Maya Youth Literatures in the Diaspora
Summary and Keywords
Maya youth literatures in the diaspora are creative works of literature that defy easy categorization. Instead of focusing on form or genre, these works emphasize the refugee experience in relation to issues of state violence and migration in Guatemala and the United States. Mayan youth use do-it-yourself (DIY) publishing as a strategy to create narratives that embrace their experiences with their families and at schools, and in their efforts to create a Mayan community. As a result, these stories are reflective of not just their own experiences, but also their own political investments in how their Maya community is represented and written into existence.
Among various forms of Central American-American literature is an emerging literature created for and by young Mayas in the diaspora. One such recently published work is Las Aventuras de Gaby, produced by LA Comunidad Ixim. Collectively authored and self-published in 2017, in Los Angeles, California, the book opens up non-mainstream forms of writing and publishing for young Mayas who actively seek out forms of documenting their histories and memories without having to worry about sales, publicity, and other issues that accompany book contracts. The decision to move away from mainstream publishing enables the formation of these stories to remain a direct reflection of what Maya people themselves want to share and create with their families and communities.
Las Aventuras de Gaby was written and published by a grassroots collective of 1.5 and second-generation Mayas located in Los Angeles, California. The collective consists of approximately ten Maya, Xinca, and Chapines who have met through their participation in several social justice organizations and movements.1 While they have organized workshops, film screenings, guest speakers, and various community events, their coloring book is of particular interest. Self-published in 2017, the book has sold over 150 copies without being available online. The book itself has two components, a storyline with illustrations that can be colored in and a series of activities that are multilingual. The coloring book itself focuses on a gender non-conforming child named Gaby who begins to have dreams that, when contextualized in the larger issues of genocide and displacement, Maya communities have confronted for hundreds of years, pointing to the ways in which the second generation does not leave behind a troubled history of genocide and displacement when they migrate to the United States. While Gaby’s story demonstrates as much, the book itself reflects the group’s ongoing investment in using self-published literature as an avenue from which to generate historical memory from the position of Maya migrants and their children. While the main storyline is in Spanish and English, the primary languages that the writers have in common, the writers have crafted activities in the Maya languages of their respective families, including K’iche’, K’anjob’al, Achi, and Kaqchikel. The members have also reached out to fluent K’iche’ and K’anjob’al speakers to collaborate on translating the primary storyline. They also expressed that they hope other Maya language speakers will be interested in collaborating on translating the story into as many Maya languages as possible.
The Maya Diaspora and Transborder Violence
Maya youth in diaspora have to maneuver through multiple racial hierarchies that include the ways in which race operates in the United States, and they must make sense of how the racial structures of Guatemala informed their families displacement from their millennial homelands. In addition, the use of the term Maya as an umbrella identity for over twenty distinct yet related ethno-linguistic groups is an ongoing project of defining indigeneity in terms legible within national and international forums. As Victor Montejo clarifies, the turn to a Maya identity is directly tied to the work of scholars and activists who sought to challenge Ladino’s discourse that contemporary Mayas are not really connected to pre-colonial societies.2 While the international community recognizes Mayas as a civilization with a deep understanding of astronomy and math, Ladinos claim that those ancient civilizations are only distant ancestors of the Maya who are exploited today by landowners in plantations and mines.
This distance from the great civilization that “disappeared” has also justified the constant state violence that Maya people have been subjected to. The most well known period of this ongoing colonial project is the violence of the armed conflict from 1960 to 1996, which reached its climax in the 1980s. During this period over 200,000 people were murdered, 40,000 were disappeared, 83% of the victims were Maya, and various branches of the government, military, police, and paramilitaries committed 93% of the violence.3 The coalescing of economic and political elites in Guatemala with the financial and military support of the United States resulted in one of the most deadly periods of Maya history.4 Giovanni Batz articulates the continuities of state violence as four waves of colonization: the Spanish invasion of Pedro de Alvarado, the plantation system, the genocide of the 1980s, and the current territorial dispossession that occurs through the advancement of megaprojects.5 While there are many overlaps within these stages, they often focus on how the government, military, and landowners steal Maya people’s land, benefit from their coerced labor, and brutalize them if they mount organized resistance.
