Guatemalan Alienation

Contrastes Indígenas

This year FOTO»30, Guatemala’s Photo September, a month full of photographic exhibits has as the encompassing theme the concept Nation.

I remember what Manolo said last year when I entitled a post Perpetuating a Nation.

It [Guatemala] is a country, a republic… but a nation… I am not sure. —Manolo

Everyday I come across more Guatemalans who project a loss of identity. This is even true with the Maya people, especially the men, most of who have abandoned their traditional dress clothes in favor of a more Westernized look.

This alienation is also evident in the language where many young Mayas don’t speak the tongue of their parents. This is also true of mestizos (mixed) or ladinos who often use or mix English words into their every day talk without even realizing it or sometimes on purpose. All you have to do is look at the updates in Twitter, Facebook, Google+, et cetera to notice the abundance of English words, phrases or even entire thoughts being used for a peer audience who mostly speak Spanish.

For instance, once I came across a travel agent who handed me a brochure as he called it and when I questioned why he didn’t call it folleto (the Spanish word for brochure) he told me he didn’t know the word brochure was not Spanish. This is merely one example of the many I encounter almost everyday in Guatemala.

By the way, did you know that many Guatemalans now celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving in Guatemala?

Well, I do agree that Guatemala is NOT a nation. Furthermore, I believe Guatemalans are alienated. There are SO many examples of this alienation for sure. However, I would like to read some of your samples of Guatemalan alienation.

You’re welcome to submit as many examples of alienation in Guatemala as you can remember.

© 2011 – 2013, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • NYChapin

    How about a photoblog from Antigua done primarily in English ?

    • Cristina

      Touché!!

      • NYChapin

        ja ja. Fue para que se despertaran !

  • Sad but true. And yes, I would dare to say that most part of the Guatemalan people lacks the sense of identity and try every day to be something they’re not. And it is an issue that originates from a deeper level of conscience, erasing their cultural faces little by little. But, my friend, is a process that has begun hundreds of years before Columbus. Followed by the adoption of Olmec and Aztec cultural and religious influence; continued with the Spanish invasion to the modernity and nowadays is stronger than ever, trying to emulate everyday the other country’s way of life just not to be ignored or segregated. Everyday we are being conquered by the most strong example and it is a remarkable fact due to the mass media.

    • NYChapin

      excelente! I was hoping to read more comments about this interesting topic before finishing my mug of ” Antigua Coffee”. Curiosamente, I am doing my thesis on ” Mayan Identity in the US” and it has been humbling to discover how much I did not know about Guate. There are a few ways to look at the issue of identity. We can concentrate on the patojos wearing the jeans and sneakers and texting on their blackberries (LOL), but we can also admire the courageous act of resistance and self determination shown by the beautiful lady in the pic!
      There is lots of great work from non-guatemalans non-mayas  about our identity and I would like to learn more about about what the lady in the corte y huipil thinks. Here is the catch…. that has not been so easy to do en guate the last 500 years.

  • Cristina

    A mí lo que peor me cae es que agarren una palabrita y la usen hasta el cansancio aunque ni venga al caso.  Lo peor es que no se dan cuenta que son expresiones en inglés que en EEUU ya pasaron de moda.  Muchá, mínimo lean algún periódico para ver qué tostados está de moda en el mundo corporativo antes de querer zampar palabrejas en inglés que ni tienen idea para qué sirven. 

  • I think its funny that in Guatemala the younger generation is losing their sense of identity, when in the US of A, I’m trying to keep my Guatemalan roots as alive as I can… I really try to embrace what my parents left behind; I LOVE IT! I wish that the younger generations realize VERY SOON, how lucky they are to have an identity… a lot of Americans embrace other cultures because we don’t have much of a culture of our own here since we’re more of a melting pot. Anywho… just a few thoughts of mine… 😉

    • NYChapin

      Thank you Jessica !  how do you keep your identity alive ?

  • Eli Orozco

    I hate when they use the word V.I.P, maybe properly, but the word lacks social and historic context to Guatemalans. 

