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"May All Rise Up": Highland Mobilization in Post-1954 Guatemala

Konefal, Betsy Ogburn (2005) "May All Rise Up": Highland Mobilization in Post-1954 Guatemala. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines a difficult subject in a difficult period: activism by indígenas before, during, and after la violencia (1978-1983), the most brutal years of Guatemala's 36-year civil war. It was a time of increasing oppositional politics, and in that context, indígenas from different regions began discussions and organizing focused on ethnic and class identities, indigenous culture, justice, and state violence. This study analyzes connections among activists from across the highlands and the complex and evolving ways in which they expressed demands in the name of the pueblo indígena. Organizing was diverse: indígenas struggled for economic and cultural rights, challenged the state, even fought for revolution, in markedly different ways, some articulated around ideas of race and ethnic identity, others in terms of class struggle. In the context of armed insurgency in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, these class- and race-based tendencies among indígenas have been interpreted as diametrically opposed, even revolutionary and counter-revolutionary. I focus instead on links that existed among different forms of organizing. The dissertation documents how indigenous students and intellectuals, catechists, campesino organizers, and revolutionaries shaped, challenged, and reinforced each other's struggles. State violence had profound and contradictory effects on indigenous organizing: initially state repression had a mobilizing and radicalizing effect on young indígenas and was a catalyst in the formation of broadening pan-Indian identity. As extreme terror reached the level of genocide, however, it had its intended effect, the demobilization of political opposition. The experiences of extreme state terror directed specifically against the indigenous population significantly altered relationships among indigenous activists, and an "indigenous" struggle became divorced from broader opposition movements. La violencia continues to shape how indígenas and Guatemalan society as a whole remember the past and how they mobilize, or not, in the present. Despite a distancing on the part of many Mayas from a history of activism, this study shows that Mayas were not bystanders in the transformations that preceded and accompanied the civil war. Activism by indígenas helped shape that war; that war shaped indigenous activism.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Konefal, Betsy
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAndrews, George Reidreid1@pitt.eduREID1
Committee Memberde la Fuente, Alejandro
Committee MemberLund, Joshua
Committee MemberPutnam, Lara
Date: 5 October 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 25 May 2005
Approval Date: 5 October 2005
Submission Date: 11 August 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: ethnic relations Guatemala; indigenous activism; Mayas government relations; Mayas Guatemala; political violence Guatemala
Other ID:, etd-08112005-100651
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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