The other arm of this violence is the perpetual poverty that Maya families often encounter across generations. Within academic research there can be a disassociation between the loss of land and the widespread poverty within Maya communities that, when pushed out of their original territories, are coerced into marginal wage labor or into being debt workers. Understanding intergenerational economic poverty as part of a colonial project positions genocide as focused not solely on violent physical deaths, but also on a series of social and political deaths that result when Mayas are fundamentally excluded or included through unequal relationships grounded in multicultural neoliberalism.6
One way that these communities have mounted opposition to the Guatemalan national project of Indigenous dispossession has been through the Maya movement that, while decentralized, operates on the logic that Maya people must push back on these projects of death. Maya scholars and activists use the term Maya to contest that temporal rupture noted above, although many everyday people continue to identify with their hometown or language group and not necessarily a “Maya” identity. The limitations of Maya identity in relation to the tourist industry opens critical questions around how Maya vendors can use this identity to fulfill the desire from international tourists for authentic Maya culture.7 Edgar Esquit has launched an important critique that thinks about the way Maya identity produced by scholars and activists who ignore the reality that Indigenous people living in poverty can find a sense of belonging and empowerment through religious institutions like the Catholic or Evangelical Church instead of through Maya spirituality.8 These insightful critiques push back on the force with which earlier Maya scholars like Demetrio Cojti Cuxil and Raxche’ defined political and cultural agendas through their own ideas and not necessarily in conversation with Mayas outside of formal institutions.9
As Mayas migrate and face exclusion in Mexico and in the United States as undocumented migrants, they must also learn to navigate U.S. racism, which is laid over Latino racism against Indigenous people. The casual lumping of Mayas as Guatemalans and therefor Latinos also conceals the direct racism that Maya migrants and other Indigenous migrants face from Latinos, including Central Americans, who do not identify as Indigenous. Structures of inequality in their countries of origin inform and re-inscribe this racist discrimination through new modes of expression in the diaspora. Alicia Ivonne Estrada writes, for example, that some Mayas, “noted that often non-Indigenous immigrants used paternalistic and derogatory terms when interacting with Mayas, or other Indigenous immigrants.”10 Giovanni Batz’s article emphasizes the various strategies Maya youth employ to maintain a sense of Maya identity in Los Angeles, but also acknowledges that discrimination from other Latinos plays a role in subverting Maya cultural practices.11 Alan Lebaron’s work and the work of Hiller, Linstroth, & Vela emphasize how conflicted Maya community members are regarding officially identifying as Latino or native and what the implications of these types of racial identifications are for retaining a Maya epistemology and spiritual practice.12 What is clear in this research on the Maya diaspora is that part of the diasporic experience is the difficult project of understanding how and when distinct racial structures (those in home countries and in the United States) coalesce to produce a continual borderless anti-Indigenous politic. The forms of literature that the Maya diaspora produce are keenly aware of these contradictions across multiple political geographies and their seamless rejection of indigeneity.
DIY Theories and Aesthetics
The work of LA Comunidad Ixim has been discussed in other writings as part of a mobile archive of indigeneity. Mobile archives of indigeneity are produced by Maya people and document various histories of erasure as well as Maya epistemologies in materials that are accessible for their families and communities. These Indigenous archives diverge from mainstream archive in form, content, and audience to link material objects to the oral histories of Maya communities. However, this source of Maya literature also engages an aesthetic and politic that is part of the do-it-yourself (DIY) genre and intertwined with punk politics. The uneasy or antagonistic relationship of a punk scene that defies order alongside the notion of archival practices that are often premised on Western notions of progression and totalizing historical narratives is fruitful ground from which to unpack why DIY politics and aesthetics are critical to the creation of literature produced by a population that experiences intergenerational and transnational exclusion.
Zines and DIY are more accessible to marginalized populations because they emerge as part of the punk politic that promotes non-mainstream forms of literature that is low in production costs, not typically circulated like books, and gives space for images, poetry, short stories, interviews, and so on.13 While Las Aventuras de Gaby is not a zine, it follows a DIY principle whereby the authors have written and produced their own work independently. They also do not limit themselves specifically to storytelling through the storyline, but also include a series of activities in the second half of the book that engage readers in the process of writing mad lib style poems, crossword puzzles, or making paper dolls. These activities include the use of multiple Maya languages, and they make the overall book multilingual.
Theoretically, critical scholars who have also participated in punk scenes discuss the power of zines, as well as the current imperative to intellectually analyze or produce archives about these types of non-mainstream literatures. Mimi Nguyen writes that these works gesture toward, “an informal record of our presence and a critique of those practices of absenting us, through neglect or through violence. And yet this compilation was also a record of our longing for a history or a record of it, whether or not one or the other ever existed.”14 Nguyen’s Evolution of a Race Riot zine was a compilation created against the white washing of punk scenes and focuses on punks of color. She notes that as institutions like universities seek to create and acquire archives of these types of literatures, a series of questions opens up about why and how we analyze a text that is resolutely anti-capitalist and never intends to be considered literature.
