Ch’ayemal nich’nabiletik / Los hijos errantes / The Errant Children

A Trilingual Edition

By Mikel Ruiz
Translated by Sean S. Sell

Subjects: Fiction, Indigenous Studies, Latin American Studies, Postcolonial Studies
Series: SUNY series, Trans-Indigenous Decolonial Critiques
Hardcover : 9781438492964, 176 pages, May 2023
Paperback : 9781438492971, 176 pages, November 2023

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Table of contents

Sean S. Sell

Foreword to the Original Edition
Ch’ayemal nich’nabiletik: bijil ts’ibajel mu’yuk yelanil
Los hijos errantes: literatura sin adjetivos
The Errant Children: Literature without Adjectives
Alejandro Aldana Sellschopp
English translation by Sean S. Sell

Ch’ayemal nich’nabiletik

Los hijos errantes

The Errant Children

Afterword: The Function of Racism in Colonialized Spaces
Arturo Arias

A bold and unflinching portrayal of contemporary Maya life in Chiapas, Mexico.


Mikel Ruiz's The Errant Children, the first novel published in the Tsotsil Maya language, offers a bold and unflinching portrayal of contemporary Maya life in Chiapas, México. Pedro Ton Tsepente' has a position in his village's traditional council, but rather than taking just a few ceremonial drinks, he becomes an alcoholic, subject to blackouts and delirium tremens. His wife, Pascuala, rages at God to step in and change her husband's behavior, taking extreme measures when He does not. Their neighbor, seventeen-year-old Ignacio Ts'unun, learns about gender relations by watching television programs where beautiful women are lighter-skinned and about sex by watching pornography, which leads to disastrous choices. These characters' suffering comes not from conquerors, missionaries, or settlers but from invasive economic and cultural forces that can make Indigenous people devalue themselves. Do not expect to be uplifted, but do prepare to be astonished.

Mikel Ruiz received his doctoral degree in social and humanistic sciences from the University of Science and Arts of Chiapas in Mexico. He is the author of La ira de los murciélagos. Sean S. Sell is a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at the University of California, Davis. He is the translator and, with Nicolás Huet Bautista, coeditor of Chiapas Maya Awakening: Contemporary Poems and Short Stories.


"This is an important contribution to the Indigenous literary canon precisely because it offers a unique view of how Indigenous subjects internalize dominant culture in devastating ways. In addition to literature courses, it could also be used in courses that have a focus on Indigenous peoples, complementing historical or anthropological accounts that aim to highlight Maya or Indigenous voices. The inclusion of the original Tsotsil Maya and Spanish texts will allow instructors to explore comparisons with the English translation. Sean Sell's introduction and Alejandro Aldana Sellschopp's preface to the original edition are great, offering context for the book and making the case for its importance, and Arturo Arias's essay is also excellent, offering a critical and theoretical approach to the novel." — Emil' Keme, author of Le Maya Q'atzij/Our Maya Word: Poetics of Resistance in Guatemala