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The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive

4.59  ·  Rating details ·  95 ratings  ·  6 reviews
Martín Prechtel’s experiences growing up on a Pueblo Indian reservation, his years of apprenticing to a Guatemalan shaman, and his flight from Guatemala’s brutal civil war to life in the U.S. inform this lyrical blend of memoir, cultural commentary, and spiritual call to arms. The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic is both an epic story and a cry to the heart of humanity based ...more
Hardcover, 476 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by North Atlantic Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Polly Lazaron
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous. Poignant. I appreciate the author's engaging, conversational, lyrical writing style,
the compelling story and life enriching information in this extraordinary, timely book. I laughed, cried, took notes. Specific, personal and universal, Mr. Prechtel's gifted, zesty storytelling bridges cultures and history in ways that entertain as well as invite the reader into reflection and possibly transformation. A memorable, potentially life changing read, call to inspired action and sheer joy.
Sam Oanes
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Eloquently and beautifully written, full of stories and lessons about how deep and spiritual cultures have been and are attempting to continue to be. Our modern "cultural amnesia" has removed us from the interconnectedness of all things, and this book's stories and calls to action provided me with some hope and a warm heart. People are plants; plants are people. We are all connected.
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought that I knew something about Indigenous worldviews, but little did I know how radically different the Indigenous and Civilized modes of thought are! Prechtel argues that the difference is what allowed Indigenous culture to be sustainable, whereas Civilized culture is clearly miserable in the short run and untenable in the long run. Through lots of stories and descriptions, culled from his life as a Pueblo, his apprenticeship as a Mayan Highlands shaman, and his subsequent scholarly rese ...more
Esra Bestel
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing

"The wild was a magical court of the aristocracy of the Holy in Nature. One had to know how to act in this court. That was what being a human meant."

Thank you Martin for this beautiful epic story of seeds and giving me a lot to think about where to start.
Kay Krebs
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the book. The author had a facinating experience living with the Maya people and learning their religion from a native shaman when he was young. He is now a speaker and teacher in his own school in New Mexico.
Carah Naseem
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Thirteen stars.
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A master of eloquence and innovative language, Martín Prechtel is a leading thinker, writer and teacher whose work, both written and oral, hopes to promote the subtlety, irony and pre-modern vitality hidden in any living language. As a half blood Native American with a Pueblo Indian upbringing, his life took him from New Mexico to the village of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. There becoming a full v ...more

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77 likes · 28 comments
“Turn that worthless lawn into a beautiful garden of food whose seeds are stories sown, whose foods are living origins. Grow a garden on the flat roof of your apartment building, raise bees on the roof of your garage, grow onions in the iris bed, plant fruit and nut trees that bear, don't plant 'ornamentals', and for God's sake don't complain about the ripe fruit staining your carpet and your driveway; rip out the carpet, trade food to someone who raises sheep for wool, learn to weave carpets that can be washed, tear out your driveway, plant the nine kinds of sacred berries of your ancestors, raise chickens and feed them from your garden, use your fruit in the grandest of ways, grow grapevines, make dolmas, wine, invite your fascist neighbors over to feast, get to know their ancestral grief that made them prefer a narrow mind, start gardening together, turn both your griefs into food; instead of converting them, convert their garage into a wine, root, honey, and cheese cellar--who knows, peace might break out, but if not you still have all that beautiful food to feed the rest and the sense of humor the Holy gave you to know you're not worthless because you can feed both the people and the Holy with your two little able fists.” 11 likes
“Everything in Nature ran according to its own nature; the running of grass was in its growing, the running of rivers their flowing, granite bubbled up, cooled, compressed and crumbled, birds lived, flew, sang and died, everything did what it needed to do, each simultaneously running its own race, each by living according to its own nature together, never leaving any other part of the universe behind. The world’s Holy things raced constantly together, not to win anything over the next, but to keep the entire surging diverse motion of the living world from grinding to a halt, which is why there is no end to that race; no finish line. That would be oblivion to all.
For the Indigenous Souls of all people who can still remember how to be real cultures, life is a race to be elegantly run, not a race to be competitively won. It cannot be won; it is the gift of the world’s diverse beautiful motion that must be maintained. Because human life has been give the gift of our elegant motion, whether we limp, roll, crawl, stroll, or fly, it is an obligation to engender that elegance of motion in our daily lives in service of maintaining life by moving and living as beautifully as we can. All else has, to me, the familiar taste of that domineering warlike harshness that daily tries to cover its tracks in order to camouflage the deep ruts of some old, sick, grinding, ungainly need to flee away from the elegance of our original Indigenous human souls. Our attempt to avariciously conquer or win a place where there are no problems, whether it be Heaven or a “New Democracy,” never mind if it is spiritually ugly and immorally “won” and taken from someone who is already there, has made a citifying world of people who, unconscious of it, have become our own ogreish problem to ourselves, our future, and the world. This is a problem that we cannot continue to attempt to competitively outrun by more and more effectively designed technological approaches to speed away from the past, for the specter of our own earth-wasting reality runs grinning competitively right alongside us. By developing even more effective and entertaining methods of escape that only burn up the earth, the air, animals, plants, and the deeper substance of what it should mean to be human, by competing to get ahead, we have created a brakeless competition that has outrun our innate beauty and marked out a very definite and imminent “finish” line.
Living in and on a sphere, we cannot really outrun ourselves anyway. Therefore, I say, the entire devastating and hideous state of the world and its constant wounding and wrecking of the wild, beautiful, natural, viable and small, only to keep alive an untenable cultural proceedance is truly a spiritual sickness, one that will not be cured by the efficient use of the same thinking that maintains the sickness. Nor can this overly expensive, highly funded illness be symptomatically kept at bay any longer by yet more political, environmental, or social programs.
We must as individuals and communities take the time necessary to learn how to indigenously remember what a sane, original existence for a viable people might look like.
Though there are marvellous things and amazing people doing them, both seen and unseen, these do not resemble in any way the general trend of what is going on now.
To begin remembering our Indigenous belonging on the Earth back to life we must metabolize as individuals the grief of recognition of our lost directions, digest it into a valuable spiritual compost that allows us to learn to stay put without outrunning our strange past, and get small, unarmed, brave, and beautiful.
By trying to feed the Holy in Nature the fruit of beauty from the tree of memory of our Indigenous Souls, grown in the composted failures of our past need to conquer, watered by the tears of cultural grief, we might become ancestors worth descending from and possibly grow a place of hope for a time beyond our own.”
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