manifestations may pertain to the culture of any society irrespective of its origin or level of development, JLAL welcomes submissions relating to ancient civilizations, indigenous groups, peasant communities, and both the elite and popular sectors of modern urban society. An interdisciplinary journal, JLAL has published studies in archaeology, ethnology, anthropology, art, iconography, history, politics, linguistics, mythology, natural science, literature, film, theater, and popular culture. The Journal of Latin American Lore is published twice a year.

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