The EUC student academic journal (ESAJ) is an academic journal led by students of Erasmus University College in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The journal features papers written by students of the Liberal Arts & Sciences program, to whom it provides the opportunity to make papers written during the academic year available to a wider public.

The second edition of the EUC student academic journal was published in December, 2020, and contains contributions from the previous academic year.

2nd issue, academic year 2019/2020


About this issue

What to expect

Institutionalized Racism in Guatemala: Who are the “Communist Maya Indigenous”?

Hunger within the Communities that Feed Us – A Historical Materialist Approach

An Eye for a Nude Picture: Revenge Porn Criminalisation in the U.S.

Perverse Media: How Instagram limits the potential of feminist art

Constructing the Newsfeed Refugee: A Semiotic Analysis of Refugee Depictions on BBC & Al Jazeera Facebook Thumbnails

Making Sense of The Dead: Mexico’s Femicide through the lens of Rancière

Jurisdictional Immunities of the State
Germany vs Italy (Greece Intervening)

Animal All Too Human: The Gradual Decline of Human Animality and its Rediscovery

Souffles-Anfâs, Présence Africaine & Frantz Fanon: an Exploration of a Postcolonial Dialogue on National Culture

Critical Theory and its Adversary: Fascism in the works of Adorno and Horkheimer, Marcuse, Foucault, and Deleuze and Guattari

website developed by Philipp Spengler 

N. Rothwell Guerra
Institutionalized Racism in Guatemala: Who are the “Communist Maya Indigenous”?

This essay explores the lingering effects of imperialism in Guatemalan society, more commonly known as institutionalized racism. I firmly believe that it is necessary to understand the origin of racial stereotypes and how they became institutionalized in order for them to be deconstructed and eradicated. Therefore, I present a critical analysis of Guatemalan history as to argue that the conception of the communist indigenous was constructed to justify the exploitation and inhuman treatment of the Mayan Indigenous population. My account commences in the time period that led to Guatemala’s civil war of 1954-1996 and ends in the present day. At the end of this account, I contend that it is crucial to understand the concept of the Communist Mayan Indigenous as an understanding of them outside of (western) history. One that denied Indigenous people their cultural identity and potential for self-determination. This essay then, is meant to create understanding and support towards the liberation movements of Indigenous people by commencing the deconstruction of the stereotype “Communist Mayan Indigenous” and all other forms of institutionalized racism they suffer. I strongly believe that the only way to end institutionalized racism in Guatemala is if indigenous parties are empowered and supported to build a transparent plurinational government. One that allows Guatemala to prosper from a system built on care, respect and revalorization of all human lives as equal. This will only be achieved once we acknowledge the existence of institutionalized racism and actively work to eliminate it from society. 

A Historical Account of Institutionalized Racism in Guatemala and The Origin of the Conception “Communist Maya Indigenous” as a Form of Repression

