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For Every Indio Who Falls

A History of Maya Activism in Guatemala, 1960-1990

Betsy Konefal

Publication Year: 2010

Scholars have disagreed about Maya participation in Guatemala’s civil war, and the development of oppositional activism by Mayas during the war is poorly understood. Betsy Konefal explores this history in detail, examining the roots and diversity of Maya organizing and its place in the unfolding conflict. She traces debates about ethnicity, class, and revolution, and examines how (some) Mayas became involved in opposition to a repressive state. She looks closely at the development of connections between cultural events like queen pageants and more radical demands for change, and follows the uneasy relationships that developed between Maya revolutionaries and their Ladino counterparts. Konefal makes it clear that activist Mayas were not bystanders in the transformations that preceded and accompanied Guatemala's civil war--activism by Mayas helped shape the war, and the war shaped Maya activism.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-10

Twenty-two Mayas appeared in a photograph covering the front page of Guatemala's daily newspaper El Gráfico on July 30, 1978. It was a surprising image, considering the time and the place. The young people in the photo came from disparate areas of Guatemala...

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1. "Two Bloods!": Defining Race and Nation

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pp. 11-28

Race has been a central and problematic theme in Guatemala's vision of itself as a nation. It is a country of profound and remarkably lasting contrasts—linguistic, cultural, and economic—that tend to coalesce around the racialized and opposing social categories of "indígena" and...

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2. Mayas Mobilized

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pp. 29-54

President Jacobo Arbenz called the agrarian reform of 1952 Guatemala's first act of justice since the conquest. The ill-fated reform law, which encouraged peasant committees to petition the national government for expropriation of fallow lands, propelled Archbishop Mariano Rossell y...

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3. Envisioning the Pueblo

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pp. 55-82

Local organizing like that in Santa Cruz del Quiché, Santiago Atitlán, and Huehuetenango developed throughout Guatemala. At the same time, organizing spilled over municipal and departmental boundaries, and growing numbers of community activists got...

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4. Reinas Indígenas and the Authentic Maya

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pp. 83-110

On May 29, 1978, hundreds of Q'eqchi' campesinos in the community of Panzós, Alta Verapaz, entered the town square to present a document to the mayor regarding land claims. In one of the first large-scale counterinsurgency assaults against Mayas, army soldiers fired into...

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5. Radicalizing Violence

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pp. 111-132

The army killings in Panzós in May 1978 were followed less than two years later by another galvanizing episode of violence against mostly Maya protestors: the massacre at the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City. When campesino protestors occupied the embassy to call...

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6. "Pueblo against Pueblo"

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pp. 133-154

Emeterio Toj Medrano of Santa Cruz del Quiché wore many hats over the course of the 1960s and 1970s: he had been an AC catechist, radio broadcaster, and someone involved in pan-Maya discussion groups since their inception. He was a CUC founder and an EGP guerrillero. ...

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7. May All Rise Up?

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pp. 155-178

The politics of opposition and counterinsurgency shifted in the 1980s and early 1990s as opponents of the state took their offensive underground, and in some cases, to the international level. As they did so, the gulf widened between the main guerrilla armies, joined in...


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pp. 179-226


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pp. 227-239


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pp. 241-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780826348661
E-ISBN-10: 0826348661
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826348654
Print-ISBN-10: 0826348653

Page Count: 260
Illustrations: 23 halftones, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 759000867
MUSE Marc Record: Download for For Every Indio Who Falls

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Subject Headings

  • Guatemala -- History -- Civil War, 1960-1996.
  • Mayas -- Guatemala -- Government relations.
  • Mayas -- Guatemala -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
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