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Something Better

Hegemony, Development, and Desire in Guatemalan Export Agriculture

Edward F. Fischer and Peter Benson

This article examines non-traditional export production of broccoli, snow peas, and other crops in Guatemala. Focusing on Maya farmers, exporters, and government development officials, we trace the production of the desire to grow these crops, to make some extra money, and to enhance local and national economies. We find that the export business has left farmers shortchanged even as it has opened new possibilities of algo más (something more or better). We examine how this empirical paradox has emerged from the convergence and divergence of power relations and affective desires that produce the processes known as 'hegemony' and 'resistance'. We conclude by considering alternative ethnographic strategies for understanding the multifarious connections between power and desire, hegemony and culture.

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Sprinkles and Spacing

Mothers’ Reactions to Nutrition Programmes in Guatemala’s Dry Corridor

Bronwen Gillespie

This article explores women’s reactions to public health nutrition work in Guatemala, looking specifically at multi-micronutrients, or sprinkles. This anthropological research was carried out in two rural communities in Chiquimula, one of which was in the Maya Ch’orti’ region, during the 2017 seasonal period of scarcity. Taking as a starting point the limitations of a medicalised approach to malnutrition, this article discusses how multi-micronutrients are ill-suited as a solution for child malnutrition in situations of precarity. Though they are designed to be physiologically effective in reducing nutrition deficiencies in the body, they appear less useful once socio-economic conditions are considered. Women’s experience with malnutrition emergencies will be explored to show how health decision-making must be understood in relation to their social context as well as to their expectations for the future.

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Beatriz Manz

In the 1980s, Guatemala's state-sponsored violence reached genocidal proportions and led to community ruptures, endemic fear, deepened distrust, and unprecedented levels of daily violence that have continued into the post-war period. Tragically, the war's resolution has not ended the country's volatility and insecurity. Reconciliation is challenging and requires a much deeper structural overhaul. It is problematical for a society that has been created on a rigid, ethnic-based, and highly divisive foundation now to take steps toward reclaiming a non-existent pre-war period of concord. An inclusive and just society, which respects the fundamental human rights of all, is essential yet sorely lacking. Moving in this direction is hindered by the historic impunity enjoyed by the military and the powerful, as well as a dysfunctional judicial system in need of reform.

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Demetrio Cojtí Cuxil

The history of Guatemala is dominated by authoritarian and conservative governments. It is said that the country is presently transitioning toward democracy, yet the government, as well as the democratic system itself, continues to be structurally colonialist and racist. Guatemala's leaders have not realized the implications for the government and for civil society of the constitutional and political recognition of the country as multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multicultural. Further-more, Guatemalan political elites ask and expect that individual and collective members of society be multi-ethnic and multi-lingual, even when the government and its organs are not. The necessary transition, public as well as private, from mono-nationalism to multi-nationalism can be achieved, but it would be more efficient and consistent if the government would take heed of civil society.

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Representing Mayas

Indigenous Authorities and Citizenship Demands in Guatemala

Elisabet Dueholm Rasch

In this article, I analyze how indigenous authorities in Guatemala negotiate citizenship at the local level within the larger context of indigenous claim making in Latin America. I argue that the construction of citizenship at the local level is not only framed by models imposed on indigenous communities but also shaped by the meanings that individuals attach to their indigenous identity. I use the election of Quetzaltenango's first Maya mayor and the abolition of part of the system of community services in Santa María as points of departure for exploring the ways that indigenous actors approach legal frameworks as a way of constructing citizenship. In concluding, I discuss how new categories of inclusion can result in new categories of exclusion.

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Reformulating the Guatemalan State

The Role of Maya Intellectuals and Civil Society Discourse

Marta Elena Casaús Arzú

Guatemala's 1996 Peace Accords (particularly the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and the participation of certain Maya intellectuals in recent governments open new possibilities for indigenous peoples to see themselves as a nation and to provide that nation with ethnic-cultural content. However, the vision of the country's elite does not correspond to that of most Maya intellectuals. Some emphasize ethnic-cultural aspects and forms of ethnic autonomy while others have a more wide-ranging and pluralistic vision based on a more national and intercultural perspective. The process of providing the government with new and legitimate bases and the nation with cultural content merits study. This article examines this process based on interviews with Maya intellectuals and ladino leaders as well as the content of public speeches and essays.

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"They Even Use Us as a Factory for Their Children"

Perspectives on Free Trade Agreements in Guatemala

Eva Kalny

Social movements and NGOs working against economic liberalism in Guatemala consider specific entities—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and, above all, the United States—as their enemies. However, local perceptions of the US in Guatemala are ambiguous. Many Guatemalans claim that US influence on the country has been disastrous, but the US also received many Guatemalan refugees during the civil war and continues to receive illegal migrants from Central America, while countless families depend on remittances that their relatives send back from the US. This article argues that local actors do not simply reproduce images of the great powers as transmitted by the media and NGOs, but create new combinations and elaborate their own interpretations, which make sense at the local level.

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Allison D. Krogstad

Rumam Chamalkan (Nietos de los Kaqchikeles, Grandchildren of the Kaqchikel) is a folkloric dance-drama group from San Jorge La Laguna, Guatemala. Like other Maya initiatives that have come out of the postwar years in Guatemala, this group strives to preserve and maintain the traditions, memory, and identity of the Maya by retelling the stories of their elders and bringing their heritage to new generations and to the world. They endeavor to unite their people around common images and symbols, binding them together, and strengthening their social connectivity. Efforts of the Maya in regard to artistic, literary, and other creative expressions of heritage as well as forays into the political, economic, cultural, linguistic, and environmental systems of the country and world have begun, collectively and cohesively, to make a dent in the wall of inequality, repression, and discrimination that the world has built around the Maya.

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Eliza Guyol-Meinrath Echeverry

For decades, Canadian-based corporate development projects have been linked to acts of violence in countries all over the world. These acts include sexual violence, destruction of property, community displacement, the use of forced labor, and other forms of violence. While Canada has repeatedly failed to pass legislation holding Canadian-based corporations accountable for human rights abuses committed abroad, Canadian courts are increasingly asserting their jurisdiction over cases of development-related violence. Analyzing two ongoing court cases—Caal v. Hudbay, regarding sexual violence in Guatemala, and Araya v. Nevsun, regarding forced labor in Eritrea— this article examines the potential and limits of law to address the bureaucratic mechanisms and grounded experiences of corporate-development-related violence, and the changing relationship between states, corporations, law, and human rights in the modern global era.

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Strange Tales from the Road

A Lesson Learned in an Epistemology for Anthropology

Yoshinobu Ota

Anthropology, with its deep commitment to fieldwork, has produced, through the dialectics of learning and unlearning, a contradictory self-understanding of the nature of the knowledge it has produced: one that is driven by a search for certainty, on the one hand, and by a desire for surprise, on the other. This article narrates a genealogy of anthropological perspectives that derive from the latter desire, the one that aims to undermine constantly that which is taken for granted. It shows how this perspective—often underappreciated these days in places where anthropological knowledge has been required to legitimate itself on an activist ground—has affected the way in which the author, a Japanese anthropologist, understands his fieldwork experience in Guatemala.