Download Ch'orti'-Maya Survival in Eastern Guatemala: Indigeneity in by Brent E. Metz PDF

By Brent E. Metz

Scholars and Guatemalans have characterised jap Guatemala as "Ladino" or non-Indian. The Ch'orti' don't express the most obvious indigenous markers chanced on one of the Mayas of western Guatemala, Chiapas, and the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Few nonetheless communicate Ch'orti', such a lot now not put on distinct costume, and such a lot neighborhood agencies have lengthy been abandoned.

During the colonial interval, the Ch'orti' sector used to be adjoining to particularly brilliant monetary areas of primary the USA that incorporated significant alternate routes, mines, and dye plantations. within the 20th century Ch'orti's without delay skilled U.S.-backed dictatorships, a 36-year civil battle from begin to end, and Christian evangelization campaigns, all whereas their inhabitants has elevated exponentially. those have had great affects on Ch'orti' identities and cultures.

From 1991 to 1993, Brent Metz lived in 3 Ch'orti' Maya-speaking groups, studying the language, carrying out family surveys, and interviewing informants. He came upon Ch'orti's to be embarrassed about their indigeneity, and he used to be lucky to be current and concerned while many Ch'orti's joined the Maya move. He has persevered to extend his ethnographic study of the Ch'orti' each year ever on the grounds that and has witnessed how Ch'orti's are reformulating their heritage and identity.

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Who could help but laugh when I stumbled over backwards and flattened my own goalie in a soccer match, when my rat poison was seemingly so ineffective that mice tore open the package and ate it, when I swept with a family broom that actually was the discarded stub of an old one, and when Pedro sarcastically informed the ethnographer that Ch’orti’s are not capable of eating with silverware, but only their hands? ” When one young man saw that I had hair on my stomach, he In Search of Indigeneity in Eastern Guatemala 33 rushed to tell his brothers, who asked whether I had hair on my penis and if it was “standing” (wa’r), inciting laughter among the women present.

When the Spanish invaded in 1524, the Ch’orti’-speaking area ranged from northwestern El Salvador in the south to the Caribbean coast in the north, and the Departments of Chiquimula, Zacapa, and Izabal in the 40 Chapter Two west to sixty kilometers into western Honduras in the east (Feldman 1983: 149–51; Wisdom 1961:18–23; Girard 1949:38–40, 44). The sensationalistic chronicler Fuentes y Guzmán ([1699] 1933), who wrote the first comprehensive Spanish history of Guatemala, described how the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, after subduing the K’iche’ in 1524, sent an armed contingent to conquer eastern Guatemala.

I spent the first six weeks in Jocotán getting acquainted with town life and making short excursions into Ch’orti’ rural villages. I was looking for a suitable Ch’orti’ family willing to house me for several months, despite the townspeople’s insistence that it was foolishly dangerous to live among “the Indians,” especially with a cholera epidemic raging in neighboring Chiquimula. But I knew that I would never be able to learn Ch’orti’ and gain the campesinos’ confidence unless I lived with them. I visited sixteen of Jocotán’s stores to see what they had in stock, but after the first few owners gruffly gave me the cold shoulder when I refused to buy, the visits became tests of courtesy.

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