Some of the underlying principles of zines align with that of testimonio because both take up non-normative forms of writing to express social and political matters with a sense of urgency. Testimonio differs from testimony in that it does not rely on normative understandings of truth, but instead centers the stories of marginalized people as legitimate counter stories to disciplining discourses and state violence.15 David Stoll’s critique of Rigoberta Menchú’s testimonio was often taken as an attack on the developing and well-received field of testimonio; but since then, there have been critical contributions to expanding the understanding of the possibilities and limitations of testimonio as a genre.16
Typically, testimonios involved intermediaries who documented an oral history and then wrote the story. Aside from potential translation issues, these intermediaries were almost never from the communities that they wrote about. This produced a series of critiques around translation, authorship, and the Western gaze that often went unchallenged in the publications themselves. Arias engages these issues in his analysis of the work of the Maya Jakaltek author Victor Montejo. Montejo published literature and academic work on a massacre of a Maya village in Guatemala where he had been working as a teacher.17 Arias presents the notion of autorepresentation as unique from testimonio because it, “implies not just a disposition, but a need to bring about an interface between self and Indigenous community in the representational dimension.”18 As forms, both DIY and autorepresentation linked but, separate from testimonio, they convey the material practice of an ethical principle that is not necessarily invested in drawing sharp distinctions between the individual and the collective. The author does have ultimate authority, but what the author seeks to articulate is an experience in the context of urgent social and political issues that are faced by their people. In a similar vein, Maya youth literature like Las Aventuras de Gaby looks to DIY production as a way to craft a story that is a fictional form of autorepresentation and testimonio that can help generate critical conversations about the Maya diasporic experience.
While Boj Lopez has published on how this text reflects the experiences of several members, earlier work did not position it as a form of autorepresentation. Arias’s framework adds to this discussion that, as he notes, regardless of how the work is assembled or written, it ultimately empowers the subjects themselves to be the ones documenting the experiences for the sake of their communities.19 This work is extended by arguing that, even though there are multiple authors, the collective writing is about being able to write stories that make sense of their relationships. In Las Aventuras de Gaby, the writers have ultimate authority about how their voices and varied experiences are brought together to write these stories for their communities. In an introductory letter at the beginning of the text they state:
Through Gaby, we explore what it really means to be the generation that has to create the bridge between our homeland and the places we now call home. Gaby’s experiences in this book reflect our collective realities. Whether it’s the pressure to always explain your difference or to have parents who work long hours, Gaby learns to navigate these issues because we have learned to navigate them. To also reflect our group’s politics, we have chosen to make Gaby gender-neutral, in part to make visible queer community members who are often overlooked when we think about who Maya people are.20
As a result, these collective members are writing with a sense of political urgency similar to testimonios, but they are also self-authorizing their own lives by being the only decision makers who determine how the story is written, illustrated, published, and disseminated.
LA Comunidad Ixim
Central to the argument about Maya collectivity in diaspora is that it is rooted in Maya epistemologies and engages Maya people in the creation of their own sites of memory, one of which is written literature. Las Aventura’s de Gaby is centered on the character Gaby, who is a gender-neutral, young child who experiences memories in the form of dreams. Every night after Gaby says good night and kisses Nan (Mom), Gaby has a dream. At times the dream is actually the nightmare of a familiar place, with familiar homes, being destroyed. At times the dreams are of food, of her aunt cooking black beans and platanos (fried plantains), and hechando tortillas (making tortillas). Through the story, the reader comes to learn that Gaby’s dreams are actually a form of remembering. The act of dreaming reflects memories that may or may not be Gaby’s lived experience and are also an expression of Gaby’s desires. The use of multiple dreams as part of the narrative and visual structure of the coloring book reflects the multiplicity of experiences of growing up as part of a diaspora. For example, the way in which the dream blurs temporal moments, transcends physicality, and embraces ambiguity reflects the non-linear family genealogies of migration and what it means to grow up as Maya. In addition, while the story eventually reveals that Gaby’s dreams are the actual histories of the family, it remains unclear whether Gaby experienced these events first hand or whether they became a part of Gaby’s consciousness through stories that have been heard at other moments.
The historical consciousness of Gaby is one of intermixed terror, joy, pleasure, and confusion. The narrative in particular does not seek to clarify or eliminate the ambiguity around Gaby, but instead acknowledges it as part of the process of continuity. As Sarah Hunt poignantly asserts, “If we accept the alive and ongoing nature of colonial relations, and the lived aspects of indigeneity as critical to Indigenous ontologies, any attempts to fix Indigenous knowledge can only be partial.”21 Las Aventura’s de Gaby practices this partiality not as a site of loss, but of multiplicity. It does this in the following ways: (a) It uses dreams as a way to embrace the ambiguity that results from inherited family histories that point to multiple displacements; (b) It visualizes intergenerational relationships in ways that account for the migrant labor of Maya parents; and (c) It uses family stories as a starting point to build relationships through and despite problematic institutions like schools.