On June 16, 2019, Thelma Cabrera became the first indigenous women to receive more than 10% of the popular votes for her candidacy for president of Guatemala. She ended in 4th place in the midst of more than 20 other candidates (Lakhani, 2019). Her success was due to being selected by the grassroots movement Codeca, Guatemala’s largest farmer and rural organization. From here she went on to represent the indigenous and farmers in the political party Movement for the Liberation of Peoples (MLP). Cabrera’s political agenda makes her the first candidate to actively pledge to tackle the inequalities of Guatemalan society through constitutional reforms, land reforms, nationalization of electricity, and augmented protection on indigenous communities – ensuring human rights for all (Lakhani, 2019).
    Cabrera had high popularity in the rural areas and indigenous communities of Guatemala, which constitute 43.75% of Guatemala’s population (Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Guatemala, 2018). Yet, she only received 10% of the electoral votes. Copeland (2011, p.512) explains that the continual use of violence by Guatemala’s government has built a chronic fear in the Mayan indigenous population. The political elites continuously reinforce the suffering and humiliation of poverty and social exclusion of Mayans as inevitable and necessary to maintain peace in the country. Copeland (2011, p.513) established that Mayan indigenous “remotely believe in the power of the vote as a means to exercise meaningful collective agency in pursuit of the common good…. Many believe that a vote for radical reform, while permitted, is wasted, and view protests as both useless and risky.” The question arises: where does this deep-seated fear of political participation come from and why was Cabrera incapable of mobilizing Mayan indigenous voters?
    I argue that the problem lies in the institutionalized racism and discrimination that resides deep within the country. The white upper class fear the idea of an organized indigenous that may sway the power they hold over the mestizo middle class (Smith, 1992, p.4). To them, Thelma Cabrera represents a direct attack on the racially divided social status-quo that is built and maintained to benefit less than 5%1 of citizens. In the media, she is characterized as a “monstruo” – a monster – and is condemned as a supporter of communist dictators, as a delinquent, an uneducated guerrilla, and a radical communist (López & García, 2019). Yet, Cabrera repeatedly denies all of this and states that her only crime is being a Maya Mam indigenous rights defender who has pledged to root out racism in the country.
    In this essay, I will be addressing the roots of this institutionalized racism, specifically the roots of the villainization of Maya indigenous and workers movements as radically communist in present Guatemalan society. While the birth of institutionalized racism in Guatemala can be traced back to Spanish colonialism in the 16th century, I have decided to focus on the development of the idea of communism in Guatemala as a form of institutionalized racism that commenced during the civil war of 1954-1996. I argue that the conception of the communist indigenous was used to justify the exploitation and inhuman treatment of Maya indigenous and continues to justify unequal power structures between white and indigenous citizens. The aforementioned led to the creation of various racial stereotypes. First, the perception of indigenous people as communists. Second, the indigenous that seeks to punish landowners and the upper class by “stealing” land. Finally, the indigenous that refuses to let Guatemala progress and develop by restricting private companies’ access to resources in indigenous rural areas.
    In order to do so, I will be examining the CIA-orchestrated coup of President Arbenz and the installation of an anti-communist government in 1954 as the starting point of this racial stereotype. First, I will describe the historical situation that led to the coup in 1954. Second, I will describe the events of 1954 and the ripples they created in Guatemalan society in this time period. Finally, I will reflect on the effects this has on present day Guatemalan society and what steps must be taken to deconstruct these harmful stereotypes.

Ten Years of Revolution (1944-1954)

