R I C H A R D A S H B Y W I L S O N
Final Comments
Making Rights Meaningful for Mayas
Reflections on Culture, Rights, and Power
T
his volume makes a valuable contribution to the debate on human rights
in the Maya region, especially in its inclusion of a variety of perspec-
tives on how human rights are appropriated, resisted, or just plain ignored
within Maya communities, and in the empirical detail it presents on how
Mayas strategize politically within broader relations of state power and
the international human rights framework. Uniquely, it combines the dis-
cussion of human rights among Mayas in both Chiapas and Guatemala,
whereas in the past these constituted two separate conversations. This is an
extremely important development that could change the field of Maya stud-
ies as we know it. Evaluating the impact of human rights across the Mayan
region allows deeper insights than focusing on one set of experiences alone,
especially given the historic exchanges of political ideas between Mexican
and Guatemalan Maya groups. The fact that social analysts have come to
think in this way is a result of the concrete political interactions in the 1980s
and 1990s between Mayas in Chiapas and tens of thousands of displaced
Mayas from the war in Guatemala. It is also a consequence of the similarities
in the more long-term experiences of marginality and social exclusion of
Mayas in both Mexico and Guatemala.
The volume contains an admirable historical depth in its analysis of
thirty years of human rights movements, from their origins in the teachings
of the liberation theology of the 1970s, to the quest for democratization and
accountability in the 1980s, to the language of indigenous rights in the
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