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Long Life, Honey in the Heart

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Martín Prechtel continues the narrative of his unique life in Santiago, Atitlan in Long Life, Honey in the Heart, an eloquent memoir replete with the subtle intelligence and sophistication of Mayan culture. Set against the dramatic backdrop of Guatemala's political upheaval in the 1980s, this heady mix of magic, humor, and spirituality immerses the reader in the experiences of Mayan birth, courting, marriage, childrearing, old age, death, and beyond, using the true story of Prechtel's own family and friends.

392 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1999

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About the author

Martin Prechtel

20 books132 followers
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 village member of the Tzutujil Mayan population, he eventually served as a principal in that body of village leaders responsible for instructing the young people in the meanings of their ancient stories through the rituals of adult rights of passage. Once again residing in his native New Mexico, Martín teaches at his international school Bolad’s Kitchen. Through story, music, ritual and writing, Martín helps people in many lands to retain their diversity while remembering their own sense of place in the daily sacred through the search for the Indigenous Soul.

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5 stars
138 (66%)
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49 (23%)
3 stars
16 (7%)
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3 (1%)
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3 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
333 reviews
July 5, 2017
Yes, I loved this book! Prechtel writes with such imagery, compassion, spirit, and heart. Plus each chapter begins with a segment from his wealth of drawings of Mayan people and their culture. Prechtel grew up on an Indian reservation in New Mexico and subsequently moved to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. He became a member of the Mayan community with whom he lived as well as learning to play ancient flute melodies that were used for rituals, marrying a Mayan woman and having children, and serving as a chief and shaman. He describes courting and initiation rituals with deep spiritual and life-giving meanings. In the end, though, he details the governmental overthrow of the Mayans and their ancient and deeply-rooted spiritual beliefs. This is a powerful book that leads me to wonder whether North Americans could benefit from a closer connection to their families, communities, the natural world, and the magic that weaves through it all.
December 2, 2018
It was a good book. Very poetic, very gentle with its elegance. It was deeply moving and profound. I did get however a bit of superstition in his writing. It was superstitious. I believe in everything he says. I believe in the Mayan ways and I support his ideas. I can't really judge a book by content in a non-fiction book because A Martin didn't really have much of a say, but regardless of everything, this book is worth your time. The lives of the Tzutujil maya are incredible. Their understand of the universe and the natural world profound and their inspiring wisdom is thought provoking. If you're interested in Tribal life, Mysticism, Shamanism, Native Anthropology, Sacred Ceremony or anything of the like I recommend this book for you.
155 reviews2 followers
June 2, 2022
The author is an American who ended up living in a Maya village in Guatemala for a couple decades. He became a trusted member of the tribe and one of its chiefs. This book recounts village life and Maya customs, especially the initiation rituals for boys. It ends in heartbreak, when the Guatemala civil war violently ends traditional Maya life, forcing the author to flee back to the US to save his life. A very moving story told with heart, followed by an essay about what modern Americans can learn from "simpler" civilizations.
July 24, 2021
An essential read in these times of spiritual forgetfulness and modern violence. Written in an exquisite and colorful language, it's a book that connects the reader to the indigenous soul that is part of the human experience. It's one of the most important books that I've read, not because it offers a glimpse on a lost world, but because it shows what can be born again today. I actually warmly recommend each and every book written by Martin Prechtel.
38 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2022
Wow, honestly takes my breath away. So deeply incredible to read the stories of this ancient, rich, now dismantled, Guatemalan Mayan tribe, thick in culture and ritual, dripping with wisdom, love, connection. It almost doesn’t feel real, yet it is the most real honey in the heart. I mourn for the retreat of that village, but rejoice in their stories and the seed of possibility. Highly recommend for those interested
Profile Image for Lachlan.
161 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2017
A beautiful depiction of the lives and culture of the Maya of Santiago near Lake Atitlán in Guatemala - but not without flaws.

Prechtel has a tendency to idealise the Mayan culture he has come in contact with. He is largely uncritical and accepting of the rituals and beliefs he is presented - the one exception being the brutal stoning of a man by the wider village. Even still, this incident is soon forgotten. I would expect he had more experiences in this vein - a few references are also made to domestic violence, but usually to highlight how rare these instances are.

The book functions as Prechtel's love-note to the village, ritual and culture. As such, the darker side of village life remains largely unexamined. On the other hand Prechtel is content to present a particularly dark caricature of 'Western civilisation', which in his view is all violence and destruction. Certainly these elements are present and of immense concern - but do they accurately represent the entirety of Western culture?

By my nature I'm wary of the idealisation of indigenous and native cultures, and reductionist explanations of the woes of the West.

