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Mayas in Postwar Guatemala

Harvest of Violence Revisited

Edited by Walter E. Little and Timothy J. Smithe, with contributions from David

Publication Year: 2009

Like the original Harvest of Violence, published in 1988, this volume reveals how the contemporary Mayas contend with crime, political violence, internal community power struggles, and the broader impact of transnational economic and political policies in Guatemala. However, this work, informed by long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Mayan communities and commitment to conducting research in Mayan languages, places current anthropological analyses in relation to Mayan political activism and key Mayan intellectuals’ research and criticism. Illustrating specifically how Mayas in this post-war period conceive of their social and political place in Guatemala, Mayas working in factories, fields, and markets, and participating in local, community-level politics provide critiques of the government, the Maya movement, and the general state of insecurity and social and political violence that they continue to face on a daily basis. Their critical assessments and efforts to improve political, social, and economic conditions illustrate their resiliency and positive, nonviolent solutions to Guatemala’s ongoing problems that deserve serious consideration by Guatemalan and US policy makers, international non-government organizations, peace activists, and even academics studying politics, social agency, and the survival of indigenous people.
Abigail E. Adams / José Oscar Barrera Nuñez / Peter Benson / Barbara Bocek / Jennifer L. Burrell / Robert M. Carmack / Monica DeHart / Edward F. Fischer / Liliana Goldín / Walter E. Little / Judith M. Maxwell / J. Jailey Philpot-Munson / Brenda Rosenbaum / Timothy J. Smith / David Stoll

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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Introduction: Revisiting Harvest of Violence in Postwar Guatemala - Walter E. Little

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pp. 1-15

Guatemala has fascinated popular, mainstream imaginations for years. It is the home of the Mayas, tropical forests, rugged landscapes, and wild animals. These have attracted travel writers, tourists, and television and movie producers for decades. In 1935’s The New Adventures of Tarzan (also known as Tarzan in Guatemala), Tarzan recovered a high-powered explosive that “could threaten ...

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1. Democracy Is Dissent: Political Confrontations and Indigenous Mobilization in Solol

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pp. 16-29

This ethnographic portrait of rural democracy in postwar Guatemala stems from the first complete study of Sololá, in which I offer a critical interpretation of Pan-Mayan activism through a study of a conflict between two pre-dominantly indigenous political groups. The history of a local “anti-party” of Mayan activists, who controlled both the official municipal government and ...

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2. Reviving Our Spirits: Revelation, Re-encuentro, and Retroceso in Post–Peace Accords Verapaz - Abigail E. Adams

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pp. 30-41

On December 19, 2002, hundreds of people accompanied the body of Antonio Pop Caal in a procession to the cemetery of Coban, Alta Verapaz. His funeral, a traditionalist Mayan ceremony, began with the procession, accompanied by Mayan musicians playing sones on the chirrimia, violin, and tun. People carried offerings of candles, money....

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3. Peace under Fire: Understanding Evangelical Resistance to the Peace Process in a Postwar Guatemalan Town - J. Jailey Philpot-Munson

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pp. 42-53

Over ten years after the signing of the Peace Accords, Guatemala might appear to be out of the danger zone. The country, at first glance, has slowly but successfully negotiated manifold obstacles to democratic transition after 36 years of state-sponsored violence and civil conflict. To be sure, things have improved. Once covert and mercilessly targeted by military violence, human ...

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4. Living and Selling in the “New Violence” of Guatemala - Walter E. Little

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pp. 54-66

Following the 1996 Peace Accords, Mayan vendors began to complain of a “new violence,” commonly considered random criminal acts. By naming street crime—theft, drug deals, assaults, and gang activity—a new violence, they made connections to la violencia (the intensification of the Guatemalan military’s counterinsurgency campaign in the late 1970s and early 1980s). Like ...

