Fieldtrip to Guatemala and Nicaragua, Spring 2007

Report from Ingrid Hovda Lien, PhD student, Department of Political Science, University of Tromsø
Project 200700333-40

Fieldtrip to Guatemala and Nicaragua I

Fieldtrip to Guatemala and Nicaragua I

During 5 months my little family and I stayed in Guatemala and Nicaragua. I was collecting data for my doctoral thesis:” Multicultural citizenship in Latin America – a comparative study of the political situation for the indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Guatemala and Nicaragua.”

The multicultural state challenges the traditional way of understanding citizenship. In this PhD-project I am focusing on some of the challenges multicultural societies confronts concerning multicultural citizenship. How is it possible to threat all citizens as equals? Should citizenship be seen as something universal or is it in some cases necessary to give various groups differentiated citizenship rights? What will be the consequences of a differentiated citizenship for democratic institutions based on equality and individual rights?

I try to use this theoretical approach to analyse the political situation for the indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Guatemala. And I focus especially on indigenous rights, minority/majority rights and strategies for gaining political power, such as self-determination and political integration.

In this study I have four main issues that I wanted to analyze

  • What is the current political situation for the indigenous in these three countries, and what has led to this? (What is the role of the indigenous peoples in the processes?)
  • What kind of citizenship do the indigenous peoples in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Guatemala have, and why is this the case? What kind of citizenship do they ask for? (These are both theoretical and empirical interesting aspects with indigenous rights and challenges in multicultural societies)
  • In the indigenous quest for political power and indigenous rights, are decentralization, autonomy and self-determination of political power a solution?
  • What role do indigenous movements play in civil society? Is it possible to use this “channel” when fighting for political power
Fieldtrip to Guatemala and Nicaragua II

Fieldtrip to Guatemala and Nicaragua II

I started my stay in Guatemala, by returning back “home”, to the Institute of interethnic studies, at the San Carlos1. At the institute they provided me with the infrastructure, so that I could have my office there, and of course it was fundamental for me to be among friends and colleagues that have always been of enormously importance for my research and well being in Guatemala. In Guatemala I made interviews with other researcher from the region, politicians at a national level (mostly in the congress), local leaders and politicians and people in the organized civil society (in total I made more than 30 interviews). I am still analyzing these interviews, but as far as I have reach I have both relevant and interesting data from this time.

During my stay in Nicaragua, one month, I spent most of the time at the Caribbean cost in Bluefield’s and URACCAN. In Nicaragua I also was lucky to use the already existing good relations between the URACCAN and UiT, something that made it possible for me to have an office and colleges with whom I could discuss my research with.

I did not however only do interviews when I was in Guatemala, I also participated in different debates, conferences etc, and one of the most interesting on was “El tercera cumbre continental de pueblos y nacionalidades indigenous de Abya Yala”. This was the third continental meeting for indigenous people and took place in the sacred areas Tecpan, Guatemala. During a whole week more than 2000 indigenous people from all over Latin America was together, open air, to discuss “From resistance to political power”! Right to land, mineral resources, political power, cultural autonomy, gender issues and many other issues was discussed both in plenary and in work shops. The indigenous people that participated in this “cumbre” represented the grass root indigenous movement, and there where very few politicians and academics that where invited to participate, something shows some of the very strong resistance, that I experienced, against both academics and politicians. The indigenous peoples wanted to do it their way, but I am not sure that they actually had a very clear idea about what this “way” actually was. The process has started and is going through different stages in the various countries in the region, and one can see that experiences and trends are being passed by to new nations. So hopefully the indigenous movement will go from resistance to political power very soon!

Thanks to the Centre for Sami Studies for its support,


  1. I was “working” at this institution during my fieldwork in 2000 and 2001, for my master degree.Back


About Siri Johnsen

Hovedtillitsvalgt for Akademikerne UiT, Norges arktiske universitet, januar 2006-januar 2017
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