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Gilberto Arriaza and Arturo Arias

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Claiming Collective Memory: Maya Languages and Civil Rights

Gilberto Arriaza and Arturo Arias’ article on indigenous identities in Guatemala reminds us that language rights can play a decisive role in civil rights struggles. The emerging Maya coalition represents an interesting convergence. Some groups have surfaced as autonomous nationalist movements divorced from the revolutionary process. Others, in the shadow of the URNG, which is now transforming itself into a legally recognized political party, are accused of being part of its former support base. Yet each shares the platform of seeking a distinct Maya identity, a new way of being indigenous. Each is working in its own way to expand its political space. Still, all must better understand that despite contradictions and stumbling blocks, a democratic path leading to the constitution of a multinational, multiethnic nation is the only way to pressure from below a racist state apparatus and political class that will only gradually be dismantled. To re-create a Maya coalition from the ruins and fragments of other times, identities, and spaces, it will be necessary to bring the wounds of the recent past to achieve closure. The Maya movement has emerged from the peripheral silence to which racism and colonization condemned it. Now, Mayas must go one step further. They need to reclaim Maya identity as a tool for restructuring not only their own society, but also the nation as a whole.

civil rights — Maya — Guatemala, Guatemala — Maya — civil rights, Indians of Central America — Maya — Guatemala — civil rights

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 25, No. 3 (1998): 70-79