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Xuxub Must Die

The Lost Histories of a Murder on the Yucatan

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Today, foreigners travel to the Yucatan for ruins, temples, and pyramids, white sand beaches and clear blue water. One hundred years ago, they went for cheap labor, an abundance of land, and the opportunity to make a fortune exporting cattle, henequen fiber, sugarcane, or rum. Sometimes they found death.

In 1875 an American plantation manager named Robert Stephens and a number of his workers were murdered by a band of Maya rebels. To this day, no one knows why. Was it the result of feuding between aristocratic families for greater power and wealth? Was it the foreseeable consequence of years of oppression and abuse of Maya plantation workers? Was a rebel leader seeking money and fame—or perhaps retribution for the loss of the woman he loved?

For whites, the events that took place at Xuxub, Stephens’s plantation, are virtually unknown, even though they engendered a diplomatic and legal dispute that vexed Mexican-U.S. relations for over six decades. The construction of “official” histories allowed the very name of Xuxub to die, much as the plantation itself was subsumed by the jungle. For the Maya, however, what happened at Xuxub is more than a story they pass down through generations—it is a defining moment in how they see themselves.

Sullivan masterfully weaves the intricately tangled threads of this story into a fascinating account of human accomplishments and failings, in which good and evil are never quite what they seem at first, and truth proves to be elusive. Xuxub Must Die seeks not only to fathom a mystery, but also to explore the nature of guilt, blame, and understanding.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 09, 2004 – In October 1875 a group of Maya rebels attacked an obscure sugar plantation, Xuxub, on the northern portion of the Yucat n peninsula, killing the American co-owner, Robert Stephens, and his laborers, including men, women and children. The next day many of the rebels were overtaken by government troops and killed. Anthropologist Sullivan, whose previous book also centered on the problematic relationship of the indigenous Mayas and the predominantly Hispanic government, tries to put the event in perspective and discover why it occurred. Early on, Sullivan asks, "Why dig it up again?" He answers that the Maya remember the event as a kind of triumph, while the Mexican and American establishments remember it not at all; by studying it, we "might recover something lost, something we should recall." Although there is something to learn from Xuxub, it will not be, for many readers, as much as Sullivan hopes. His research on every facet of historical context is impeccable, and the tangled array of personal, cultural and political factors is well explicated. But there is too much historical minutiae to sustain continuous interest. Part of the problem is that Sullivan is overly fond of dramatic sentences like, "The day had come" and "They would learn to fear him among all others...." He also spends too much time on the less relevant political aftermath, especially concerning Stephens's widow. Still, those with a special interest in Latin American history will find this retrieval of lost history of interest. Maps.
Xuxub Must Die
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Apr 25, 2004
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Seller: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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