Springe direkt zu Inhalt

The Rebirth of Xa Altepet Xinka: Indigenous Authenticity Discourse and the Invisiblisation of Indigenous Minority Voices

The historical Xinka inhabited most of Southeastern Guatemala. Today, those who consider themselves to be Xinka inhabit small “enclaves” in three counties along the international border with El Salvador. There are around 250,000 people living in these enclaves. During the Guatemalan Peace Process (1985-1996), a Xinka mobilization started and began promoting its identity in order to gain access to sociopolitical life in the country. Surprisingly, the State which traditionally has been considered to be anti-indigenous - promoted their organization by inviting their leaders to participate in important decision making bodies at the national level. Contrary to the State’s position, Mayan leaders and activists have opposed their participation, accusing those that call themselves Xinka to be non-authentic indigenous and of using the indigenous banner in order to attract international donor money. They have declared the Xinka extinct based on the “fact” that the Xinka language is only spoken by a few elders and that there are no “indigenous traits visible in those populations.” The Mayan leadership has been successful in taking away the political spaces gained by Xinka activists. The dissertation advances the argument that the essentialized notion of indigeneity in Guatemala produces the invisibilization of entire populations in the name of the “real” and “authentic” indigenous persona/community. The Xinka case is presented as empirical evidence of this invisibilization, but the argument can be extended to any indigenous minority voice in the country. The “authenticity litmus test” imposed by those indigenous leaders in power positions produces further inequalities among those who are deemed authentic and those deemed non-authentic. Furthermore, sociopolitical practices, which are being used to prevent those deemed unauthentic to gain access to sociopolitical life, are explored. It is argued that Mayan leaders, who currently are monopolizing the production and reproduction of authentic indigeneity in Guatemala, are in a position of “structurally complicity” by promoting political control mechanisms that prevent minority indigenous population to express their own sense of indigeneity.

Banner BMBF en