Janurary 17, 2001
People On The Edge
Maya of Yucatán and Chiapas
Photo Essay & Reporting by John Annerino
"We brought out our guns and made indiscriminate war. One monster, twentyfive or thirty feet long , lay on the arm of a gigantic tree but the whole of the alligator was visible. I hit him just under the white line; he fell off, and with a tremendous convulsion, reddening the water with a circle of blood, turned over on his back, dead."
John L. Stephens, 1841
Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán
In the somber afternoon light of the selva, men emerge from shadows. A rolling bank of storm clouds heralds rain and perhaps appeasement for the nucuchchacob, "powerful gods." But rusty singlebarrel shotguns lashed to battered bicycles and burlap sacks stuffed with the furred and feathered carcasses of small birds and animals tell another story. These desperate Yucatec Maya hunters have been stalking the jungles of Yucatán for sian ka'an, "everything that was born under the sky," before the jungle life closes forever on one of Mexico's greatest peoples.
The arrival of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortes in the port city of Veracruz in 1519, and his ruthless matanza (slaughter) of the Aztec civilization two years later, had a