The following titles provide insight into Chiapas and the Maya people. A few of these books are more easily obtained in Mexico, but all of them will cost less in the United States. Most are nonfiction, though several are fiction and great to throw into your carry-on for a good read on the plane, or for when you’re in a Chiapanecan mood. Happy reading.
Beletsky, Les. Travellers’ Wildlife Guides: Southern Mexico Northampton: Interlink Books, 2007. A perfect companion guide if you plan on bird-watching, hiking, or canoeing your way through your vacation. Excellent illustrations.
Coe, Andrew. Archaeological Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Ancient Cities and Sacred Sites. Emeryville: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2001.
Coe, Michael D. Breaking the Maya Code. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999. A fascinating account of how epigraphers, linguists, and archaeologists succeeded in deciphering Maya hieroglyphics.
Coe, Michael D. The Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993. A well-illustrated, easy-to-read volume on the Maya people.
Collier, George (in collaboration with Elizabeth Lowery Quaratiello). Basta: Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas. Chicago: First Food Books, 1999. A balanced and highly readable account of social, economic, and agrarian factors that led to the Zapatista uprising.
Cortés, Hernán. Five Letters. New York: Gordon Press, 1977. Cortés’ letters to the king of Spain, telling of his accomplishments and justifying his actions in the New World.
Davies, Nigel. The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico. New York: Penguin Books, 1991. An excellent study of the preconquest of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.
Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. The Conquest of New Spain. New York: Penguin Books, 1963. History straight from the adventurer’s reminiscences, translated by J. M. Cohen.
Fehrenbach, T. R. Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico. New York: Collier Books, 1973. Over 3,000 years of Mexican history, related in a way that will keep you reading.
Ferguson, William M. Maya Ruins of Mexico in Color. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977. Good reading before you go, but too bulky to carry along. Oversized with excellent drawings and illustrations of the archaeological structures of the Maya.
Franz, Carl. The People’s Guide to Mexico. Emeryville: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2006. A humorous guide filled with witty anecdotes and helpful general information for visitors to Mexico. Don’t expect any specific city information, just nuts-and-bolts hints for traveling south of the border.
Greene, Graham. The Power and the Glory. New York: Penguin Books, 1977. A novel that takes place in the 1920s about a priest and the anti-church movement that gripped the country.
Grube, Nikolai. Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. Königswinter: Konemann, 2008. A beautifully compiled book of essays, photographs, and sketches relating to the Maya, past and present. Too heavy to take on the road but an excellent read.
Harvey, Neil. The Chiapas Rebellion. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998. A highly academic examination of the socio-political roots of the Zapatista uprising, especially prior peasant movements.
Hayden, Tom, Ed. The Zapatista Reader. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002. A wide-ranging collection of essays by leading writers, from Nobel Prize–winners Octavio Paz and José Saramago to journalists Naomi Klein and Andrew Kopkind, compiled by civil rights leader and former state senator Tom Hayden.
Heffern, Richard. Secrets of the Mind-Altering Plants of Mexico. New York: Pyramid Books, 1974. A fascinating study of many substances, from ancient ritual hallucinogens to today’s medicines that are found in Mexico.
Laughlin, Robert M. The People of the Bat. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988. Maya tales and dreams as told by the Zinacantán Indians in Chiapas.
Meyer, Michael and William Sherman. The Course of Mexican History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. A concise one-volume history of Mexico.
Nelson, Ralph. Popul Vuh: The Great Mythological Book of the Ancient Maya. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974. An easy-to-read translation of myths handed down orally by the Quiche Maya, family to family, until written down after the Spanish conquest.
Perry, Richard and Rosalind. More Maya Missions: Exploring Colonial Chiapas. Santa Barbara: Espadaña Press, 1994. Detailed and informative guide, including excellent hand-drawn illustrations, about numerous colonial missions and structures in Chiapas.
Riding, Alan. Distant Neighbors. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. A widely-read account of modern Mexico and U.S.-Mexico relations, updated and reissued numerous times.
Sodi, Demetrio M. (in collaboration with Adela Fernández). The Mayas. Mexico: Panama Editorial S.A., 1987. This small pocketbook presents a fictionalized account of life among the Mayas before the conquest. Easy reading for anyone who enjoys fantasizing about what life might have been like.
Stephens, John L. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatán. 2 vols. New York: Dover Publications, 1969. Good companions to refer to when traveling in the area. Stephens and illustrator Frederick Catherwood rediscovered many of the Maya ruins on their treks that took place in the mid-1800s. Easy reading.
Thompson, J. Eric. Maya Archaeologist. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963. Thompson, a noted Maya scholar, traveled and worked at many of the Maya ruins in the 1930s.
Thompson, J. Eric. The Rise and Fall of the Maya Civilization. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1973. One man’s story of the Maya. Excellent reading.
Webster, David. The Fall of the Ancient Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2002. A careful and thorough examination of the possible causes of one of archaeology’s great unsolved mysteries—the collapse of the Classic Maya in the 9th and 10th centuries.
Werner, David. Where There Is No Doctor. Palo Alto, California: The Hesperian Foundation, 1992. This is an invaluable medical aid to anyone traveling not only to isolated parts of Mexico but to any place in the world where there’s not a doctor.
Wilson, Carter. Crazy February: Death and Life in the Maya Highland of Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. A fascinating ethnographic novel set in a fictional Maya town modeled on San Juan Chamula, where the author spent extended periods.
Wolf, Eric. Sons of the Shaking Earth. University of Chicago Press, 1962. An anthropological study of the indigenous and mestizo people of Mexico and Guatemala.
Wright, Ronald. Time Among the Maya. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989. A narrative that takes the reader through the Maya country of today with historical comments that help put the puzzle together.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition