Racism, Violence, and Inequality: An Overview of the Guatemalan Case.


This working paper was written for the first CRISE Latin American team meeting held in Lima in June 2004. The meeting provided an arena for presenting our case studies (Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia) and setting up our research agendas. This paper was designed as a broad general introduction to the 'Guatemalan case' for the purpose of research on ethnicity, horizontal inequalities and conflict. This 'background paper' attempts to provide a general overview of the issues of conflict and ethnicity in Guatemala. CRISE research in Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala, focuses primarily on the indigenous/non-indigenous divide. In a first instance, this paper sets out to examine the emergence and evolution of Guatemala's key ethnic categories, highlighting a much greater ethnic diversity than a simple binary (indigenous/non indigenous) approach would suggest in a first place. Yet, whilst acknowledging Guatemala's ethnic diversity, pertaining to an indigenous or non-indigenous group in Guatemala remains an important phenomenon with important social, economic, political and cultural consequences. In a second instance, this paper traces out the general history and nature of inter-actions between indigenous and Ladino groups. Furthermore, this paper introduces some of the key debates surrounding the question of ethnicity and inter-ethnic relations in Guatemala, notably those regarding the definitions and evaluations of the various populations which constitute Guatemala. The latter sections of the paper provide a general review of Guatemala's armed conflict (1960-1996) examining its emergence, resolution and aftermath. Providing a general overview of the conflict allows us to map out the nature of violence and repression in Guatemala. This paper identifies the 1976-1985 period as being of particular relevance for CRISE research. Most of the conflict's casualties occurred during this period with indigenous people accounting for over 80% of the victims of violence. This paper summarises and reviews the main forms of violence and repression that were perpetrated against the indigenous victims of the conflict, leading to the conclusion that there was an 'ethnicisation' of violence in Guatemala. Finally, to conclude our general overview of the Guatemalan case, the last sections of this paper review and evaluate the Guatemalan peace accords, paying particular attention to the agreement on indigenous rights.


CRISE Working Paper 11, 71 pp.

Racism, Violence, and Inequality: An Overview of the Guatemalan Case.

Published 1 January 2005