In Las Aventuras de Gaby, dreams act as a way to highlight the affective, physical, and temporal rupture produced by intergenerational Indigenous dispossession. The dreams are a way to explore what it means for the children of the diaspora to challenge the linear nature of genealogy, storytelling, and even the division between lived memories and those that are inherited in more subtle and undisclosed manners. For instance, research often points to how Maya migrants experience poverty or physical state violence and then migrate to the United States. The book instead challenges the linearity of this sequence by initially demonstrating Gaby’s connection to Guatemala through a dream of “a familiar place .|.|. somewhere far, far away” (Figure 1). Two pages later, Gaby has another dream in which they, Alex the older brother, and Nan are crossing the border and hiding behind bushes. Nan reminds them that if the coyote—a young man with a baseball cap on—tells them to run then they need to run. Gaby awakes from the dream startled. The following night Gaby has a nightmare of the familiar home seen before is actually on fire (Figure 2).
The inclusion of these issues is critically important to ensuring that Maya children have a sense of genealogy that includes state violence as visually represented by migration and the familiar yet geographically distant home burning. What is just as critical is that these events are not sequenced as they are in academic research, and are instead all presented as part and parcel of Gaby’s existence. The non-linear nature of the story demonstrates that, when second generation young adults inherit these histories, they grapple with them throughout their lives. The memory of violence is present even before Gaby understands it and has an actual vocabulary to articulate it as state violence. Gaby does not necessarily choose when or how this history is confronted; instead, the experiences become sites of affective reactions that flow across generations in ways that cannot necessarily be anticipated.
Making sense of these genealogical ties or ruptures to particular places and people also points to the limitations in thinking about the nuclear family as the sole organizing institution in relation to belonging in diaspora. Invoking family as the sole site of belonging limits our understanding of how one engages in community building in the face of genocide. For instance, the human rights report Guatemala, Never Again! notes that one of the results of the armed conflict was the increase in orphans who lost one or both parents and were raised by non-biological kin or extended relatives.22 Given that conceptualizations of family often uphold exclusionary politics that relegate subjects—undocumented, Indigenous, queer, immigrant, and so forth—to the margin, the book takes up the family as a site of knowledge that can support a move away from solely biological claims to genealogy.
In this sense, understanding genealogical histories and non-biological ties to create Maya belonging in diaspora begins with recognizing the fractures and the non-linear and transnational process of racialization for youth that must make sense of long(er) histories of displacement. Pidduck writes, “against hegemonic kinship narratives of continuity across space and time, of heredity and progress, the motifs of displacement, illness, death, and loss .|.|. produce fractured and affectively ambivalent kinship documents characterized by disruptions, silences, traumas, and gaps.”23 While not foreclosing the role of genealogy for Indigenous youth, it is critical to note that as Vera-Rosa argues that, “While it is easier to blame family break-up on migration, family separation is a historical legacy for colonized peoples: it is the result of structural conditions and regimes of racial violence that propel our scattering in the first place and make displacement the order of the day.”24 Rather than attempt to piece historical realities together to create a seamless narrative, Las Aventuras de Gaby makes fragmentation useful to understanding 1.5 and second-generation youth.
For instance, while it is Gaby’s family that eventually helps them understand what the dreams actually mean, Gaby’s family is in itself a reflection of these fractures and the re-arrangements that they require. After having the nightmare of the homes burning, Gaby runs to tell Nan about the dream only to find that she is already outside of the apartment, boarding the bus to go to work (Figure 3). Making the maternal figure a working parent who was not necessarily available the instant that Gaby needed her was an expression of the ways in which the exploitation of immigrant labor has ripple effects in their own homes.25
This often resulted in a family structure that required older siblings to take on many of the caretaker responsibilities. The family structure within the storyline, both in its visual and literary representation, exemplifies stories that are common among the members of LA Comunidad Ixim. With the scene of Nan boarding the bus to work, Gaby is obviously disappointed that she is not home, but the storyline recognizes that it is directly tied to Nan having to go to work. A sibling named Alex fills the gap left by Gaby’s mother figure. The story does not take an overtly positive or negative tone when it comes to Gaby and Alex’s relationship, but it is Alex who actually tells Gaby that the dreams are not dreams, they are memories.
Nan is not always readily available to provide emotional support because she must provide economic sustenance as a single migrant mother. She nonetheless does appear toward the end of the story in a pivotal moment where Gaby is trying to determine what to share with her class for Show and Tell at school. After experiencing her dreams and rejection from peers at school, it is Nan’s discussion with Gaby that serves as a moment of resolution within the story. As they both work on making tamales, Gaby is able to finally tell Nan about the dreams, and Nan responds, “I see. Well Gaby, I have a story to tell you. .|.|.” While the book does not actually mention what Nan shares, the following morning we see Nan at Gaby’s bedside holding a morral (Figure 4). The text from the story states, “The next morning, Nan gives Gaby a morral to wear to class for Show and Tell. She says, ‘Wear this so you can always remember that we are a strong family and should not be ashamed of who we are.’” Both the shared story, and the gifting of the morral as a material, cultural, and spiritual object have deep implications for Gaby as a Maya child in diaspora.
