restricted access 10. Fried Chicken or Pop? Redefining Development and Ethnicity in Totonicap
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134 / Bocek About twice a month the mayor orders a neighbor fined or locked up in the little basement jail. Offenses include drunkenness, fighting, beating or frightening one’s children, denying the obvious paternity of an out-of-wedlock baby, and cussing out the mayor (kuk’yaq itzel taq tzij puwi’). There is no due process , and these summary judgments clearly violate Tierra Blancans’ constitutional rights. Yet there is widespread support for the mayor. Released prisoners profess shame, not resentment. A 33-year-old neighbor explained: Yes, I was in jail for two days. It was hard. I was hungry, even though my wife sent my food to me. And it was cold. But I was in jail because of fighting. I fought the ajch’amiyab’ (councilmen) when they put me in jail. . . . It’s because I drank so much tzam re siwan (liquor from the canyon , or home brew). I was a drunk; that’s why the mayor ordered the men to put me in there. When 12-year-olds were caught pick-pocketing in another town, the mayor of Tierra Blanca sentenced them to a week of hauling rocks, and the neighbors heartily approved: “It’s good that they work. They’ll work hard all week, so that they have time to think about their sin, so that they know that here there is law.” Law and order as understood in Tierra Blanca do not necessarily extend to crimes as defined by the penal code. A neighbor was caught with 2,700 marijuana plants in his milpa above the Pan-American Highway. A neighbor related: I was going up to my upper milpa; it was early, 5:00 in the morning, when I found myself with a policeman on the trail. A policeman up there on our land in the dark! That was frightening. He saw me; he spoke to me and asked whose land was that over there? I was afraid, so I said I didn’t know.The policeman said,“Isn’t that Rubén’s land?”“Maybe it is; I don’t know,” I said. It is his land, of course! He planted marijuana because he was told that he could make a lot of money. . . . I don’t know where the seeds came from, from Ladinos or maybe Mexicans. . . .Then later more police came and Guardia Hacienda; they seized him and took him and his nephew, too. They burned some of the plants right there. The rest they took,almost 2,000 plants were carried off by them.I say they are just going to sell it themselves. Many Tierra Blancans were unaware that planting marijuana is against the law, despite billboards along the Pan-American Highway and radio announcements . At least half a dozen neighbors expected I would stock seeds for mari- Everyday Politics in a K’iche’ Village / 135 juana just like vegetables and trees.“Can’t you get some?” they badgered.“How is planting marijuana against the law?” So they were shocked to learn that Rubén could be in the slammer for a long time. One of them observed: It’s true then that to plant marijuana is prohibited. But Rubén hadn’t known that; he just planted it because one makes a lot of money. Isn’t it better to be poor like the rest of us? He’s gone to prison; he’ll never come out of there now. And he has his wife, his children. . . . It’s said that if he paid a lawyer to go before the judge and present papers for him, he could get out. But that takes a lot of money. If he had sold the marijuana he would have the money now. Despite acute concern over their lack of land, Tierra Blancans do not sympathize with land seizures elsewhere in Guatemala by campesinos like themselves . Owing to a pervasive distrust of outsiders, they are suspicious of the organizers ’ motives. A 53-year-old neighbor was looking at newspaper photos of demonstrations by CONIC, the Coordinadora Nacional Indígena y Campesina , in February 1995: These people don’t have land, they say. And now their baby has just died! They have no homes, they say, and of course the baby got sick and died, living in the street under the sun during the day, in the cold at night. Their lives are so difficult (k’ax ri kik’aslemal). But why are they staying there in front of the National Palace? That...


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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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