The years between 1944 and 1954 in Guatemala are known as the “ten years of democratic spring” (Latham, 2011, p. 125). Popular uprising, led by young urban middle-class reformers in 1944, succeeded in overthrowing US Supported Dictator Jorge Ubico and taking power (Westad, 2007, p.146). Ubico’s dictatorship was replaced by Guatemala’s first democratically elected president, Juan Jose Arévalo, who entered into office in 1945 (Cullather, 1994). President Arévalo and his successor President Arbenz, shared the belief that Guatemala needed to obtain a more equitable social and economic order between its citizens in order for the country to prosper and become truly democratic (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990 p. 53). Their policies, such as agrarian reforms, aimed at improving living standards in rural areas. More specifically, they wanted to improve living standards of Maya indigenous people who had been the target of 14 years of repressive and violent control by Dictator Ubico (Handy, 1986, p.388).
    In 1954, the CIA wrote a report about the new political policies in Guatemala. The report spiked the concern of the US who developed a thesis of communist penetration in Guatemala. From this moment on, the CIA closely monitored President Arévalo’s regime and his successor President Arbenz. In reality, the land reforms and policies implemented during this 10-year period were not rooted in communist ideology. Arévalo and Arbenz’s “revolution” on the socioeconomic order was essentially capitalist. They sought to boost economic growth and diversification in Guatemala. Their plan was to encourage and enable all citizens, particularly Mayan Indigenous, to participate in a capitalist market, ensuring fair wages and increasing the number of landowners (Handy, 1992, p.166). The most notable reform developed and implemented during this time period was Arbenz’s moderate2  land reform. It aimed to help level the growing inequality between the poor indigenous people and the economically more able middle- and upper-class “Ladinos3 . The land reformes intended to expropriate uncultivated land in estates larger than 672 acres. The landowners would be paid for any land expropriated in 25-year bonds according to its valuation in the most recent declaration of its taxable worth (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990, p. 54). Many of the landowners were unhappy with this reform, especially International companies, because they had declared the value of their land much lower than it was actually worth to avoid high taxation from the government. (Schlesinger & Kinzer, p.55).
    The United States was not content with the situation in Guatemala. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the US had been doing everything in its power to ensure control over Latin America. They used the argument of ‘communism rising in “neighboring” countries as a threat to US security’ as an excuse to intervene in other states’ governmental affairs (Westad, 2007, p.146). In 1947, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) was created as a way for the US to impose its ideals and strategies onto Latin America in its fight against communism (CIDAI, 1995). In theory, it was designed as a way for signatory countries to support each other in case of internal or external threats to their national security. In reality, the treaty was only honored by the US to ensure state members had anti-communist governments allowing the US to push its economic and political agenda onto these Latin countries (Kepfer, 2014, p.39).
    An example of the consequences of the TIAR treaty can be seen during Arbenz’s presidential term. When he came into power, the CIA involvement and investigations escalated and Arbenz’s policies and leftist political inclination were taken out of context (Streeter, 2000). The CIA wrote extensive reports to back up their claim that Communists had managed to capture and manipulate the executive and legislative administration through radical parties such as the Guatemalan labor party (PGT) (CIA, 1954). The idea that the PGT controlled the entire government is absurd, seeing that they only held 4 of the 51 congressional seats held by the National Democratic Front coalition, which they belonged to. Moreover, during Arbenz’s term in office, he never appointed more than eight communists in sub-cabinet posts nor a single communist to his cabinet (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990, p.59). If anything, Arbenz drew a fine line between granting communist’s legitimacy to form a political power and actually giving them any substantial power.
    It is important to consider the role that the Maya communities played during the revolutionary decade. For the first time in Guatemalan history, the conscience of the Guatemalan indigenous was finally being taken into consideration by the government. On one hand, governmental initiatives and resources were being used to educate the rural areas and to respect existing Mayan indigenous cultures. On the other hand, Mayan indigenous cultures were still deemed as inferior to the culture of the white wealthy class (Handy, 1992, p.169). Arbenz’s agrarian reform also helped further empower indigenous communities. Rural farmers and indigenous communities rapidly mobilized and formed unions in order to confront the opposition of landowners and ensure that land was fairly distributed to members of the indigenous communities and to rural workers (Handy, 1992, p.169). While the majority of unions petitioned for the expropriation of land through the correct legal processes, a few unions were goaded by communist leaders to invade farms to which they had not been given legal possession (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990, p. 56).
    These communities and unions also sought political representation in the national government. They affiliated themselves with institutions like revolutionary parties: The Revolutionary Action Party (PAR), Party of the Guatemalan Revolution (PRG), and The National Renovation Party (PRN) (Handy, 1992, p.170). These parties gave a voice to the rural poor and worked to make their concerns reach national politics. In 1949, leaders from the PAR would split and formed a new communist Labor Party (PGT) (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990, p. 58). Because of the voice they were given in national politics, many indigenous communities affiliated themselves with the new communist party.
    Nevertheless, affiliation with the PGT did not imply communist beliefs being held by these communities. Affiliation with the PGT was largely motivated by the need to improve the daily lives in their local communities, such as access to basic services like clean water, roads, and municipal infrastructure (Hardy, 1992, p.179). Finally, it does not come as a shock that US surveillance of Guatemala’s political sphere would misinterpret the level of involvement in communist ideals of indigenous people, labelling them as strong communist allies (CIA, 1954).

