Imagining an alternate history is a dangerous game to play. We can’t change the past, and what-if questions rarely helps us grapple with our current reality. But it can occasionally be a useful tool if it shifts our gaze to help us understand the past better, and why things are the way they are today. So we’ve delved into this speculative field and created a map which asks: What if European colonialism had been reversed? What if the ‘New World’ referred not to the Americas, but to Afro-Eurasia. What if it had been Native American explorers who ‘discovered’ Europe?
In this hypothetical map, we’ve taken a Maya perspective – not because we think that the Maya would or should have colonized Europe. Colonialism is wrong, no matter the perpetrator. But by turning our perspective and imagining Europeans in the position of the colonized, we may illuminate the destructiveness of colonial consciousness.
Reflecting the practices of European explorers, the ‘new’ lands have been rechristened, completely disregarding Europe’s native peoples and the names they have for their lands. Europe and Africa become Xaman Pakal (North Pakal) and Nohol Pakal (South Pakal) respectively, taking their names from the great Maya leader Pakal. Britain becomes Tumben Mayach (New Maya Country), and Ireland is Eire Kaahsik (Éire Land).
Meanwhile, locales in what the Maya would call the ‘Old World’ have retained their indigenous names like Anishinaabewaki, Inuit Nunangat, and Mayach, albeit written in Maya glyphs.
The map fades at the edges, indicating the limits of Maya exploration. Beyond that lay ‘terra incognita’, filled in with creatures from classical Maya mythology.
In accordance with Maya tradition, the map is oriented to the East.
This map – Europe as the New World by Jordan Engel – can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.
Sources: Tattered Map Sandwich by John Nelson