Beyond the Text: Chi Xot’s Visual/Lived Cartography (paper)


I will be presenting on the work of Ángel Poyón and Fernado Poyón at the Indigenous Writers and their Critics Symposium (February 24-25, 2020) at the University of California, San Diego. I wrote the paper in Spanish but I prepared a summary in English for those who won’t be able to follow along. The idea is to promote discussion across language barriers, which is not always easy. I’m posting the summary provisionally in case there aren’t enough copies to go around the day of the panel, but I will likely take it down once the Symposium is done because 1. this is a project in its very early stages, 2. I don’t want it all out there just yet, and 3. it’s not as great without the accompanying images. However, if you are interested, I’m happy to tell you more about it. And please do credit any work that may derive from this–these ideas are not only my own, but have been developed over time and through discussion with Ángel and Fer, as well as my fearless co-author, Paul M. Worley.


This talk proposes an analysis of the context where contemporary artistic production in Chi Xot takes place. Chi Xot, also known as San Juan Comalapa, is a kaqchikel town in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, famous for its murals and many artists (visual, textile, musical, literary, among many others). Using examples from art and comic books, I explore the visual logics of the town, a type of cartography that requires a lived experience to access the aesthetics of each artist. Specifically, this paper focuses on Ángel Poyón’s and Fernando Poyón’s proposal to decentralize Guatemala’s art system and look for ways of making, promoting and appreciating artistic creation from Chi Xot within Chi Xot itself. In other words, these two artists reject western models of making and selling art, offering their own, originating from their own experiences as members of their community.

Más allá del texto: La cartografía visual/vivencial de Chi Xot (ponencia)

En estos días estaré presentado un trabajo reciente sobre la obra de Ángel Poyón y Fernando Poyón para el Simposio de escritores indígenas y sus críticos que se celebrará en la Universidad de California en San Diego del 24 al 25 de febrero. El ensayo está escrito en español pero preparé un resumen en inglés para aquellos que no hablan el español. La idea es permitirnos la discusión más allá de las barreras lingüísticas lo más posible. El resumen estará disponible por este medio provisionalmente pero muy posiblemente lo remueva al concluir el simposio ya que es nada más una muestra de un proyecto apenas en su infancia y no quiero que ande rodando por allí aún. Además, no tiene mucho sentido sin las imágenes que lo acompañan. Sin embargo, si les interesa saber más, con mucho gusto estoy dispuesta a comentarlo más a fondo. Si alguna idea o trabajo deriva de aquí, por favor asegúrense de atribuir las ideas a dónde y a quién pertenecen porque todo esto es producto de un largo diálogo con Ángel y Fer, así como con Paul M. Worley, mi co-autor


Esta ponencia ofrece un breve análisis del contexto en que se realiza la producción artística contemporánea (poesía y arte conceptual) de Chi Xot. Chi Xot, también conocido como San Juan de Comalapa, es un pueblo kaqchikel en el departamento de Chimaltenango muy conocido por sus murales y sus muchos artistas (visuales, textiles, musicales, literarios, entre otros). Con ejemplos provenientes del arte y de cómics de la zona, se explorará la lógica visual del pueblo, una especie de cartografía que exige la vivencia para acceder a la estética de cada artista. En particular, la ponencia se enfocará en la propuesta de Ángel y Fernando Poyón de descentralizar el sistema de arte en Guatemala y apostar por formas de crear, promover y apreciar la creación artística de Chi Xot desde Chi Xot mismo. Es decir, a través de su propuesta estos artistas rechazan modelos occidentales de hacer y comerciar arte, reemplazándolos por modelos propios, provenientes de sus experiencias como miembros de su comunidad.

Unwriting Literary History

On February 10, 2020, I’ll be part of a discussion workshop that sets out put into dialogue theoretical approaches and possibilities in the study of Palestinian literature and the study of Indigenous literature from the Americas. Paul M. Worley, my co-author, and I will be talking about what it means to rethink literature (“to unwrite it”, as we propose in our book) and to see beyond the strictly literary, particularly in the context of imposed borders. For more information, check out the poster and the event page.

If you’re in Berlin, be sure to reserve your spot. Paul and I will be presenting from afar, thanks to the power of technology.

A Follow-Up On Baring It All, Research, and Coaching

A few months ago, I decided to reflect on my journey (personal, professional, and everything in between) and I ended up writing a guest blog post for the Professor Is In. The timing was just right: a book I co-authored with Paul M. Worley had just come out, things had settled at work (no strike, no new preps!), my dad had stabilized after a few gruelling years of disease and then a lung transplant, and overall, things, though busy, felt manageable.

Did I mention I had a pretty awesome summer too? I went home to Guatemala to visit family and friends, and to present Unwriting.