Overthrowing President Arbenz in the Name of Communism (1954)

After months of deliberation, the US government decided to act upon the reports of communist penetration in Guatemala presented by the CIA. On the 9th of December 1953, the Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles approved the general plan for PBSUCCESS (Cullather, 1994, p.100). In order to execute their plan, the CIA chose Guatemalan officer Carlos Castillo Armas to play the role of the dissenting “revolutionary” leader and execute the planned coup d’état (Cullather, 1994, p.102). On the 15th of June 1954, sabotage teams were launched, and two days later Castillo crossed the border from Honduras with his trained militia. On June 27, Arbenz ceded power to Castillo (Cullather, 1994, P.103). The bloodless coup was seen as a major success by the United States and viewed as putting an end to a communist-oriented government (Westad, 2007, p.148). On the other hand, Guatemalans perceived the fall of President Arbenz as the end to a decade of democratic revolution and the beginning of a bloody persecution of anyone even loosely tied to communism (Tohom, 2008, p.8).
The US intervention in Guatemalan politics can be seen as a clear example of how the US was willing to betray its own core beliefs of democracy and liberty out of a countrywide irrational fear of nationalism and communism in Third-world countries (Latham, 2011, p.124). The level of paranoia in relation to communism that existed in the US is readily exemplified by the dissenting statement from Senator William Langer of North Dakota against the Johnson resolution, a bill meant to grant the CIA freedom to continue its covert operations in Guatemala. In a speech addressed to the senate, William Langer (1954) explained his negative vote in the following manner:

“I trust that there are sufficient remains of an atmosphere of reason in this country so that Senators can disagree without being called Communists.... I do not think the United States should jump into the Guatemala situation, a sensitive and very grave threat to world peace, with such elephantine delicacy… We have had inadequate time to consider such a major declaration on foreign policy.... Of course, we are opposed to external interference with the affairs of any nation, especially so with regard to our sister republics of Latin America. But even more, we will, or we ought to be, committed to the principle that every sovereign nation has a right to determine for itself its own form of government.”

In other words, the US imperialist control over Latin America was inconsistent with the core values of liberty and democracy which it prided itself on upholding (Henagan, 2018).
  Two months later, the US ambassador proceeded to ensure that Castillo Armas assumed presidency and, in this way, installed an anti-communist dictatorship in Guatemala. For the next 40 years, Guatemala would be ruled by a string of dictators backed up by the US committed to eradicating communism. From this moment onward, members of the PGT were either exiled, arrested or killed and the military took harsh actions towards anyone affiliated with communism. Many of the alleged communists sought asylum in the rural areas of Guatemala. Moreover, from this point in time, the military would wage war on the indigenous communities under the flag of anti-communism.

