The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

The Chorti Indians of Guatemala. By Charles Wisdom.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1940. Pp. xiv, 490.
Figures and plates. $4.50.
The Chorti are a Maya-speaking people who today occupy an
area of about three thousand square miles in eastern Guate-
mala near the Honduras border. This area also includes the
municipio of Copan, just across the border of Honduras. In
early times this same area was the seat of the Old Empire Maya
civilization, of which Copan was the ceremonial center. The
Chorti are regarded as possible descendants of the people who
lived about Copan before the Conquest, and there is a strong
probability that the Chorti language is basically the same as
that spoken at ancient Copan. For these reasons a study of the
Chorti has a special significance.
During the years 1931-1933, Wisdom made three separate
trips to the Chorti country and spent approximately twelve
months in the field. This field work was done in three different
localities, each representing a different type of geographic en-
vironment, so that a more representative cross-section of the
culture might be obtained. At least six main informants were
used. Since the Chorti are bilingual, most of them speaking
Spanish in addition to Chorti, no linguistic difficulties seem to
have been encountered. The result of Wisdom's investigations
is a most remarkably complete and well-balanced analysis of
Chorti culture.
The Chorti are an almost self-sufficient agricultural people,
producing all that they need except certain textiles for clothing.
There is much local specialization in the crafts, and considerable
trade takes place in the plazas of all towns. All the various
aspects of Chorti economic life are described in detail, nearly
half the volume being devoted to this phase of their culture. A
series of figures illustrating tools, techniques, and craft products
constitute a valuable feature of the book. This is supplemented
by a number of well-chosen photographs. Social and political
organizations are presented with equal fullness and detail. The
chapters dealing with religious organization and behavior are
of especial interest, inasmuch as Chorti religion represents a
fusion of native and Christian elements.
It must be made clear, however, that this work is a straight-
forward ethnographic study. Its method is primarily descrip-
tive. Little attention is paid to the historical background of

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146052/. Accessed December 21, 2014.