Maya Intellectual Renaissance: Identity, Representation and Leadership Essay
The ethnography I chose to review was entitled “Maya Intellectual Renaissance: Identity, Representation and Leadership” by: Victor D. Montejo. This book discusses the issues that were present in Guatemala at the time that America was formed. America formed and protestors decided to migrate to Guatemala. There were two different cultures in Guatemala prior to this, including Maya and Non Maya, however; due to this movement, many different cultures, migrated to this area.
Due to this, Maya of Yucatan, and Maya of Guatemala had a desire to create their own culture and define this through many different methods. Capitalism was a major issue in defining these cultures and in their pursuit. This taught them that “they cannot always advance by eliminating cultures traditions, but rather by appropriating the, restructuring them, and reorganizing them, as well as their beliefs and practices” (page 39).
In addition to being idealized by capitalism, their roots issues were defined as: “colonialism, power relations, ethnicity, nationhood, and formation of their class” (page 39). Thehy longed to created their own class and represent themselves through culture. In doing so, the two cultures began to create products that they could create differences between their cultures but appears both focused on tourism and “souvenir sales” in order to identify their culture. (Page 39). This was the movement that started creating differences between the Maya of Yucatan Mexico and the Guatemalan Maya.
During this movement, anthropologists were trying to define each culture and have a good understanding of their cultural identity. In Guatemala it appears that they began writing ethnographies which provided descriptions of their “colonized world”, and these focused on the classic image of the Maya which in my opinion did not help much in the classification of these two cultures since the classic Maya were present prior to the breaking apart of the two Maya cultures. In Guatemala, there was Caucasian descent as well as “ladino’s” which were “non-Mayan”.
There were anthropologists and writers who were classified as “contemporary Maya” who most of them according to this book migrated to the United States in order to have the ability to define their culture and provide a meaning for their people. Leadership was another issue that took precedence in defining the “popular movement”. (Page 63) There were two types of leadership in this movement consisting of the “pan Movement” and the “Maya movement”. It was suggested in this movement that the Maya needed to “revamp their politics and create projects for self representation” (page 63).
This was said to define their cultures and face the issues that they were having with identity of their “heritage, materialism, and spiritualism, and create symbols to represent themselves”. (Page 63) There was a writer who originated in Guatemala named “Rigoberta Menchu” who is discussed in this book. Rigoberta wanted to share her opinions in Guatemala to aid in the development of their culture through her writings although she was lead by fear. Her parents were killed in Guatemala. Her mother was raped and killed and her father was killed by the Spanish Embassy.
Her brother was also killed in Guatemala by the army, which the book reveals he was burned in front of her. These events took place after she went to the government. Prior to this, when she tried to become part of the projects that were creating cultural identity in Guatemala she was refused. Being told that she was not part of their community. Although she lived in Guatemala during her lifetime, she was told that she did not work closely enough with the colonies involved in the cultural identification in order to represent them.
Receiving criticism for her efforts, she continued to want to share her knowledge. In doing so, she went to the government Due to this, she feared if she wrote about her experiences, and the culture she would face “army violence, death or exile” (page 69) She went into hiding and then went to Mexico. Reading this book has created definitions in culture that I was not aware of. I was not aware that there was a struggle to identify Guatemala and Yucatan Maya.
Until now I was under the impression that Mexico began as it is today and grew from hard work and creativity. I believed that Guatemala and Mexico were both occupied by Spanish descent of which were actually the same cultures. Listening to the development of cultural identity, and reading about the issues that their people faced brings forth a whole new meaning of a “third world country” to my eyes. Capitalism was discussed in this book, which is something that I relate directly to America since our countries American Dream is to “be better than the Jones”.
Where I have grew up in a place that we are focused on materialism, other cultures, have been born and created in a place where they do not even have the freedom to speak of what they have witnessed, or try to assist in building something that creates definition without being outcast. I was appalled to learn of the experiences that Rigoberta Menchu went through in order to basically try to survive. She was a strong role model for this movement. She had a purpose to try to do something great and was outcast in trying to do so.
To be a native of a country and having your whole family killed is unbelievable. Her brother being killed before her eyes in unheard of. Despite these hardships, she continued to move on, alone and even had to hide in order to protect herself. She is a strong person, and continued to remain strong even after hiding, and moved to Mexico. Despite her fear of retaliation, Rigoberta eventually did publish her experiences in her own Biography as mentioned above. This is amazing. In addition to learning about Rigoberta, I enjoyed learning about the author or this book, “Victor D. Montejo”.
He enrolled himself into a graduate study along with other Maya who were in a pursuit to help define their culture. After doing so, he has had the chance to write this book to talk about experiences of this culture. In closing, “Maya Intellectual Renaissance: Identity, Representation and Leadership” by Victor Do Montejo is an autobiography of the Maya civilization, and the definition of its culture. It outlines the history of the Maya and the non Maya. In addition, this book defines the old Maya civilization and outlines how the restructuring and organization of two separate Maya began.
Issues that were discussed in the book include: objects, believes, practices, capitalism, society, colonialism, power relations, formation of the classes, and a long pursuit of gaining cultural identity. Reading this book has made me aware of these issues and shown me how other cultures have enriched themselves with knowledge, research, politics and leadership. I have a stronger appreciation for American culture after reading this book, and realize how other countries have struggled in order to gain their own identities.
Capitalism definitely has different meanings in different countries. In the United States, again it has created an environment where people want to be better than others. Whether this is through materialism, education, financial status, image, you name it, we have formed a country that is based on capitalism. In Mexico, and Guatemala, capitalism affected their country in a different way. They used these values in effort to define their own culture, and be recognized for it. They were not trying to make more money than others or have more power.
They were not trying to gain status by having the latest and greatest. What they were trying to do is have a unique identity that they were entitled to in effort to create a purpose for themselves and a history that their ancestors could be proud of. They longed for definition and were not afraid to work hard for that definition. To this day, Mexico remains one of the hardest working countries with the least amount of pay. Their government does not take care of their country. Their civilians struggle to eat or drink water.
Their primary art appears to be in their creativity and sales. They are not afraid to work hard to make a living or even a dollar to feed their families. They were not given water that is clean, nor assistance from their government. Instead they have networked with each other, their friends and families. Some of them survive by having over 10 people live in their homes. Others survive by working two or three jobs, and letting the women or the children stay at home. Reading this book has been an eye opening experience.