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Global Maya

Work and Ideology in Rural Guatemala

Liliana R. Goldín

Publication Year: 2011

In the central highland Maya communities of Guatemala, the demands ofthe global economy have become a way of life. This book explores how ruralpeoples experience economic and cultural change as their country joins theglobal market, focusing on their thoughts about work and sustenance as a way oflearning about Guatemala’s changing economy.

For more than a decade, Liliana Goldín observed in highland towns boththe intensification of various forms of production and their growing links towider markets. In this first book to compare economic ideology across a rangeof production systems, she examines how people make a living and how theythink about their options, practices, and constraints. Drawing on interviews andsurveys—even retellings of traditional narratives—she reveals how contemporaryMaya respond to the increasingly globalized yet locally circumscribed conditionsin which they work.

Goldín presents four case studies: cottage industries devoted to garmentproduction, vegetable growing for internal and border markets reached throughdirect commerce, crops grown for export, and wage labor in garment assemblyfactories. By comparing generational and gendered differences among workers,she reveals not only complexities of change but also how these complexities arereflected in changing attitudes, understandings, and aspirations that characterizepeople’s economic ideology. Further, she shows that as rural people take ondiverse economic activities, they also reinterpret their views on such mattersas accumulation, cooperation, competition, division of labor, and communitysolidarity.

Global Maya explores global processes in local terms, revealing the interplayof traditional values, household economics, and the inescapable conditions ofdemographic growth, a shrinking land base, and a global economy always lookingfor cheap labor. It offers a wealth of new insights not only for Maya scholarsbut also for anyone concerned with the effects of globalization on the Third World.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-2

The list of those who have helped me in this long-term project is extensive. I have been fortunate to be welcome in so many Guatemalan homes and workplaces and to have had so many people grant me valuable time, teaching me about the ways they solve the problems of making a living and the ways they view the world. The list includes many people...

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pp. 3-10

With the elusive goal of disentangling the “webs of significance”1 in the organization of the markets and plazas of western Guatemala, I found myself about twenty years ago traveling back and forth between highland towns more than I would have liked. I spent considerable amounts of my allocated twelve to fourteen months of fieldwork following market cycles in the departments of Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán. In each town, I...

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1. Global Highlands: In Context, in Theory, and in Practice

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pp. 11-42

In 1950, the World Bank sent a commission to Guatemala to assess the potential of the country for economic development. The report, published in 1951 in the Canadian Journal of Economic and Political Science, was entitled “The Economic Development of Guatemala.” It also was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Applied Anthropology in Montreal in June of 1951 (Britnell 1958). In the study, it...

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2. Economic Ideology in Culture: Oral Tradition

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pp. 43-60

Attitudes toward the economy are expressed in diverse ways. In this book, I document such attitudes from conversations with hundreds of individuals, from focused interviews, and from open-ended questions in large surveys. I show that these attitudes permeate systems of values and meanings of individuals and are expressed in multiple contexts. In this chapter, I focus on a...

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3. Economic Ideology in Petty Industrial Production: Tailors of San Francisco el Alto

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pp. 61-96

When I first arrived in San Francisco el Alto in 1980, I stayed with a family who had a shop near the bus terminal, on one of the main streets, about three blocks from the main plaza where the church and the enclosed market for textiles are located. They had a large traditional home with separate...

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4. Economic Ideology in Petty Commodity Agricultural Production: Gardeners of San Pedro Almolonga

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pp. 97-118

In this chapter I discuss the formation of economic ideology in the context of agriculture and petty commodity agricultural production in Almolonga, department of Quetzaltenango. The case I present does not fi t neatly into the category of producers of nontraditional agricultural exports (NTAE), but neither does...

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5. Economic Ideology in the Production of Nontraditional Agricultural Export Crops

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pp. 119-135

Nontraditional agricultural exports (NTAE) were introduced in Guatemala toward the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s as part of structural adjustment efforts. In 2006 nontraditional exports as a whole (including apparel, agriculture, and others) represented US$4,731 million. Nontraditional agricultural exports represented revenue of US$108.5 million in 1990 and experienced a remarkable increase to US$655 million by...

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6. Economic Ideology in Industrial Wage Labor: From Land to Factory

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pp. 136-153

New economic opportunities in the form of factory work have truly changed the social and economic geography of the rural areas of the central highlands.1 The main actors in the world of the factory worker are quite different from those on the social map of the agricultural producer or the petty industrial producer....

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7. It Takes Work to Shape Our Thinking: Global Guatemala in Local Terms

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pp. 154-173

The four economic strategies discussed in this book provide examples of ways in which the rural people of Guatemala have been able to make effective use of their limited opportunities for economic betterment. As people have pursued new export options or intensifi ed production of small-scale industrial/artisan and petty commodity agricultural products, they have...

Appendix A: A Complete Transcription of Three Examples of Oral Tradition

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pp. 175-201

Appendix B: A Summary of the San Francisco el Alto Case Studies

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pp. 202-206

Appendix C: Selected Items from Survey Research

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pp. 207-210


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pp. 211-219


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pp. 221-238


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pp. 239-242

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780816501175
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529872

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2011