End of Democracy, Start of a Civil War

Guatemalan historians refer to Arbenz’s coup as the “trauma of 54” (Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico [CEH], 1999, p.107). From this moment onward, the racial profiling of indigenous people as communist began. White elites then proceeded to promote this stereotype so as to justify the bloody massacres which ensued. From 1954 onwards, the US-backed government sought to scourge Guatemala of any trace of communism (Kepfer, 2014, p.53). During Arbenz’s term in office, the communist party never exceeded more than 4,000 members (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990, p. 59). Yet, between July and November of 1954, more than 72,000 people had been placed on the government’s register of communists. Furthermore, The Criminal Preventive Law against Communism established by Castillo Armas granted the military permission to give the death penalty to any person on this register who was thought to have committed acts considered communist (CEH, 1999, p.109).
    As if this was not enough, Castillo’s government created a state of fear and anger among citizens by annulling the Agrarian Reform Law and violently revoking 78% of the land which had been expropriated back to its “original” landowner(CEH, p.110). To justify the excessive use of violence and the killing of peasant and rural workers, the new regime installed the perception of agrarianism as synonymous to communism. If an indigenous person fought for their agrarian rights, they were registered as communists and then killed; if an indigenous person did not advocate for the right to their land, they were expropriated from the territory and forced to work the land for the new upper-class landowners (CEH, p.110). In any case, the indigenous lived in a constant state of violence and fear, repressed and subjugated into a commodity. Moreover, upper-class Guatemalan landowners and international companies, such as the United Fruit Company, became empowered to claim more land. If these subjects, as in the case of the pueblo chortí5, offered any sign of protest, the new owners could readily label them as communist or guerilla and have them executed (CEH, 1999, pp.2890).
    In 1957, Castillo Armas was assassinated, yet this did not put an end to the oppressive government. During Castillo’s regime, soldiers and military officials had started to question the state of terror and whether this communist omnipresence was real, or rather, an invention by US and Guatemalan elite to subjugate the country. By the time Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes became president through a fraudulent election in 1958, a large part of the army was uneasy with the dictatorial regimes that had replaced Arevalo and Arbenz’s decade of democracy (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990, p. 237). In order to appease the US and gain their support, Ydigoras allowed the CIA to use Guatemala as a base of operations in their attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro (Schlesinger & Kinzer, p. 238). This infuriated the now nationalist military. On November 13th, 1960 a large portion of the Guatemalan military led by 120 officers revolted against the government and took control of various military facilities. The US quickly squashed the insurrection for fear that it would destroy their operation against Cuba (Schlesinger & Kinzer, p. 239).
    Many of the officers who participated in this revolt decided to no longer support a regime which seemed to be controlled by a foreign government. Since they refused to be used as a tool for the US to achieve its imperialistic ambitions, they fled to the mountains with the help of peasants and indigenous communities and formed a guerrilla movement (Latham, 2011, p. 128). On February 1962, the Rebel Front managed to circumvent censorship and read their declaration “Quiénes somos, Qué Queremos y Por qué peleamos”6 on the “Radio Internacional”. In this declaration, they proclaimed guerrilla warfare on the government and called for all Guatemalans to fight with them to restore dignity, freedom and democracy to all citizens. Part of the declaration read out by Alejandro de Leon (1962) stated:

“we fight for the worker who has no right to get sick because he does not have access to medicines, for the employee, for the professional, the teacher, who have dreamed in having a house, for the sick who die at the doors of hospitals, for the humble we fight, for the simple and good people who have lost all hope and that think that is their destiny [...]” (p.270)

The result of this written declaration was 36 years of civil war between 1960 and 1996. The outcome being violent military repression by the right-wing military government against any manifestation of communism. Yet, it wasn’t communists or the military who suffered the most losses - it was the innocent civilian Maya indigenous people, caught in the crossfire between both sides, and incriminated as the communist enemy.
    During the entirety of the civil war, indigenous people were arrested, humiliated, kidnapped, repressed, tortured, and killed (CEH, 1999, pp.2892). To justify these actions, the government created hate campaigns to propagate the stereotype of the communist-subversive-guerilla indigenous, through the use of televised media and newspapers (CEH, pp.2892). The horrific effects that the institutionalization of the concept Communist Indigenous had are blatantly clear, considering that 83.33% of human rights violation victims during the civil war were Mayan indigenous (CEH, pp. 2894).