The strategy to not privilege one narrative of what it means to be Maya over another is visually and textually represented in the absence of Nan’s story. The members of the collective honed in on this silence as a moment intended to provoke real stories and real voices within the diaspora. The potential for these stories to bring the knowledge of elders to the forefront is also premised on the notion that there is still a lot of shame that is a direct result of anti-Indigenous rhetoric, policy, and state violence in both Guatemala and in the United States.26 While Nan clearly states her reasons for sharing the morral, the open-ended moment provides an opportunity for the readers to discuss what Nan may tell Gaby and why it is important to have those moments of listening and sharing between generations. It was also clearly articulated among the collective that this is one of the moments that invoked a Maya audience. They knowingly chose to operate from the assumption that readers would be able to fill in the context of the war and the ways it shaped their experience in diaspora.
The use of a morral as the material gift is also meaningful in multiple ways. Morrales are hand-woven satchels commonly used among Maya peoples. In addition, the morral is also one part of Maya regional dress that is used across various regions and by all genders. It is used by spiritual guides to carry their sacred objects and by everyday people to carry their food, money, or other belongings. It is often woven in colors that are regionally popular and the morral in the actual book is the image of two quetzal birds facing each other. The quetzal is popular on morrales in part because the bird is both an indigenous bird in Guatemala and is also featured prominently on the national flag. The image of two quetzals facing each other is presented on the same page as Gaby and Nan playing on notions of duality and complementarity that are also foundational to Maya spirituality. Morrales are also common among the diaspora and one member of LA Comunidad Ixim in particular shared, during a workshop conducted by the group, that they especially appreciated the morral because it was gender-neutral and inclusive of ancestral weaving practices. For the morral to be the object that Nan uses to express their family history is reflective of the value that the authors themselves also place on this cultural object.
This sense of an expansive wealth of family history in relation to not only Guatemala, but to migration as well, is part of what Gaby’s dreams capture. Aside from playing with the sequence of these events, it is also the fact that Gaby has no social network outside of her family to process these memories that creates an opportunity for the book to act not as a source of history for all Maya children, but instead as a site of dialogue within the community and among families. The group purposefully chose to not provide details about why the home was on fire or about the migration experience, in part because it aims to create space for multiple dialogues to occur within the Maya diaspora. However, rather than beginning from the place of intergenerational dialogue, the book moves towards this dialogue only after it references how challenging it can be to uphold this practice in the diaspora.
When Gaby is awake, Gaby has interactions that remind the reader that this is also a story of what it means to be Maya in an urban Latina context. While much of the story takes place in Gaby’s home or subconscious, the storyline also showcases Gaby’s interactions with peers and a teacher at school. In one instance, a teacher named Ms. Smith states that they will soon be celebrating Cinco de Mayo with the selling of nachos during lunch, a Mexican Hat Dance, and a Show and Tell (Figure 5). In the story, Ms. Smith states, “Don’t forget that we are doing this to celebrate your culture!” In the image itself, Gaby has a thought bubble that states, “My culture?” This is reflective of how multiculturalism within Latina and Latino communities is often centered around a southwestern form of Mexican Latinidad, but presented by schools and educators as being about all brown students. This moment in the text calls attention to and critiques the ways that schools and educators impose multiculturalism at the expense of a real engagement with how schools act as sites of violent assimilation, even if that assimilation is premised on becoming “Latina or Latino.”27 James Loucky writes, “For children and youth, some born in Guatemala and others in California, life in Los Angeles revolves around normative standards and institutions such as public schools that appear to have little or no connection to the homeland and experiences of their parents.”28 The story does not solely portray the educator and school as the site of this issue, but it also documents the way that non-Maya peers often perpetuate these same ideals.
Gaby’s first choice in terms of what to present at Show and Tell is actually a photograph from Nan’s nightstand of Gaby, Nan, and Gaby’s grandmother. When Gaby takes the picture to school and shows a group of friends the picture, another child asks what the women in the picture is wearing. Gaby responds simply by stating that Nan is wearing “corte and huipil.” The corte (Maya skirt) and huipil (Maya blouse) mentioned in this moment is Maya dress that varies regionally and is part of everyday life in Guatemala, but it less common in most Los Angeles based communities.29 In discussions around this scene in particular, the collective discussed how to mark the difference they felt growing up, especially in schools where they were often assumed to be Mexican, yet lacked the terms to explain to others that they were Maya or Indigenous. While not always directly antagonistic or violent, being made to feel invisible through a mestizo Mexican/Latino identity reveals the marginalization that exists within Latinidad as a common occurrence.
