restricted access 11. Neoliberal Violence: Social Suffering in Guatemala’s Postwar Era - Peter Benson and Edward F. Fischer
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146 / DeHart an authentic indigenous identity—a distinction also elaborated by José Oscar Barrera Nuñez in this volume. This effort to represent Mayan culture in opposition to Western traditions was also present in CDRO’s institutional Uk’ux Wuj (the founding document). Therein CDRO describes the source of Mayan knowledge in distinct contrast to Western liberalism: “The global focus is based on the Mayan worldview, which is different from the liberal Western vision that separates out problems and studies them in a specialized way,thereby losing sight of their interrelatedness as causes and as effects” (1998b:18). In these juxtapositions between Mayan and Western approaches, CDRO has framed Mayan culture as an internal essence that is defined by its difference from Western ways. CDRO differentiated between the two cultural spaces by juxtaposing a unique Mayan moral economy defined by collective property and mutual support against the private property and individual accumulation of Western society. CDRO also distinguished between Mayan ways of knowing, identified as a holistic understanding of cause and effect, and the positivist, scientific method used in the West. There is nothing especially novel about CDRO’s efforts to position Mayan culture in opposition to Western traditions; indeed, the notion of ethnic difference hinges on that very distinction. CDRO’s efforts are unique, however, in their insistence that Mayan development methods are more efficient, effective , and, thus, legitimate than Western initiatives. In other words, they assert that Mayan techniques provide a more useful means of achieving development within the rural communities because of the refusal to “separate out problems” in favor of exploring the “interrelatedness” of the causes and effects of underdevelopment. It was exactly this purportedly superior, holistic approach that Reilly praised in his glowing assessment of the CDRO project and which made CDRO a poster child for indigenous development efforts. When CDRO embarked on plans to build a regional training center in 1999, the center’s blueprints were admired by Spain’s Queen Elizabeth, who visited CDRO during her trip through Guatemala. When CDRO’s training center was completed a year later, its inaugural event was attended by the Spanish ambassador to Guatemala and representatives from the United Nations, the Inter-American Foundation, and the Soros Foundation. However, the same qualities that made CDRO attractive to global development agencies produced problems for CDRO’s local cultural authority.Indeed, conflicts between CDRO, its council members, and traditional authorities in San Pedro show how community members have debated what counts as authentic Mayan culture and whether the pop—as a development method—can be considered a legitimate example of it. These debates were important to community members because, ultimately, they determined who could speak Fried Chicken or Pop? / 147 for the indigenous community and who was entitled to control over the resources that community development projects captured. These struggles present a clear picture of how neoliberal processes, such as corporate franchise expansion and privatization, shaped local understandings of the development process. In these discussions, the distance between a collective Mayan community and a profit-driven Western capitalist becomes difficult to measure. I would argue, in fact, that it is not so much the substance of these two positions or the distance between them that is important, as both positions were mutually imbricated. Instead, what was important was the ability to locate oneself on the side of the community in order to claim to occupy the moral high ground of indigenous authenticity. Fried Chicken or Pop? Ironically, in the Totonicapán community where the pop method was perhaps proven most successful, it also served as a point of contention among local organizers . In many ways, it was the pop’s fame as an innovative community development model that was responsible for creating these tensions between CDRO and a few of its community affiliates in San Pedro. I got a glimpse of these tensions firsthand when I went to interview Juan García at his home in San Pedro on a rainy June day in 1999. By this time, Juan had retired from the community council president post that he had occupied when he led me and Emilio on a tour of San Pedro’s community hall several years prior. Now, although he remained active in the community council , he had changed his tune about CDRO considerably. We sat in a storeroom located just off the main production room of his large house. While we talked, I watched his four employees stretch printed cotton-polyester fabric over long work tables...


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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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