The post I wrote didn’t come out right away, and so it stayed in the very back of my mind. It was not until it became public that I realized just how personal it was and I starting feeling overexposed, with a not insignificant desire to shut down and hide. But alas, there it was for the world to see, and comments, calls, and messages followed. The reception has been very positive and I am grateful to all those who have reached out. I won’t lie, I’m a little apprehensive as to how some colleagues may perceive it, but something I learned along this very windy road I’ve been on is that I have to shape my own narrative. I was getting pretty tired of having to explain myself and of having to put up with sneers at the mention of my non-TT career. I love my job, I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues, chair, and dean, and I like who I am where I am. I don’t expect the explanations or the sneering to go away, but things are clearer for me and I needed to say it aloud, for some reason.

This fall my school is actively thinking ways in which we faculty can engage in applied research more fully. This still leaves me out in the cold since that’s not the kind of research I do, but I appreciate that we’re talking about it. As I mentioned in that guest blog post, my chair has been nothing but supportive of my research—for instance, he found me help with the indexing of Unwriting Maya Literature and for that I am mega grateful. I confess, I don’t see myself taking on applied research. I’ve found my groove and, more importantly, I am deeply committed to the work I do and the people I work with. Perhaps I’m being closed-minded to the possibility of doing that kind of research, but so far, I just don’t see how I’d make it work. That, and taking on a new field/methodology/project would mean time away from current projects and from some pretty amazing people. With a heavy teaching load (5-5) it is hard to find the time to do the research I want to do given that it is not a job requirement; that means I have to be selective and very strategic about the work I choose to do.

In a few weeks I will be giving a brief talk on working at a Canadian institution for an online Academic Job Market Conference by Beyond the Professoriate. I’m not sure what I’ll be talking about, but I hope I can at least let others know that it is possible to veer off course (by circumstance or by choice) and still find a place where you can do meaningful work. The trick for me has been a balancing act: recognizing and respecting my priorities, and, if necessary, making sacrifices but only the ones I choose to make. I am aware that I speak from a place of privilege because I am able to make those choices, reflect, and course correct without taking devastating financial, personal, or professional hits. But one thing is certain: every decision (bad, good, and debatable) up to this point has been mine and that feels pretty good. For now, I’ll keep on trucking, thinking about things, writing, teaching, and staying quick on my feet for whatever life hurls my way.

A Couple of PSAs

Almost a decade ago, my dad was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a rare, incurable disease. In 2017 he received a lung transplant at Toronto General Hospital. The process was long and difficult but worth every wait (at the ER, doctor’s office, PT clinic, on the transplant list, in traffic etc.), every phone call, every setback. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of becoming an organ donor, so if you’re in Canada or anywhere else with an organ donation program, make sure you register. In Canada, you can easily do so online:

As for the two coaching services I mentioned, I think we tend to undervalue the importance of professional help, particularly in a career with processes as isolating as ours. Back when I was in the midst of quitting my TT job, the help of a coach from the University of Ottawa’s PD Institute was instrumental. Though I had strong support systems and a good professional network, the clarity that a third party brought to my experience was invaluable. Check out the Professor Is In and Beyond the Professoriate for academic coaching. They both have solid social media presences and are reputable (and no, I am not making a cent for singing their praises):

  • The Professor Is In is a coaching service for academics navigating tenure, promotion, and everything in between. It’s POC, queer, and women friendly.
  • Beyond the Professoriate is a counselling/coaching service geared primarly towards graduate students and newly-minted PhDs.

Unwriting in Guatemala: Book presentations, conversations and other things

Next month, Paul (my co-author) and I will be travelling to Guatemala to present Unwriting at FILGUA (Feria Internacional del Libro en Guatemala), drop off a copy at the Biblioteca Nacional, participate in the III Conferencia Internacional sobre Literatura Centroamericana Contemporánea, and host a discussion on contemporary Maya literature with Rosa Chávez, Manuel Tzoc Bucup, and Luz Lepe Lira at the Guatemala Scholars Network annual conference. As you can imagine, we’re beyond excited to share our work, make connections, and start new projects. I actually swore I would not undertake anything new for a while but that lasted about a week. So, instead, I solemnly swear to be kind to myself and to really limit the work I do outside of my own research (and only after my work-work). In case you’re interested, below I’ve listed some of the things we’ll be doing in Guatemala. I’ll add to it as dates are confirmed but you can also follow me (@ProfRPalacios) and/or Paul (@Tsikbalichmaya) on Twitter to see what we’re up to.

Our Conference Circuit

  • “Nuevos acercamientos y perspectivas en torno al estudio de las literaturas indígenas contemporáneas.” New Approaches and Perspectives in the Study of Indigenous Literatures Guatemala Scholars Network Conference, Antigua, Guatemala. July 11-13.
  • Presentation of Unwriting Maya Literature: Ts’íib as Recorded Knowledge. Commentary by Irma Otzoy and Manuel Tzoc Bucup. FILGUA, Guatemala. July 15.
  • “La escritura pensada de otra manera: Ts’íib y el reto a la palabra escrita.” Writing Another Way: Ts’íib and a Challenge to the Written Word.  III Conferencia Internacional sobre Literatura Centroamericana Contemporánea: Literaturas Indígenas y Afrodescendientes. FILGUA, Guatemala, July 16-19.