Visually the text on the page actually narrates this experience and the image itself is of Gaby’s hand holding the picture in which all three of them are smiling. The juxtaposition between the experience of marginalization through Gaby’s peers and the visual image of a photograph that exudes happiness is the symbolic replica of the joy of belonging to your family and community and the contradiction of being marginalized for not fitting a Latino paradigm, especially as it is upheld by your teacher and your peers.
Rather than position school as a site of learning, the collective instead uses it to confront U.S. racial and ethnic categories that make Maya people invisible. The story closes after Gaby proudly presents their morral at Show and Tell. On the final page, a fellow classmate introduces herself to Gaby and states that her family is also, “from Guatemala and they want to share their family story with Gaby.” In the image, Gaby is holding onto the moral, and the two are sitting at a table talking (Figure 6). This ending reflects the project of defining Maya community by extending knowledge drawn from family stories to engage with other Mayas in the formation of non-biologically determined relationships.
In addition to the storyline of the coloring book, the other half of the project is a set of activities created by the group for older children. This includes a K'iche' word search, a maze with glyphs, a review of the Maya number system, and a set of questions and tips that young people can use to ask their elders about their family’s genealogy and migration stories. It is critical to understand how Las Aventura’s de Gaby builds on the work of Irma Otzoy who argues that Maya textiles can be considered texts that are written by weavers, carried by wearers, and can be read by Maya people and those familiar with Maya systems of meaning.30 In similar fashion, this coloring and activity book is directed at readers with a particular diasporic Maya gaze that can draw meaning and connection from the moments of Gaby’s life and from the activities used. As such, it gives primacy to the migrant Maya gaze while also allowing for that gaze to be defined through a series of open-ended experiences. However, it doesn’t simply allow for those open ended experiences to remain, it invites multiple readings and calls the reader to engage the memories of their families, to ask questions about Gaby’s memories and to realize that even something as simple as a word search can be a part of a much larger effort to maintain and redefine Maya community outside of and in relation to our places of origin.
Finally, while Las Aventuras de Gaby is not reflective of a single testimonio, the collective was able to incorporate the experiences that were common among the group without necessarily having to worry about following a specific literary form. The text stands as a work of literature that asks us as scholars to look outside of professionally published texts to define what Maya diasporic literature is or can be. The availability of online platforms alongside DIY publishing also gives those in the diaspora ultimate control over the stories that become written about and for Maya people. Among the themes that are unique is the ongoing salience of family history alongside relationships constructed outside of kinship networks with other Mayas.
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Esquit, Edgar. “Nationalist Contradictions: Pan-Mayanisms, Representations of the Past, and the Reproduction of Inequalities in Guatemala.” In Decolonizing Native Histories: Collaboration, Knowledge, and Language in the Americas. Edited by Florencia Mallon and Gladys McCormick, 196. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.Find this resource:
Estrada, Alicia Ivonne. “Ka Tzij: The Maya Diasporic Voices from Contacto Ancestral.” Latino Studies 11, no. 2 (2013): 208.Find this resource:
Hale, Charles R. “Rethinking Indigenous Politics in the Era of the ‘Indio Permitido.’” NACLA Report on the Americas 38 (2004): 16.Find this resource:
Hale, Charles R. Más Que Un Indio = More than an Indian: Racial Ambivalence and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Guatemala. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2006.Find this resource:
Hendrickson, Carol. Weaving Identities: Construction of Dress and Self in a Guatemalan Town. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.Find this resource:
Hiller, Patrick T., J. P. Linstroth, and Paloma Ayala Vela. “‘I Am Maya, Not Guatemalan, nor Hispanic’: The Belongingness of Mayas in Southern Florida.” Forum: Qualitative Social Research 10, no. 3 (2009).Find this resource:
Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. Doméstica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.Find this resource:
Hunt, Sarah. “Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a Concept.” Cultural Geographies 21, no. 1 (2014): 27–32.Find this resource:
Lebaron, Alan. “When Latinos Are Not Latinos: The Case of Guatemalan Maya in the United States, the Southeast, and Georgia.” Latino Studies 10 (2012): 179.Find this resource:
Little, Walter E. Mayas in the Marketplace: Tourism, Globalization, and Cultural Identity. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.Find this resource:
Loperena, Christopher. “Radicalize Multiculturalism? Garifuna Activism and the Double‐Bind of Participation in Postcoup Honduras.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 21, no. 3 (2016): 517–538.Find this resource:
Loucky, James. “Maya in a Modern Metropolis: Establishing New Lives and Livelihoods in Los Angeles.” In The Maya Diaspora: Guatemalan Roots, New American Lives, 214. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.Find this resource:
