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I Ask for Justice

Maya Women, Dictators, and Crime in Guatemala, 1898–1944

By David Carey Jr.

Publication Year: 2013

This study of the Guatemalan legal system during the regimes of two of Latin America’s most repressive dictators reveals the surprising extent to which Maya women used the courts to air their grievances and defend their human rights.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

Illustrations, Maps, and Tables

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-23

Prologues like this can be rhetorical obstacles to reach the substance of the book they intend to open. Brevity, therefore, is the greatest virtue of such exercises. The reader may skip these pages and come back to them after reading the book or read them now before plunging into the fascinating history that follows. My goals are simply to suggest some general conclusions ...

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pp. xxiii-xxv

As I was researching and writing this book, my daughters, Ava and Kate, were born. I want to thank them first and foremost. Although they undoubtedly slowed my progress on this project by enriching my life with their antics, laughter, and questions, they constantly, if unwittingly, reminded me that the historical actors about whom I was writing had far fuller lives than ...

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Introduction. Justice, Ethnicity, and Gender in Twentieth-Century Guatemala

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pp. 1-26

When Pedro Coroy shot his wife, Lorenza Pata, in their Santa Cruz Ba-lanya home in 1913, local authorities quickly investigated the incident and prosecuted Coroy. Although the couple would have preferred the episode be forgotten, the thirty-three-year-old, illiterate jornalero (day or wage laborer) ...

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1. Dictators, Indígenas, and the Legal System: Intersections of Race and Crime

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pp. 27-55

More than any other institution—including schools and the military—courts were where competing views of nation, identity, and citizenship were contested. Although some historians have argued that early twentieth- century courts were illegitimate and anemic,¹ my study indicates otherwise. As one of the few venues that facilitated the integration of indígenas and ...

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2. “Rough and Thorny Terrain”: Moonshine, Gender, and Ethnicity

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pp. 56-89

On December 3, 1932, authorities in Quetzaltenango discovered a clandestine still that was producing 250 bottles of aguardiente a day in the Administración de Rentas (Treasury Administration) building. Remarkably, this was not the first such offense. Perhaps surmising that such production was best disguised in the entrails of the very institution that was most concerned ...

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3. “Productive Activity”: Female Vendors and Ladino Authorities in the Market

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pp. 90-117

When a regidor caught Isabel Bajxac “monopolizing” fruit and other goods en cantidad mayor (wholesale) in the San Martín plaza early on the morning of February 11, 1935, the forty-eight-year-old, illiterate, indigenous vendor claimed she was unaware of the law restricting such sales to the afternoon.¹ A few months later, when the regidor arrested Bajxac for the same ...

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4. Unnatural Mothers and Reproductive Crimes: Infanticide, Abortion, and Cross-Dressing

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pp. 118-152

Th e National Police and other authorities approached infanticide and abortion as crimes against motherhood, reflecting rhetoric elsewhere in Latin America, while highland women put fathers and husbands on trial for these acts. Of the fifteen cases of infanticide and abortion in the department of Chimaltenango from 1900 to 1925,¹ nine of the defendants were males and ...

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5. Wives in Danger and Dangerous Women: Domestic and Female Violence

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pp. 153-190

When the “Macheteador de Mujeres” struck in May 1931 (figure 5.1), the police described one of his victims as “a woman of indigenous race, with various grave injuries on the right side of her face and neck, similar to the way the forearms and hands were horribly slashed. It was clear that all the injuries had been caused by a machete.”¹ The nickname and press cover-...

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6. Honorable Subjects: Public Insults, Family Feuds, and State Power

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pp. 191-224

To read Guatemalan criminal records from the first half of the twentieth century, one gets the impression that highlanders—indígenas and ladinos alike—were both extremely foul-mouthed and excessively sensitive. Defamation and slander cases consumed an inordinate amount of the municipal legal system’s time, and many such exchanges never made it to the courts. ...

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Conclusion. Emboldened and Constrained

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pp. 225-239

The legal system and particularly criminal litigation reveal much about the governments under which they operated. To encourage the populace to embrace the mantra of order and progress, dictatorial governments in Guatemala engendered a desire for order by creating threats of disorder. Decrying and criminalizing the methods and in some cases even the very existence ...


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pp. 240-262


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pp. 263-294


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pp. 295-298


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pp. 299-326


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pp. 327-335

E-ISBN-13: 9780292748699
E-ISBN-10: 0292748698
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292748682
Print-ISBN-10: 029274868X

Page Count: 363
Illustrations: 31 photos, 2 maps, 14 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series
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OCLC Number: 867739838
MUSE Marc Record: Download for I Ask for Justice

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sex discrimination in criminal justice administration -- Guatemala -- History -- 20th century.
  • Maya women -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Guatemala -- History -- 20th century.
  • Maya women -- Crimes against -- Guatemala -- History -- 20th century.
  • Maya women -- Guatemala -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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