Prechtel talks in very general terms about the isolation, violence, apathy and depression of modern man, and for this makes a connection to our lack of initiation, and our disconnection with the female aspects of nature - an interesting idea, and certainly worth deeper analysis than is given in the few dozen pages of the afterword and parting essay. I would have liked to have seen his analysis and contrast with 'Western civilization' given more depth.

As for the narrative itself: at times it drags, particularly in labored descriptions of rituals. Other times it feels rushed (compare the length of the courting and initiation rituals versus the violent political change that visits the village, or the few short pages of reflection on the experience of the book in the afterword).

The pacing mightn't be perfect, but Pretchel has a powerful way of writing, and his experiences of Santiago are well worth reliving. At its best, 'Long Life, Honey In The Heart' is a powerful and beautiful demonstration of how ritual symbolic life can feed a community, and a valuable meditation on the spiritual imagination of humanity. He has done well to capture very atypical experiences and subject matter.
Profile Image for Diana.
55 reviews7 followers
December 20, 2009
This book was absolutely amazing. The language in it can break your heart and heal it in the same sentence. I really appreciated how we were let into a world that most people will never see. What a beautiful way to live and to view the world. I hope that I am able to read this book again and again just because I really felt GOOD reading it (I can only say this for a few other books in my collection). My only regret is that it took me so long to read it since I've been so busy, so I read it in little disconnected chunks.

I also read this book since I'm currently living in Honduras and wanted to know at least about ONE particular sub-group of the Mayan people. I often gained some insights into central american culture (not sure if they took it directly from the Maya or not), but the way they described the cacophonous "resolution" of arguments sounded a lot like the way many of our Honduran staff meetings are run... everyone shouts out their opinion over each other and then miraculously things are decided... apparently everyone has this talent of simultaneously hearing and talking, which I don't think I have as a north american!!

Anyway, HIGHLY fascinating book, absolutely BEAUTIFUL, HIGHLY recommended to anyone into anthropology, indigenous issues, or just the poetry and beauty of everyday life.
Profile Image for Anna Bromley.
Author 2 books1 follower
March 15, 2013
A sequel to Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, this book is equally fascinating and beautifully written. It gives such insight into the living culture of the Mayans of Santiago Atitlan - a cualture that we could all learn so much from. It highlights the importance of giving young people something to strive for, something to aspire to, so that they are turned into heroes and heroines instead of delinquents.
Profile Image for Hope.
375 reviews15 followers
September 5, 2008
I love Pretchel's tales of his life with the indigenous Tzutujil Mayan in Guatemala... I've since heard, not surprisingly, that he is a very controversial figure. So be it. His story (embellished, biased, whatever) is a great lovely adventure, filled with magic, shamanism and spirit. Beautiful. I've read all his books and wish there were a dozen more...
Profile Image for David.
22 reviews2 followers
October 2, 2008
This book was great in that it was like an anthropological journey into the heart of Mayan culture. This book is the 2nd in a trilogy. It was important to read, I found it to be rich in knowledge and a little dry compared to his other books. I still recommend reading it because it is an important part of the trilogy.
3 reviews
July 12, 2009
If I wanted to pick favorites, I'd point to this book as one of them. An epic of tale, who I feel honors the teenage struggle, overlooked by the "modern" world. Still even when modern culture would deny us a respect for initiation, we search to find and understand our hearts anyway. And this book, tells of such a search.
Profile Image for Alli Lubin.
155 reviews
September 16, 2012
Martin Prechtel is an amazing writer. I began reading this book while experiencing a Mayan initiation ceremony first hand in Vermont this summer, then finished it after I got back home. What a great way to read this book. I can't imagine reading it cold without any idea what you were reading about.
Profile Image for Rachel.
230 reviews
November 13, 2015
So heart filled; the words are like honey to the soul and the stories so rich it is as if you are eating from a buffet of the most decadent storytelling. Prechtel is a master at weaving together a story that tears your heart apart, leaves you longing for more and fills your soul with beauty. The saga continues to pour from his pen and I cannot drink it in fast enough.
Profile Image for Jean.
46 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2007
Written about a time not so long ago but somehow like a thousand years ago, before the Maya of Guatamala were changes and removed from their ancient culture. Autobiographical. Lovely, such beauty. Sad, such loss.
Profile Image for Carah Naseem.
Author 2 books21 followers
May 29, 2020
This book is so amazingly, heartbreakingly beautiful. I cannot physically wait to read his other work.
Profile Image for Igna.
97 reviews4 followers
April 19, 2016
Oh dear. The image of the writer and the participants being on some sort of drugs, come to mind throughout the book...
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews

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