Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, 1982
Xun Betán is a contemporary poet, a Mayan artist-activist, and a translator. He writes poetry in Tsotsil, Tseltal and Spanish, and also translates poets writing in Spanish (such as José Martí) into Tsotsil, He has also translated the Popol Vuh into Tsotsil, and is the editor of the web page www.tsotsil.com and of cartonera-style books. The influences of Indigenous Chiapanec socioreligious-political communitarian and organizational culture are deeply felt in Betán’s writing, performance art and artistic practice. He and the Nichimal K’op poetry troupe add the verbal and poetic dimension to various multimedia presentations at the Galería MUY.
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Betán is also the coordinator of a group of young women and men from surrounding Highland Mayan communities, now living in San Cristóbal who combine poetry with music in performance-inspired open-mike cultural events in the Galería MUY.
Betán grew up in a Venustiano Carranza hamlet until, at the age of nine, he left his parents to study in township center, where he lived with grandparents.
He learned Spanish in a monolingual school, and fascinated by Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Betán translated the Western classic into Tsotsil, which is soon to be published in Argentina.
Betán studied social anthropology, working closely with the linguist Otto Schumann, the archaeologist Thomas Lee, and the historian Jan de Vos. He teaches literacy in Tseltal with the Jesuits of Bachajón, and has collaborated with the human rights organization, Centro Fray Bartolomé.
Betán is a regular contributor to the magazine Ojarasca, dedicated to Indigenous politics and culture.