New book released on folktales and legends of Belize

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 16            April 20, 2000

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Drs. Mary Gomez Parham and Timothy Hagerty with copy of new book

If Di Pin Neva Ben is the name of the newest book launched by Cubola Productions on folktales and legends of Belize. This book is the fourth volume in the Belizean Writers Series, a collection which was begun in 1995 with the publication of Snapshots of Belize: An Anthology of Short Fiction and continued with Ping Wing Juk Me: Six Belizean Plays, published in 1996 and Of Words: An Anthology of Belizean Poetry, which appeared in 1997.

    If Di Pin Neva Ben: folktales and legends of Belize was edited by Drs. Timothy Hagerty and Mary Gomez Parham. This series is the result of many years of work as Dr. Hagerty traveled throughout the rural areas of Belize tape recording folk narratives in Spanish. The main role of the folklorist is to preserve these oral traditions and prevent the loss of the cultural heritage of the society in which she or he works. Since folklore, by its very nature, is oral, the professional folklorist attempts to preserve the oral text by recording it first and then transcribing word for word as it was spoken. Another important approach used to preserve the oral tradition in Belize has been the written collection of oral narratives, in which the author recalls and recreates what he has heard from his parents, grandparents or maybe even from seasoned storytellers. The end result of the current anthology is If Di Pin Neva Ben, collected and documented by Drs. Timothy Hagerty, Mary Gomez Parham and Ervin Beck. It also includes works by Leo Bradley Sr., Jessie Castillo, Elizabeth J. Cardenas, David Ruiz and Ines E. Sanchez.

    Dr. Mary Gomez Parham is the daughter of San Pedro resident George Parham. She is an Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Houston-Downtown. She is also a poet whose work is often influenced by her Belizean heritage. She has published numerous scholarly articles on Hispanic literature, culture and folklore. Much of the research she did for this book was funded by a Fulbright Scholar's Grant.

    Dr. Timothy W. Hagerty (Mary Parham's husband) is a Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He has published many articles on the language and folklore of Belize. His doctoral dissertation was a linguistic analysis of the Spanish spoken in Belize. Many of the tales and legends contained in this book were recorded as he collected data for his dissertation and in 1988 when he was a Fullbright Scholar in Belize.

    Dr. Hagerty told the San Pedro Sun that interestingly enough he found out that legends like the Duende (a small dwarf-like man with a big hat) thought to be unique to Belize, go as far south as the jungles of Brazil and north to Canada. The origins of this are also traced back to Spain and the Maya people. It is universal and interconnects to other parts of the world. Drs. Hagerty and Parham say that the primary objective in publishing this series is to make Belizean literature widely available to all who are interested, especially Belizean students who should have the opportunity to read the works of local authors.

    On Tuesday, April 18th, 2000, Cubola Productions launched a one-day workshop at the House of Culture to introduce this wonderful volume which captures the essence of Belizean oral traditions. Copies of If Di Pin Neva Ben: folktales and legends of Belize will be available at bookstores and gift shops throughout Belize. The San Pedro Sun had the opportunity to read a copy of this wonderful mosaic of tales and legends and highly recommends it for the enjoyment of the whole family.
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