Copyright 2004 Donna DeCesare
The most comprehensive coverage of Central America in years.
Award-winning radio to use as an educational and learning tool.
Casimira has decided not to wear traditional indigenous dress as her mother does

Indigenous youth between two worlds


Mayan leaders start the day with traditional spiritual ceremony

Segment 10:

Senior Producer: Maria Emilia Martin
Associates: Summer Harlow, Luciana Castro
Central American Youth Collaborator: Casimira Herrera Xiloj

The tourist posters for Guatemala, Panama, and other Central American countries celebrate the region's indigenous character, with folkloric images of men and women in brightly colored, intricately woven textiles. But the reality facing indigenous people in the region is much more difficult and complex than the cheery face painted by these tourist come-ons. Almost 600 years after the Spanish conquistador Pedro Alvarado marched south from Mexico City to conquer the Mayan kingdoms of what is now Central America, indigenous people in the region are still subject to discrimination and repression. In Guatemala, where at least half of the population is indigenous, racism is often an insidious fact of life.

In this segment, young indigenous woman Maria Casimira Xiloj Herrera tells her stories about being an indigenous woman in present-day Guatemala. Her story is woven with other scenes providing information of what it is like to be an indigenous young person in Central America in the 21st century. We also hear from indigenous leaders of the reality of persistent racism and the possibilities of change.

Series producer Maria Martin of GraciasVida Productions has the report from Guatemala.

For more information about the issues raised in the segment Indigenous Identity and Expression in Post-War Central America, see the following books and articles.

(Note: this is not intended as a complete list. Check back for more recommendations and an opportunity to make your own recommendations soon.)

Brintnall, Douglas E: Revolt Against the Dead: The Modernization of a Mayan Community in the Highlands of Guatemala. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1979

Cojtí Cuxil, Demetrio: The Politics of Mayan Revindication. Edward Fischer y R. McKenna Brown, eds., Mayan Cultural Activism in Guatemala. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996: 19-50

Fischer, Edward y R. McKenna Brown, eds: Mayan Cultural Activism in Guatemala. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996

Jonas, Susanne. The Battle for Guatemala; Rebels, Death Squads, and U.S. Power. Boulder: Westview Press, 1991

Menchu, Rigoberta. I Am Rigoberta Menchu.
A very useful list of many indigenous and other organizations in Guatemala

Fundacion Rigoberta Menchu
The website of Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu’s Foundation

Declaration of the Indigenous People of Guatemala

American Indian Heritage Foundation
Much information regarding indigenous topics, in particular about Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu.

Information on the Report on the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous People in Guatemala by U. N. Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen

Produced by GraciasVida Media Center, the independent journalism resource for Latin America.

For more information, contact:
Producer Maria Martin email:
or telephone: 415.670.9717

Funded by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

© Maria Martin

Photo at top left © Donna DeCesare