Category: Guatemala

Guatemala: Editor’s Letter

The diminutive indigenous woman in her bright embroidered blouse waited proudly for her grandson to receive his engineering degree. His mother, also dressed in a traditional flowery blouse—a huipil, took photos with a top-of-the-line digital camera.

Increasing the Visibility of Guatemalan Immigrants

Guatemalans have been migrating to the United States in large numbers since the late 1970s, but were not highly visible to the U.S. public as Guatemalans. That changed on May 12, 2008, when agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched the largest single-site workplace raid against undocumented immigrant workers up to that time. As helicopters circled overhead, ICE agents rounded up and arrested …

First Take: Never Again

I traveled to Guatemala for the first time in late 1980, believing, with the breezy confidence of a 20-something, that my photographs of Guatemala’s war—army, guerrillas and terrified civilians—would bring me photographic stardom…

A Beauty That Hurts: A Photoessay by Carlos Sebastián

Category: "Guatemala" A Beauty That Hurts A Photoessay     Fall 2010 | Winter 2011, Volume X, Number 1 Related Articles Guatemala: Editor’s Letter The diminutive indigenous woman in her bright embroidered blouse waited...

Revitalizing Mayan Textiles

English + Español
What satisfaction could be greater than the joy of sharing the completion of one’s first weaving? None! This pleasure is even greater when the weaver is a young boy or girl, facing for the first time the challenge of…

Indigenous Rights and the Peace Process

English + EspañolThe Guatemalan government and the guerilla umbrella group URNG (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity) signed the long-awaited Acuerdo de Identidad y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas (Accord on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples) in March 1995. Fellow anthropologist Manuela Camus and I were just finishing research on the actions and demands of Maya organizations in the context of the country’s incipient “democracy” and the peace process. As a result, we got to see first-hand the surprise and illusions that the text aroused, and the possibilities it opened for the rights and …

Two Paths to Development

Some twenty miles down a rough cobblestone path through the forests of rural Guatemala, visitors like myself will find a community-based organization (CBO) called Sindicato de Trabajadores Independientes de la Finca Alianza, El Palmar (STIAP). Its self-constructed office is equipped with internet and displays development awards for achievements from alternative energy to coffee exports. …

A Journey Back to Guatemala

When we finally pull into San Lucas Tolimán, after a winding drive through the Guatemalan highlands, I immediately notice the kids. Two small boys giggle as they roll motorbike tires down the road. A gaggle of schoolgirls in traditional fabrics walk linked arm-in-arm. A young girl holds an apple-cheeked baby. Boys play soccer in the dust of an abandoned store. The children exude happiness everywhere. They are a testimony…

Securing the City

Guatemala is experiencing a new economic stimulus: the security industry. The internal armed conflict may have ended more than a decade ago, but everyday life for many Guatemalans continues to be fraught with violence. The country has one of the highest homicide rates in the Americas (about seventeen murders per day) and one of the lowest rates of incarceration. The average criminal trial lasts more than four years …

Researching Mayan Languages

I was walking back to my hostel in San Cristóbal Verapaz, Guatemala. Following a morning of classes in the Poqomchi’ Mayan language, I automatically greeted the indigenous hostel owner (dueña) in Poqom— K’aleen, tuut. Suq na ak’ux?—literally, “Hello, ma’am. Is your chest well?”— the Poqomchi’ way of asking “How are you?” Just as she began to reply, her twenty-year-old daughter burst into the room to ask a question …

Reading “La Masacre de Panzós” in Panzós

I am not afraid. I am not ashamed. I am not embarrassed. I cannot tell lies because I saw what happened and other people saw it, too. That is why there are so many widows and orphans here…the blood of our mothers and fathers ran in the streets. They tried to kill me, too. I had to throw myself in the river. I lost my shoes. The current carried me away. My body hit rocks in the river. When I finally got out, I was covered with mud …

The Postville Immigration Raid

One spring morning two years ago, disaster struck a poor valley in the highlands of Guatemala. A local woman said it was like “a great flood.” Someone else compared it to an earthquake. But this was no natural disaster—it was man-made and happened thousands of miles to the north, in a small northeastern Iowa farm town. On May 12, 2008, federal officials descended on the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant …

In Petén, Interesting Times

I first came to Petén in the 1970s, reading a found paperback of The Exorcist to pass a long, dreary bus ride on pocked roads from Belize. Stepping off at Tikal, breathing the jungle air, I immediately felt the rainforest’s richness, its promise of discoveries to come. Later, the night called mysteriously with cries of birds and unseen animals. “There is no place like this on earth,” I thought. Archaeologists and workmen outnumbered …

A Review of The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: A Reader on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights

Has there been a massive “coming out” in Latin America for the LGBT population in the last decade? The authors included in The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America suggest that there may have been, but qualify both the success and extent of this change. The particular social, historical and economic conditions in Latin America provide a very particular context and set of challenges for LGBT people. In their introduction …

A Review of Hecho en México

A happy result of Lolita Bosch’s decade-long residence in Mexico City is Hecho en México, a compelling collection of short stories, essays, crónicas set to music, personal correspondence and poems written by others during the last ninety years. Made accessible to the general reader by Bosch’s introductions and footnotes, the anthology also appeals to specialists, as the thirty-six well-chosen texts, in all sorts of registers, …

A Mayan Financial Crash

Next to an ancestor cross, where Ixil priests make regular offerings, lives one of Nebaj’s better-known financial speculators. Doña Alfonsa (not her real name) has eight children and sells food in the market. She doesn’t own a motor vehicle but she does have a cell phone. Her story is well-known because she has repeatedly apologized for it. In 2005, Alfonsa and her husband began asking their neighbors for huge loans. …

Maya Weaving Heritage

Guatemala’s brilliantly colored textile tradition is one of the important threads that has united Maya civilization throughout its long history. Weavings for both ceremonial and everyday use continue to be important to Maya culture, society and ethnic identity. Unlike Tikal’s temples and the beautiful painted classic Maya pottery one sees in museums, Maya textiles did not survive the Pre-Columbian era. They were too fragile …

Making a Difference: Learning through Libraries

At the front of the room, in large letters, appeared the question: “De dónde viene el agua?” Where does the water come from? The room was filled with nearly fifty teachers and parents from Ahuachapán, the coffee-growing region of El Salvador. Divided into groups of four, they observed a cold can of Coke dripping with the moisture of condensation. They had eight minutes to draw a model explaining this scientific phenomenon….

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