Las Dos Erres

To properly understand the appalling situations that institutionalized stereotyping creates, a more qualitative example may be cited. In the Northern region of Guatemala, a small town called Las Dos Erres was targeted as a communist sympathizer. Due to violent encounters between the FAR (Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes) and the military in the surrounding regions of this town, the whole area was under extreme surveillance and scrutiny by the government (Kepfer, 2014, p.31). The founders of Las Dos Erres were Federico Aquino Ruano and Marcos Reyes, whom created this small community in order to make a living from agriculture (Kepfer, p.34). Las Dos Erres would transport their products to the nearest local market to sell to other towns. In order to keep track of the product that corresponded to each famer, they would write their initials on the sacks. Federico would mark his with the initials FAR (Kepfer, p.36).
    The town’s close proximity to areas of high conflict combined with the FAR initials on their products led the military to conclude that Las Dos Erres was a guerrilla front filled with communist sympathizers. For this crime there was only one conceivable punishment, extermination. On the 6th of December 1982, under the government of Efraín Ríos Montt, a group of elite military soldiers were ordered to investigate Las Dos Erres and determine whether they held affiliation to FAR (Kepfer, 2014, p.32). After locking all the members of the community in the school and church, the patrol proceeded to ransack the entire town in search of any proof of communist and/or guerrilla affiliation. Having found nothing, they contacted their superiors. Despite having no substantial proof of participating in the insurgency, those in high command gave the order to “vaccinate” the entire community (Kepfer, p.33). In other words, the government found it justifiable to kill every member of the indigenous community on the basis that they may be linked to the communist guerrilla.
    What proceeded was 72 hours of human rights violation after human rights violation. Every single person was brutally raped or tortured, not even the children were spared. Each person was questioned individually about their affiliation to the FAR and communism, all denying any involvement or knowledge of these groups. Every single member of the community was killed. In an attempt to mask what had happened their bodies were thrown into the communal water well, some still in alive. Then the patrol blew up the well rematando a los muertos7. The details of these events were unveiled through anthropological-forensic work and confessions from soldiers involved in the massacre (CEH, 1999, p.397-413).

Reflection on Present Institutionalized Racism

“Those who died still do not rest in peace. They want to come back. They keep walking. They remain trapped between the roots. The stones. Under the houses. The mountain. Only some of them already return little by little to see the light again. They are among the many who suffered…”
Jesus Hernandez Tohom (2008, p.)
Ex-director of the Center for Forensic Analysis and Applied Sciences (CAFCA)

Twenty-three years after the signing of the peace agreement and the end of the Internal Civil War (United Nations, 1997), thousands of Guatemalan indigenous people remain desaparecidos8, assumed dead, the location of their remains and the story of what happened to them hidden away by the government in order to avoid being held accountable by family members who did manage to survive. In a documentary called “The truth underneath the earth, Guatemala the silenced genocide” (2015), survivors of indigenous community’s recounted how they were indiscriminately labelled as guerrilla fighters and communists and therefore to be killed. Another man stated how he was not a communist, nor was his murdered family, he did not know what it even meant to be a communist. According to Jesus Hernandez Tohom (2008), Indigenous people are still viewed under the villainized label of “communist” and “guerilla”. The only way to change public perception is to find the remains of those killed during the conflict in order to uncover the truth and restore dignity to the indigenous communities (p.10).
    In 2018, sixteen indigenous leaders were killed. Three of them worked in mobilizing unions to prevent the displacement of indigenous farmers from their native lands as large mining and oil hydroelectric companies sought to extract resources from these areas. (Gies, 2018). Indigenous rights defender and Special Rapporteur for the UN, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, concludes in her mission statement to Guatemala that institutionalized racial segregation is still prominent in the country and that nothing substantial has changed since the signing of the peace accords (2018). This is exemplified by the fact that only 19% of the implementations required by the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Peace Accord of 1996 have been realized. Not fulfilling the Peace Accord agreements shows the little priority and importance the government has given in to dismantling institutionalized racism and amending for the imbalance in land ownership. Tauli-Corpuz (2018) emphasizes that the “failure to comply with these commitments has undermined progress in adopting measures in many areas, including land reform, recognition of indigenous authorities and justice, political participation and bilingual intercultural education”.
    That is why, on June 16, 2019, Thelma Cabrera and the MLP called for Guatemalans to vote against the current political oligarch system: a system based on neoliberalist values that has allowed for the privatization of basic public services and installed a capitalist free market economy (MLP, 2019). Instead, the MLP asks Guatemalans to vote in favor of communal economic cooperatives and a transparent plurinational political system. The MLP strongly believes that full implementation of its plans will allow Guatemalans to move towards a social system built on care, respect, and revalorization of all human lives and nature (MLP, 2019). They argue that it is time to vote rebelliously, against the current system of inequality, in favor of an indigenous government.


