Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2008

Publication Title



Guatemala - history, Guatemala - economy, Mayan Women


During the first half of the twentieth century, Guatemala was dominated
by two of Latin America’s most repressive regimes: first that of Manuel Estrada
Cabrera (1898–1920) and then that of General Jorge Ubico (1931–44). Though
the marketplace was one venue through which these dictators sought to impose
their modernization programs of progress and order, criminal records abound with Mayan women disobeying market regulations and more generally disrupting the peace. Beyond putting the women’s livelihoods at stake, these conflicts were also struggles over ethnic, gender, and state power. As such, marketplaces were critical both to elite efforts to mold the economy, society, and politics to their ideals and to Mayan efforts to carve out spaces of autonomy. At the same time, some Mayan women used the very institutions and laws that criminalized vendors’ behavior to press for their own rights. Even though the state’s structures were based on patriarchal and racist notions of authority, they offered Mayan women considerable space to contest male, ladino, and elite power.



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