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5. Everyday Violence of Exclusion: Women in Precarious Neighborhoods of Guatemala City - Liliana Gold

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pp. 67-83

Amelia’s life epitomizes that of many women living in precarious neighborhoods in Guatemala City and all of Latin America. Her childhood was one of deprivation. Her family lived in a small, rented room, where “they turned the electricity on at 6 p.m. and off by 11 p.m., and there was just a trickle of water coming out of the faucet.” She remembers loving school but having to quit....

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6. Bilingual Bicultural Education: Best Intentions across a Cultural Divide - Judith M. Maxwell

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pp. 84-95

Yes, Kaqchikel Bingo has come to Guatemalan classrooms. This is a breakthroughon several levels: using an indigenous language in the classroom by teachers and students, using didactic materials in a Mayan language, and moving bilingual education from a transitional to a life-complement model...

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7. Intergenerational Confl ict in the Postwar Era - Jennifer L. Burrell

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pp. 96-109

On October 28, 2003, during the annual fiesta, J. M., a young man in his early thirties, was killed by two members of the National Civil Police (PNC), the force charged with keeping order and guarding citizen safety after the signing of the Peace Accords. Police claimed that he was a marero (gang member) and a dangerous criminal; after an altercation on the street, the police fired eight ...

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8. Desires and Imagination: The Economy of Humanitarianism in Guatemala - Jos

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pp. 110-123

Emily was a 20-year-old woman from the United States who had many suitors in town. “Que bonitos ojos tienes!” men often said to her to make reference to the beauty of her eyes, or they made other compliments to allude to her straight brown hair or to the characteristic smile on her face. Her genial attitude and openness to talk with anyone seemed to captivate local men of similar ...

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9. Everyday Politics in a K’iche’ Village of Totonicapán, Guatemala - Barbara Bocek

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pp. 124-138

Tierra Blanca is a K’iche’-speaking village near the Pan-American Highway, in the western Guatemalan highlands. I lived there for three years in the 1990s while working as a Peace Corps extensionist and saw my neighbors’ daily reactions to the social and political turmoil accompanying the waning years of the civil war. Though far less affected by the conflict than the Ixils interviewed by ...

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10. Fried Chicken or Pop? Redefining Development and Ethnicity in Totonicap

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pp. 139-150

In the summer of 1996, my fieldwork with the Cooperation for Rural Development of the West (CDRO) took me to the organization’s self-declared star community: San Pedro. Given that this trip occurred at a relatively early moment in my 12-year history of ethnographic research on indigenous development projects in rural Totonicapán, I was not yet a regular visitor to San Pedro ...

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11. Neoliberal Violence: Social Suffering in Guatemala’s Postwar Era - Peter Benson and Edward F. Fischer

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pp. 151-166

“Things are better now,” it is commonly said in Guatemala, “not like before.” The present is compared to la violencia. In this era after the wide-ranging Peace Accords, the 36-year internal armed conflict has become a touchstone for measuring and evaluating an ordinary sense of things. Dangers and uncertainties of a previous era, vividly remembered by many, are no longer an...

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12. Harvest of Conviction: Solidarity in Guatemalan Scholarship, 1988–2008 - David Stoll

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pp. 167-180

This volume’s contributors are, like other Guatemala scholars, in search of moral direction. True north used to be the 1954 CIA coup and the army- guerrilla conflict that drove Guatemala’s history to the 1996 Peace Accords. Like any good narrative of commitment, the army versus the people paradigm that defined so much scholarship was both a plausible description of empirical ...

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Conclusions - Robert M. Carmack

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pp. 181-193

In order to truly assess developments in Guatemala with respect to its Mayan peoples since the original Harvest of Violence was written, it will be useful to review precisely why that volume was necessary, what it revealed about conditions in Guatemala at the time of writing, and the key issues it raised that are relevant to the Mayas in Postwar...


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pp. 195-211

List of Contributors

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pp. 213-215


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pp. 217-219

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382438
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817355364

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mayas -- Guatemala -- Government relations.
  • Mayas -- Guatemala -- Politics and government.
  • Mayas -- Crimes against -- Guatemala
  • Guatemala -- History -- 1945-1985.
  • Guatemala -- History -- 1985-.
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