What can be concluded from this historical account is that stereotyping can be purposefully built by Western or colonial powers with the intention of using it to their advantage. This is in line with Said’s conception of orientalism, which argues that stereotypes are created through deliberate misunderstanding from the West, as a way to distort reality in favor of the colonialists (1978). The concept of the Communist Maya Indigenous that the US projected onto Guatemalan’s indigenous population created an understanding of them outside of history, denying their cultural identity and potential for self-determination. It follows that the communist Maya Indigenous is a completely fictitious concept, invented and created in order to allow for their continual imperialist repression.
    Cabrera and the MLP are far from being communists, monsters, barbaric, or terrorists. MLP represents a social movement whose principles are based on those of buen vivir 9, referring to the revalorization of indigenous communities and their knowledge system (GEHD, 2016). What they seek is to dismantle the colonialist systems of oppression that continue to exist in the government, institutions, education, and in individuals (GEHD, 2016). Yet, much work must still be done in order to achieve a Plurinational State of Guatemala.
    It should be noted that some indigenous resistance was and continues to be affiliated to communism. After all, communist parties have been, and continued to be, allies of indigenous resistance movements. Therefore, this essay should not be taken as anti-communist ideology or social practices. Instead, it seeks to understand communism as a western narrative. A narrative that forced Guatemala’s socialist variations and indigenous narratives to be misplaced into western dichotomies of right vs. left, capitalism vs. communism, democracy vs dictatorship.
    As highlighted by Young (2001), it is incredibly important to frame and understand the historical implications and events that construct the power dynamics which allow(ed) for colonialization, imperialism, and decolonialization. Therefore, I perceive the historical account which I have presented as a first step in deconstructing the racial stereotype of the “communist Maya Indigenous”. The burden of western projections and racial stereotypes must be taken off the shoulders of Maya Indigenous people. Once this has been accomplished, nothing can hold back the MLP from realizing the self-determination of indigenous people in social, political, and economical spheres. That is why the history of institutionalized racism in Guatemala must be retold. A plurinational and decolonized Guatemalan society can only emerge once parted from western and elite projections.


1According to the 2018 census, only 5% of Guatemalans above 4 years of age have completed superior education. Of this percentage, 2.5% originate from the capital city which consists of 86% of non-indigenous citizens. Furthermore, income is heavily skewed between the Capital and the rest of Guatemala, as well as between non-indigenous and indigenous in the Capital. This leads to the majority of high ranked positions which require superior education to be fulfilled by white upper-class citizens (Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Guatemala, 2018).

2President Arbenz’s Agrarian reform, when compared to the Mexican agrarian reform bill which was implemented more than 10 years before 1951, can be seen as moderate and would have been found as an acceptable policy to the United States 7 years later under the American Alliance for Progress (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 20, p.55).

3In the 1500s during the colonial period, Ladino referred to Spanish-speaking Indians. With time it came to mean whomever was no longer culturally Indian (refers to nurture) in order to avoid inventing thousands of racial classifications for blurring mix between indigenous, African slaves, and Europeans. This also became a tool used by ruling classes in order to eliminate native roots and further colonize individuals (Smith, 1992).  

4Most of the expropriated land belonged to the United Fruit Company and other similar international companies. These companies were mainly based in the U.S. and held a lot of influence in the Guatemalan political sphere (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 1990).

5Located at the frontline between the army and the guerrilla movements, any action they did to reclaim land or create better labor conditions was labelled communist.

6English translation of the Rebel Fronts declaration: Who we are, what we want and why we fight.

7Double killing the dead.


9Good living.


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