1. Two works powerfully influenced my approach: Camus, Ser indígena en la Ciu-
dad de Guatemala, and Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis. Camus studied Maya in a
variety of gritty Guatemala City spaces; most work on this population focuses
on remote, rural locations. Cronon’s book views urban and rural phenomena as
a cohesive whole tied together in a complex matrix of relations of production
and exchange. ‘‘A city’s history,’’ writes Cronon, ‘‘must also be the history of its
human countryside, and of the natural world within which city and country are
both located. . . . Nature’s Metropolis and the Great West are in fact different
labels for a single region and the relationships that defined it. By erasing the false
boundary between them, we can begin to recover their common past’’ (19).
Numerous geographers have also influenced my thinking: Allen, Massey, and
Cochrane, Rethinking the Region; Diamond, Collapse; Harvey, The Condition of
Postmodernity; Lovell, Conquest and Survival in Colonial Guatemala; Sahlins,
Boundaries; and Soja, Postmodern Geographies. On social space, see Lefebvre,
The Production of Space, a work discussed further in chapter 3.
2. Statistics on Guatemala are unreliable and are rounded off throughout this book.
Of the 80 percent of the population that is impoverished, two in three live in
extreme poverty, earning under two dollars a day, and with chronic malnutrition.
Infrastructure, health care, and education are sorely lacking. Figures can be
found on the U.S. Department of State and World Bank websites: http://dev (see genderstats and hnpstats) and
3. Development is an organizing and central theme in Guatemalan culture, poli-
tics, and public discourse. The word itself, desarrollo, means so many things to
different people that it has been emptied of its real-world meaning. I make a key
distinction: infrastructure building vs. development. The first is just what the
word implies: a sewer, a school, a highway. Development, however, is a cultural
phenomenon: a sewer so we won’t be a backward nation, a school so children
learn middle-class values, a Pan-American Highway so we bring democracy and
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