Ancient Maya cities draw travelers from all over the world to Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. But while tales of the “Maya collapse” give an air of mystery to the ruins, modern Maya still live in communities across the Yucatán, where they strive to maintain their culture and way of life despite centuries of political, social, and environmental disruption. Photographer Macduff Everton has spent more than four decades living and working among the Maya. His 1991 book on the modern Maya provided a superb photo-essay and ethnographic record of the Maya during a time of critical change and globalization. In this book, he masterfully updates his portrait of the modern Maya, while investigating the effects of NAFTA, tourism, the evangelical movement, world trade and maquiladoras, racism, sexism, and drugs on Maya communities.
Combining splendid photography of ancient Maya sites and modern Maya communities with an illuminating narrative, Everton takes us into the homes and lives of farmers and chicle gatherers, ranch hands and henequen workers, as well as the Mayan-speaking urbanites who work at the resorts on the Riviera Maya. His long acquaintance with the Maya allows him to tell dramatic stories of how individuals and families have seen a way of life that was centered around the milpa (farm) and the cultivation of tropical forest products transformed by the effects of globalization and the necessity to labor for wages. At the same time, Everton also reveals the amazing adaptability of the Maya, who hold onto the essence of their culture despite all the destructive pressures from the outside world.
"After decades on the Yucatán Peninsula, Everton brings us not the mysterious Maya of National Geographic, but, rather, a unique, honest, and moving portrait of ordinary Maya people struggling with the choices and stark changes modern times have forced upon their lives. This is a stunningly beautiful and informative work every bit the equal of Walker Evans and James Agee’s much heralded classic of the American South, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. When it comes to the Maya, there’s no other book like this, nor will there likely ever be another."
Paul Sullivan, author of Unfinished Conversations and Xuxub Must Die
"In addition to its wonderful photography, what makes The Modern Maya stand out is the time Macduff Everton has spent, and spent so well, among the people of time. Over more than forty years, he has befriended the Maya and they him, resulting in a deep, sensitive, and collaborative study of both individual lives and the life of one of the world’s oldest, greatest, and most resilient civilizations. This book is essential for all who are curious about the Maya—and for anyone who wishes to understand the upheavals faced by traditional peoples everywhere in our unsteady world."
Ronald Wright, author of Time Among the Maya
"I have been working with my faculty to find sources of literature regarding the Maya for our intercultural curricula. The ancient Maya and the Caste War period (1847–1911) are well documented and frequently updated, but books on the adaptation of the Mayas to modern life over a significant period are rare. The Modern Maya is perhaps the only one, and it helps us to understand the processes of adaptation and a parallel process: the development and future of interculturality with a Maya context. I highly recommend this book for scholars and anyone interested in the Maya as well as the interaction between cultures."
Francisco Rosado May, Rector, Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo
"Engagingly written and outstandingly illustrated . . . Everton displays his outstanding eye for the social setting, his infallible ability to capture the architecture—ancient and modern—and his uncanny ability to build the contrast that only a lifetime can reveal . . . At once a beautiful photographic tome as well as a vivid account of the Maya and critique of globalization and a culture in transition, Everton’s sharp observational skills draw you into a story that is framed by his extraordinary visual images."