Indigenous workers i Guatemala City and the Mayan Movement

Report from Juliana Edith Turqui, Master in Peace and Conflict Transformation, University of Tromsø
Project 200400797-15

Financial support to the project
“The Urban Indigenous workers in Guatemala City and their relation with the Mayan Movement” A marginalized population from the political social and cultural scene of Guatemala?

My thesis project portrays the problem of indigenous representation in Guatemala`s social and political life. The aim is to describe and analyse the dynamics of representation in which social and political actors play a role.Indigenous peoples may experience political and social marginalization when they do not see themselves and their demands in the representations made by ladinos (non-indigenous people), but what happen when those others that represents them are Mayas? The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between urban indigenous peoples that work in public markets and organizations of the “Mayan Movement”. In addition, social and political participation of urban indigenous workers will be explored as well.

Several reasons leaded me to write about urban indigenous workers in Guatemala. First, there is little knowledge about how these peoples interact politically in their place of work. Secondly, there is no account if they relate with Mayan organizations. And thirdly, being in Guatemala in different academic and cultural events where Mayan leaders and members of organizations give speeches, one can notice that they refer in their discourse to an indigenous problematic that is related to the Maya identity. That problematic is about indigenous access to collective rights as land, language, self-representation etc, but do urban indigenous workers consider that as a problem? What they consider as their problem?

Articles in the local newspapers showed that urban indigenous workers have been facing, since long time ago, diverse conflicts with the municipality and with leaders from internal labour organizations. Strikes and demonstrations have been taking place in the city to protest against governmental measures and to make public denunciations. Those facts lead me to understand that urban indigenous workers are seeking attention; they have a story to tell and a social reality to show.

The working hypothesis was that it may be possible to find a gap between the Mayan Movement discourse and its bases. Even though Maya leaders include all indigenous peoples in their public discourse, whether from the highlands or the city, they may have no knowledge about what is the problematic of urban indigenous workers. In consequence, it may be difficult to defend urban indigenous workers rights Maya organizations may have neither connection with them nor with markets labour organizations.

What constitutes an ethnic demand seems to depend on circumstances and context. Are the urban indigenous workers demands considered as ethnic demands?

How ethnicity can be misrepresented both by indigenous and non indigenous people is also going to be examined. As a result, this paper will bring arguments to explore urban ethnicity in the dynamics of an interethnic society.

The financial support I received from the Sami Centre was indispensable in this project. It allowed me to stay in Guatemala City doing fieldwork during 3 months that was the necessary period to get in contact with the people and do the interviews. The stipend also allowed me to obtain the relevant books and academic publications used in my master paper. I am very grateful to the Sami Centre for their economical support.

Link to thesis – BIBSYS

About Siri Johnsen

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