Menchu, Rigoberta. I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. New York: Verso, 1984.Find this resource:
Menjívar, Cecilia, and Néstor Rodriguez. When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.Find this resource:
Montejo, Esteban, and Miguel Barnet, The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave. New York: Pantheon Books, 1968.Find this resource:
Montejo, Victor. Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1991.Find this resource:
Montejo, Victor. Voices from Exile: Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.Find this resource:
Montejo, Victor. Maya Intellectual Renaissance: Identity, Representation, and Leadership. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.Find this resource:
Nance, Kimberly A. Can Literature Promote Justice? Trauma Narrative and Social Action in Latin American Testimonio. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2006.Find this resource:
Nguyen, Mimi. “Minor Threats.” Radical History Review 122 (2015): 11–24.Find this resource:
Otzoy, Irma. “Maya Clothing and Identity.” In Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala. Edited by Edward F. Fischer and R. McKenna Brown. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.Find this resource:
Pidduck, Julianne. “Queer Kinship and Ambivalence.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 15, no. 3 (2009): 441–468.Find this resource:
Raxche’ (Demetrio Rodriguez Guajan). “Maya Culture and the Politics of Development.” In Maya Cultural Activism. Edited by Edward F. Fischer and R. McKenna Brown. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.Find this resource:
Recovery of Historical Memory Project. Guatemala, Never Again! Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999. The Human Rights Office, Archdiocese of Guatemala.Find this resource:
Stoll, David, 1952. Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.Find this resource:
Vera-Rosas, Gretel H. “The Breaking and Remaking of Everyday Life: Illegality, Maternity and Displacement in the Americas.” PhD diss., University of Southern California at Los Angeles, 2013.Find this resource:
(1.) Within Guatemalan history and society, power is typically distributed around the Indigenous-Ladino binary. For more on Ladinidad, please see Carlos Guzmán-Böckler and Jean-Loup Herbert’s Guatemala: Una Interpretacion Historico-Social (Guatemala: Cholsamaj, 2002). Indigenous is in itself a multifaceted umbrella group because it includes the Maya, the Xinca, who are considered their own people, and the Garifuna who are Afro-descendants. For more on Maya-Ladino relations, please see Charles R. Hale’s Mas Que Un Indio = More Than an Indian: Racial Ambivalence and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Guatemala (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2006). Hale’s work is among the few that consider this relationship with a critical analysis of how Ladinos, who seem to embrace multiculturalism, reproduce forms of inequality even as they presume to be more progressive. For more on Garifuna communities, please see Christopher Loperena’s “Radicalize Multiculturalism? Garifuna Activism and the Double‐Bind of Participation in Postcoup Honduras,” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 21, no. 3 (2016): 517–538, and Mark David Anderson’s Black and Indigenous: Garifuna Activism and Consumer Culture in Honduras (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009). Both of these works focus on Garifunas in Honduras because they represent a more substantial demographic in that country; however, the Garifuna should be understood as a multi-national Afro-indigenous people. As a result of migration, those who have racially ambiguous backgrounds that do not fit the neat categories of Indigenous or Ladino can feel more comfortable with the cultural term of Chapin. For more information on the organizers of La Comunidad Ixim, see Floridalma Boj Lopez, “Weavings that Rupture: The Possibility of Contesting Settler Colonialism through Cultural Retention among the Maya Diaspora,” in U.S. Central Americans: Reconstructing Memories, Struggles, and Communities of Resistance, ed. Karina O. Alvarado, Alicia I. Estrada, and Ester E. Hernandez (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2017).
(2.) Victor Montejo, Maya Intellectual Renaissance (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005).
(4.) Cecilia Menjívar, and Néstor Rodriguez, When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005) is an excellent anthology that demonstrates the interrelated projects of state violence that continually link the United States and economic/political elites in countries in Latin America.
(5.) Giovanni Batz’s dissertation, The Fourth Invasion: Development, Ixil-Maya Resistance, and the Struggle against Megaprojects in Guatemala (PhD diss., University of Texas at Austin, 2017) focuses on the Ixil region; and it has been through his work there that he has begun articulating this understanding of waves of colonialism that draw their similarities in the consequence of violence rather than a singular perpetrator of such violence.
(6.) Charles R. Hale, “Rethinking Indigenous Politics in the Era of the ‘Indio Permitido.’” NACLA Report on the Americas 38, no. 2 (2004): 16–21.
(7.) Walter E. Little, Mayas in the Marketplace: Tourism, Globalization, and Cultural Identity (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004).
(8.) Edgar Esquit, “Nationalist Contradictions: Pan-Mayanisms, Representations of the Past, and the Reproduction of Inequaities in Guatemala,” in Decolonizing Native Histories: Collaboration, Knowledge, and Language in the Americas, ed. Florencia Mallon and Gladys McCormick (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 196.
