Kidnapped to the Underworld

Memories of Xibalba

Víctor Montejo (Author), Sean S. Sell (Translator)
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Víctor Montejo’s story recounts the near-death experience of his grandfather, Antonyo Mekel Lawuxh (Antonio Esteban), who fell gravely ill in Guatemala in the late 1920s but survived to tell his family and community what he had witnessed of the afterlife.

Narrated from Antonio’s perspective, the reader follows along on a journey to the Maya underworld of Xibalba, accompanied by two spirit guides. Antonio traverses Xibalba’s levels of heaven and hell, encountering instructive scenes of punishment and reward: in one chapter, conquistadors are perpetually submerged in a pool of their victims’ blood; in another, the souls of animal abusers are forever unable to cross a crocodile-infested river. Infused with memory, the author illustrates Guatemala’s unique religious syncretism, exploring conceptions of heaven and hell shared between Catholicism and Indigenous Maya spirituality. In the tradition of both the Popol Vuh and the Divine Comedy, Montejo’s narrative challenges easy categorization—this is a work of family history, religious testimony, political allegory, and sacred literature.

“Montejo’s narrative takes the reader by the hand, not only to depths of Xibalba but also to the inner psyche of its protagonist, Antonio. It does so by masterfully illustrating the dynamics of the way in which Indigenous people construct their spirituality from two historically contending sets of belief systems. Kidnapped to the Underworld is an exploration of the Jakaltek hybrid spiritual world. Antonio's dream, or vision of the Indigenous underworld, is a testimony of a human life profoundly impacted by the imposition of the Christian doctrine on the lived experience of those who inhabit this in-between/liminal space.”—Nestor I. Quiroa, Wheaton College

“This is a vivid, compelling text, fascinating for anyone interested in sacred writing or visionary narrative, as well as for people interested in Mesoamerican culture. With extraordinary intricacy, Víctor Montejo reimagines his grandfather’s epic journey to the underworld, weaving Christian Catholic morality and Mesoamerican mythology into each other in a mythic space that falls somewhere between the Divine Comedy and the Popol Vuh. A remarkable read.”—Mary Louise Pratt, New York University

“The book defies conventional categorizations, transcending the boundaries of a family history, a religious testimony, a political allegory, and a work of sacred literature. Regardless of the genre one may assign, the book is a testament to the enduring power of storytelling among Indigenous peoples.”—Mark D. Walker, author of Different Latitudes



Kidnapped to the Underworld
166 Pages 5.5 x 8.5
Published: August 2024Paperback ISBN: 9780816552597
Published: August 2024Ebook ISBN: 9780816552603

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