Maya after War

Maya after War: Conflict, Power, and Politics in Guatemala

JENNIFER L. BURRELL
Copyright Date: 2013
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/745674
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    Maya after War
    Book Description:

    Guatemala's thirty-six-year civil war culminated in peace accords in 1996, but the postwar transition has been marked by continued violence, including lynchings and the rise of gangs, as well as massive wage-labor exodus to the United States. For the Mam Maya municipality of Todos Santos Cuchumatán, inhabited by a predominantly indigenous peasant population, the aftermath of war and genocide resonates with a long-standing tension between state techniques of governance and ancient community-level power structures that incorporated concepts of kinship, gender, and generation. Showing the ways in which these complex histories are interlinked with wartime and enduring family/class conflicts,Maya after Warprovides a nuanced account of a unique transitional postwar situation, including the complex influence of neoliberal intervention.

    Drawing on ethnographic field research over a twenty-year period, Jennifer L. Burrell explores the after-war period in a locale where community struggles span culture, identity, and history. Investigating a range of tensions from the local to the international, Burrell employs unique methodologies, including mapmaking, history workshops, and an informal translation of a historic ethnography, to analyze the role of conflict in animating what matters to Todosanteros in their everyday lives and how the residents negotiate power. Examining the community-based divisions alongside national postwar contexts,Maya after Warconsiders the aura of hope that surrounded the signing of the peace accords, and the subsequent doubt and waiting that have fueled unrest, encompassing generational conflicts. This study is a rich analysis of the multifaceted forces at work in the quest for peace, in Guatemala and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-75375-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    On December 29, 1996, I spent much of the morning in the central park in Todos Santos, a Mam Mayan town tucked into the Cuchumatanes mountain range in northwestern Guatemala. I was chatting with a group of young community leaders who were responsible for decorating the plaza in front of the church for the local celebration of the end of the country’s thirty-six-year civil war. As they walked by with banners, paper decorations, pine needles, and other materials that would be used to adorn the area, I joined them to help with the preparations. They were looking forward to the...

  5. CHAPTER 1 War and La Violencia in Todos Santos: Accounting for the Past
    (pp. 23-37)

    I went to Todos Santos for the first time with two vivid images in my mind that defined the town for me as a particular place on the map and as a place with a wartime history. Both of the images were from Olivia Carrescia’s 1989 film,Todos Santos: The Survivors. The first was a pile of stones in the street, meant to block army vehicles from reaching the town center in 1982. The second was the burned-out hull of a school bus, its jagged edges like a scar on the village landscape. The roadblock was long gone by the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Localities in Conflict: Spaces and the Politics of Mapmaking
    (pp. 38-55)

    Localities are always political and struggled over. This is especially true among the rural Maya, where specific conceptions and local knowledge of space are central to the construction of identity and subjectivity. An individual is Mayan in part due to her relationship to a particular place, constructed from the memories and experiences that connect people through shared knowledge: the familymilpa, the secret hiding places of childhood, the out-of-the-way courting grounds of teenagers, and the sacred peaks and valleys. Each plays a part in what it means to be a Todosantero. Because locality is shaped so precisely and in relation...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Histories and Silences
    (pp. 56-85)

    Marx famously wrote inThe Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living” (1852). Perhaps at no time is this truer than after war. But certain versions of the past weigh more than others, and in the urgency to create official narratives—those that will speak to the vast and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Reimagining Fiesta: Migration, Culture, and Neoliberalism
    (pp. 86-114)

    “As long as we’re still poor, peace hasn’t arrived for us,” a Todosantero told me, when the town formally marked war’s end in December 1996. This echoed the sentiment of the graffiti on the wall in downtown Huehuetenango that read: “No hay paz sin trabajo” (There’s no peace without work). These words reflected the historical inequality and structural violence later identified by the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) as crucial to understanding the genesis and escalation of Guatemala’s war. Although it stopped short of calling for reform, the peace process was meant to provide mechanisms for addressing these circumstances, as...

  9. CHAPTER 5 After Lynching
    (pp. 115-137)

    Saison Tetsuo Yamahiro, a Japanese tourist, and Edgar Castellanos, a Guatemalan bus driver, were lynched by an angry mob during the Saturday market in Todos Santos on April 29, 2000. Rumors of an international satanic cult gathering in Huehuetenango had contributed to a panic fueled by local radio stations and word of mouth. In the tense atmosphere that resulted, villagers attacked and killed Yamahiro after he photographed and reached out to calm a crying child nestled on his mother’s back. Castellanos, who ran when villagers boarded his bus to look for children they suspected were hidden there, was presumed guilty,...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Life and Death of a Rural Marero: Generations in Conflict
    (pp. 138-163)

    On October 28, 2003, during the final days leading up to the annual All Saints’ Day fiesta, Alfonso,¹ 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. The police fired eight shots into the man’s back, claiming afterward that he was a gang member, or “marero,” and a dangerous criminal. He died shortly after. Following his death, Mayor Julián Mendoza Bautista requested that the police leave Todos Santos, citing concerns for their safety during...

  11. EPILOGUE: Waiting after War
    (pp. 164-168)

    In Todos Santos on December 29, 1996, the recent past and shared complicity in the shape and form of local violence hovered over the town’s celebration of war’s end, a reflection of how the war had influenced Todosanteros’ lives in unalterable ways and continued to do so. Although the celebration was meant to be a triumphant festivity, acknowledging the official end of armed warfare naturally emphasized the fact of the war itself—and with it, the violence, local conflicts, and differences that were set into motion and continued to reverberate in new forms. Pressing one’s inked thumb onto a “peace...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 169-184)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-208)
  14. Index
    (pp. 209-221)