The Guatemalan journalist Luis Solano says the phrase was borrowed from fas-
cist Spain. Often appearing as graffiti in the 1970s and early 1980s, it incited
book burning, attacks on those deemed intellectuals, and murder. It was closely
associated with the right wing party that overthrew President Jacobo Arbenz in
1954, the National Liberation Movement (MLN).
The percentage of Guatemalans who are identified or identify themselves as in-
digenous ranges from 40 to 80 percent of the population, depending on who
is counting. This identity is marked culturally, through language (over twenty
indigenous languages are spoken in Guatemala), dress (often hand-loomed
and distinctive for each town), worldview, employment (stereotypically peas-
ant farmers, retaining a close identification with the land and corn production),
and class status (statistically indigenous people are overrepresented among the
poorest of the poor) as well as through explicit self-making enunciated in po-
litical claims (for example, a person might speak only Spanish, wear Western
clothing, make their living as a lawyer, drive a fancy car, and practice Evangeli-
cal Christianity and simultaneously claim indigenous identity and agitate for
indigenous rights). It is also lived raciologically through assumed phenotypic
marks that often translate into discriminatory practices (a person may not iden-
tify as indigenous but still suffer racism). The word “Maya,” originally attached
to pre-Columbian peoples by foreign scholars, has been taken up by cultural re-
vitalization activists to name modern-day indigenous people. Because the term
“Maya” is associated with a specific political project with roots in particular
locales, not all indigenous people identify with it. However, through struggle,
it has become the politically correct word for nonindigenous people to use, al-
though its deployment may mask complex assumptions of identity, which I will
explore throughout. Nonindigenous Guatemalans may also be called ladinos,
mestizos, criollos, or other terms. “Gringo” is a disrespectful term for someone
from North America or Europe.
Col. Carlos Castillo Armas replaced him, beginning a long succession of mostly
unelected military leaders. The coup in Guatemala was a laboratory, a testing
ground for many modern propaganda techniques, including recordings of air-
planes broadcast to make it seem like the invading force was much larger than it
was. It was also a two-faced affair: one public, the government’s anti-Communist
interests; the other private, the United Fruit Company’s economic projects.
The dirty wars of Latin America turned “disappear” into a subjectless transi-
tive verb, meaning an unnamed agent wipes away all signs of another human’s
existence, removing them physically from their home, school, or work to some-
place from whence they seldom, if ever, reappear, even as a corpse. There is no
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