An Excerpt: "All the Maya tribes had strong literary tastes, but with characteristic tenacity
they clung entirely to their native tongues; and I know not a single instance
where one has left compositions in Spanish. Their language is easy to learn; to
a stranger to both, Maya comes easier than Spanish, as intelligent writers in
Yucatan have testified; and this aided its survival. Their passion for learning
to read and write was strong, and had it been fed, instead of rigidly
suppressed, there is little doubt but that they would have become a highly
enlightened nation. The wretched system which smothered free thought in Spain
killed it in Yucatan.
The principal literary monument in the pure Maya is the collection known as "The
Books of Chilan Balam." I have described this collection at length in previous
publications, and shall content myself with a brief reference to it. The
title "Chilan Balam" means, in this connection, "the interpreting priest;" that
is, the sacred official who, in the ancient religion, revealed the will of the
gods. There are at least sixteen collections under this name in Maya, copies,
probably, in part, of each other. Their contents may be classified under four
1. Chronology, calendars, and history, before and after the Conquest.
2. Prophecies and astrology.
3. Medical recipes and directions.
4. Christian narratives.
Of these, the last two are modern. The Christian portions are lives of saints,
and prayers. The medical directions are often found separate, under the title
"The Book of the Jew." Its language is modern and corrupt-mestizado, as the
Spaniards express it."