(9.) Demetrio Cojti Cuxil, “The Politics of Maya Revindication,” in Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala, ed. Edward F. Fischer and R. McKenna Brown (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996); and Raxche’ (Demetrio Rodriguez Guajan), “Maya Culture and the Politics of Development,” in Maya Cultural Activism, ed. Edward F. Fischerand and R. McKenna Brown (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), chap. 4.
(10.) Alicia Ivonne Estrada, “Ka Tzij: The Maya Diasporic Voices from Contacto Ancestral,” Latino Studies 11, no. 2 (2013): 213.
(11.) Giovanni Batz, “Maya Cultural Resistance in Los Angeles: The Recovery of Identity and Culture among Maya Youth,” Latin American Perspectives 41, no. 3 (2014): 195.
(12.) Alan Lebaron, “When Latinos Are Not Latinos: The Case of Guatemalan Maya in the United States, the Southeast, and Georgia,” Latino Studies 10 (2012): 179; and Patrick T. Hiller, J. P. Linstroth, and Paloma Ayala Vela, “‘I Am Maya, Not Guatemalan, nor Hispanic’: The Belongingness of Mayas in Southern Florida,” Forum: Qualitative Social Research 10, no. 3, 2009.
(13.) Zines are short for magazines.
(14.) Mimi Nguyen, “Minor Threats,” Radical History Review 122 (2015): 15.
(15.) Esteban Montejo, Miguel Barnet, and Nick Hill, The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave (New York: Pantheon, 1968); and John Beverly, “The Real Thing,” Modern Language Quarterly 57, no. 2 (1996).
(16.) See David Stoll, Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999); Rigoberta Menchú, I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (New York: Verso, 1984); and on the contributions to testimonio as a genre, see Arturo Arias, “Authorizing Ethnicized Subjects: Rigoberta Menchú and the Performative Production of the Subaltern Self,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 116 (2001); Arias “Víctor Montejo and the Maya Perspective: Framing New Kinds of Indigenous Autorepresentations,” Auto/Biography Studies 31, no. 3 (2016); and Kimberly A. Nance, Can Literature Promote Justice? Trauma Narrative and Social Action in Latin American Testimonio (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2006).
(17.) Victor Montejo, Voices from Exile: Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999); and Victor Montejo, Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village. (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1991).
(18.) Arturo Arias, “Víctor Montejo and the Maya Perspective: Framing New Kinds of Indigenous Autorepresentations.” Auto/Biography Studies 31, no. 3 (2016): 489.
(19.) Floridalma Boj Lopez, “Mobile Archives of Indigeneity: Building La Comunidad Ixim through Youth Organizing in the Maya Diaspora,” Latino Studies 15, no. 2 (2017): 201–218; Arias, “Víctor Montejo and the Maya Perspective,” 489.
(20.) While Las Aventuras de Gaby is unnumbered, this letter to the readers is the very first page.
(21.) Sarah Hunt, “Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a Concept,” Cultural Geographies 21, no. 1 (2014): 31.
(22.) Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, Guatemala, Never Again! (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999), 37.
(23.) Julianne Pidduck, “Queer Kinship and Ambivalence,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 15, no. 3 (2009): 444.
(24.) Gretel H. Vera-Rosa, The Breaking and Remaking of Everyday Life: Illegality, Maternity and Displacement in the Americas” (PhD diss., University of Southern California at Los Angeles, 2013), 3.
(25.) One of the foundational texts that intersects gender, immigration, and labor and has an emphasis on Central Americans is Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo’s Doméstica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).
(26.) Giovanni Batz, Maya Cultural Resistance in Los Angeles, 203, correlates the self-identification of some Maya youth as Latino or Hispanic with, “parents [who] may themselves feel ashamed of being Maya and see no value in teaching their children an Indigenous culture. Discrimination within the Guatemalan community contributes to this attitude, and so does daily life in Los Angeles neighborhoods.”
(27.) Floridalma Boj Lopez, “Maya Youth and Cultural Sustainability in the United States,” in Latinos and Latinas at Risk: Issues in Education, Health, Community, and Justice, ed. Gabriel Gutiérrez. (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2015).
(28.) James Loucky, “Maya in a Modern Metropolis: Establishing New Lives and Livelihoods in Los Angeles,” in The Maya Diaspora: Guatemalan Roots, New American Lives (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), 214.
(29.) For more information on how corte and huipil is used in the diaspora, please see Boj Lopez, “Weavings that Rupture.” For texts on the use of corte and huipil in Guatemala, see Irma Otzoy, “Maya Clothing and Idenity,” in Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala, ed. Edward F. Fischer and R. McKenna Brown (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997); and Carol Hendrickson, Weaving Identities: Construction of Dress and Self in a Guatemalan Town (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995).
(30.) Otzoy, “Maya Clothing and Identity.”