The aspects of the characters for long periods of

The
style of writing in Time Commences in Xibalba is noticeably similar to the
style of writing in famous Maya works such as the Popol Vuh and Men of Maize.
However, Men of Maize is an inferior work when compared to the Popol Vuh and
Time Commences in Xibalba due to the absence of the unique structure and
literary style that indigenous Maya authors weave into their writing. This is
simply because Miguel Angel Asturias, unlike Luis de Lión and the authors of
the Popol Vuh, is not an indigenous Maya and therefore lacks the clearly
defined indigenous Maya literary style. If you look at the specific literary
structures and styles of the three works, then the indigenous markers become clear.

Beginning
with Men of Maize, you can immediately notice
that each chapter is for the most part a different story. This disjointed
chronology is a common occurrence throughout all three popular Maya texts. Where
Men of Maize stands apart from the other texts, is in the seemingly unrelated
aspects of the characters for long periods of time. In the Popol Vuh, we follow
the main story of creation and continue towards the emergence of the current
Maya tribes. It is clear from a basic outline how each part connects. It is
evident to the reader how the creation of the humans from corn relates to the
separation of the lineages of the K’iché tribes. Although the story is
objectively out of order, there is a clear flow and connection between the segments.
However, with Men of Maize the
separate chapters and characters storylines are not easily connected to show
how they all relate (Prieto 26). For instance, it is not easy for the reader to
connect the tales of Gaspar Ilóm and Goyo Yic from a simple outline. The reader
cannot easily relate Gaspar’s defense of the sanctity of corn and the denial of
those maize growers attempting to become rich off of the sacred crop to the
story of Goyo Yic and his journey to regain his sight and find his lost wife
(Asturias 7 & 99).

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Another inferior aspect of
Asturias’ work with relation to Time Commences in Xibalba is his references to
the Popol Vuh. In Men of Maize, there are obvious religious undertones that
reference the Popol Vuh such as
the important symbolism placed on corn as a sacred crop. In the Popol Vuh it is
stated that “… the making, the modeling of our first mother-father, with yellow
corn, white corn alone for their flesh, food alone for the human legs and arms,
for our first fathers, the four human works” (Tedlock 146). In Men of Maize
making money off of corn is a terrible thing; Gaspar Ilóm sees corn as a sacred
crop. Conversely, in Time Commences in Xibalba,
the connection to the Popol Vuh is not as direct as clear religious references,
which readers would at first infer from the title. Time Commences in Xibalba
does not rely on obvious contextual reference to the Popol Vuh; it uses skillful
incorporation of Maya poetics, the overall structure, and inadvertent
references to convey its connection to the Popol Vuh.

In Time Commences in Xibalba, there
is a clear use of Maya parallelism poetics. As Professor Garry Sparks
stated in class, “Time Commences in Xibalba starts
off with “First there was the wind…” and ends with “first there was the wind”
which is one big envelope parallelism” (Sparks). The Popol Vuh has several
instances of envelope parallelism such as “and then they came to a place where they founded a citadel
named Thorny Place… …Here is the name of the citadel where they arrived”
(Tedlock 180-181). The repetition of the place where they founded a citadel and
again at the end of the stanza in the form of the name of the citadel is a much
shorter example of an envelope parallelism as Time Commences in Xibalba is one
very long envelope parallelism with other poetic examples inside. While Time
Commences in Xibalba is by no means a poetic novel, it contains a tasteful
homage to the classic Maya poetic structures present in the Popol Vuh.

This
by no means states that the two texts are identical. The two works are similar
in structure, however Time Commences in Xibalba is
much more cyclical than the linear structure of the Popol Vuh. Both works share a somewhat compartmentalized
structure since each chapter can essentially stand as a story of its own. Another
similar structural element is a disjointed layout of the sections. The Popol
Vuh has a fairly 1 3 4 2 structure and Time Commences in Xibalba has a general
2 3 4 1 structure. The placement of the prologue at the end of Time Commences
in Xibalba is similar to the Popol
Vuh because the Popol Vuh starts with
the telling of the creation attempts of the first humans by the Maker, Modeler,
Bearer, Begetter and before completing that story with the final successful
attempt at making humans from maize, the text moves to another story before
returning to finish the first one. Both texts start and end with stories that
would not normally be placed there. This structural layout enables the reader
to read the chapters and understand the overall story better than if the work
was laid out in the usual beginning to end 1 2 3 4 direction.

While
this layout convey a connection, it pails in comparison to the connection shown
by the inadvertent indigenous cues left by Lión. In the translators
introduction to Time Commences in Xibalba, Nathan
Henne states that, “speakers of Spanish as a first language in Guatemala’s
indigenous regions often continue to exhibit many markers of indigenous discourse
in their speech in Spanish” (Lión xi). This means that indigenous markers are common
not only in literature, but also in speech. Later in his translation, Henne
discusses the subtle differences between indigenous and non-indigenous word
choice. Indigenous people in some areas of Guatemala still predominately use
words that have become unused in modern Spanish speaking. Henne uses the
example of the verb principar, he goes on to say that “a person using the verb
principar in every day Spanish in Guatemala City, for example, would be clearly
identified as indigenous by a city dweller even if the speaker had never
uttered a single word of an indigenous language or worn traditional indigenous
dress” (Lión xii). By a single use of a word, someone can clearly distinguish
between indigenous and non-indigenous. By being an indigenous author, Lión
inadvertently uses the indicators and literary choices that he does because he
is an indigenous Maya. Asturias on the other hand, is writing and pulling
patterns of poetics from popular Maya texts in order to convey the integrity of
his work as a legitimate Maya text. However, he unable to copy the subtle clues
that an indigenous Maya would leave in their writing.

Because
Miguel Angel Asturias is not an indigenous Maya like Luis de Lión and the
authors of the Popol Vuh, Men of Maize lacks the clearly expressed indigenous
Maya literary style. Time Commences in Xibalba can easily be compared through the
similar styles of writing of famous Maya works such as the Popol Vuh and Men of
Maize. However, Men of Maize emerges the inferior of the three works when
compared to the Popol Vuh and Time Commences in Xibalba due to the absence of
the structural and literary markers that indigenous Maya authors weave into
their writing. By a careful study of the subtle incorporation of Maya poetics,
the disjointed albeit somehow still connected structure, and the distinct and
possibly inadvertent references in Maya texts you can clearly set indigenous
Maya authors apart from authors forcing the connection. Once the indicators are
clear to the reader, one can easily spot an indigenous Maya author and set
their work apart from an author that simply decided one day to identify as
Maya.