  • Eli Orozco

    Or what about some stupid fast food restaurant that uses the word “cheese” because there is no equivalent in Spanish to describe the same. 

  • Eli Orozco

    Or how about the Restaurantes Tipicos where the main musicians are Mariachi?

    • Erick!

      I went to a “Guatemalan” restaurante here in the States with my mother; she asked our waitress if they had tamales colorados and they were completely bewildered by her question.  They told us that they had never heard of such a thing.  We asked about “chuchitos” and received the same response.

      We all ended up getting pasta.  Go figure.

      • Cristina

        What??!!!  Be glad you didn´t order kakiq or tamalitos de chipilín envueltos en hoja de milpa. 

      • Cristina

        What??!!!  Be glad you didn´t order kakiq or tamalitos de chipilín envueltos en hoja de milpa. 

      • Cristina

        What??!!!  Be glad you didn´t order kakiq or tamalitos de chipilín envueltos en hoja de milpa. 

      • Cristina

        What??!!!  Be glad you didn´t order kakiq or tamalitos de chipilín envueltos en hoja de milpa. 

    • Cristina

      ¡Eso sí me saca de mis casillas! 
      Como dijo un comediante colombiano: ” En este país, los ricos quieren vivir en Londres, los de clase media quieren ser de EEUU y los pobres quieren ser mexicanos.”   Tuve que asegurarme que el tipo era colombiano porque pensé que estaba hablando de los guatemaltecos.

  • Eli Orozco

    I don’t remember where I read the story, but it was a first
    person account.

    This Guatemalan guy was showing some USAians friends
    Guatemala, he wanted them to experience the Guatemalan Culture.

    There was a dance “baile”, organized by the Ministerio de
    Cultura y Deportes and he took his friends to this place to show them
    Guatemalan Traditional Dance, by his surprise, when they entered the event, the
    music being play was Reggaeton.

    • Cristina

      Y que tal la reina de Petén, a la que le pidieron que nombrara un platillo típico de su departamento y contestó muy ufana: “¡El CHO MIN!” (Así lo dijo exáctamente.)

    • Cristina

      Y que tal la reina de Petén, a la que le pidieron que nombrara un platillo típico de su departamento y contestó muy ufana: “¡El CHO MIN!” (Así lo dijo exáctamente.)

  • Eli Orozco

    More?

    I have a friend who is a photographer; he showed me some
    photographs of last year’s Independence Day parade (desfile de la
    independencia), the most important one, the one on Zona 1.

    Going through the photos, I found some showing females
    dressed in Carnaval Costumes, I asked my friend about it –come on, it was
    independence day parade!-, and he told me they were dancing Samba all
    throughout the parade, they were from the Colegio Brazileiro or something like
    that he said. 

  • Erick!

    I think there’s a catch-22 to this topic when it deals with the indigenous crowd.  People, myself included, would want Indigenas to not lose their identity and continue wearing their traditional clothing and retain their Mayan culture — that’s what makes Guatemala so special and unique, but I also think that it must be difficult to retain your culture and traditions when you are looked down upon and treated as second-class citizens by your same people. 

    If they are seen wearing jeans/t-shirts/sneakers, people say that they’re losing their identity and trying too hard to become Westernized, but if they are seen in their traditional outfits and speaking in their language, then they are treated unfairly and looked as uneducated.  This comment is not directed to anyone on here, for I don’t think any of you have expressed that, but it’s definitely someting I’ve noticed in some Chapines.

    Thankfully nowadays, we see many indigenas who are highly educated and are still sporting their traditonal clothing — whch is refreshing to see and hopefully many more continue this trend.

  • Pues you say alienation I say Alien Nation

  • Monica Palomo

    I understand what you are saying… unfortunately I don’t have much time to write my comment, but a thought is that I believe this to be a normal thing in the world we live in… Sad, but inevitable. Internet and globalization is allowing people to go beyond and acquire different identities… We all do it, not only indigenas… Everybody adopts looks and ways they see and like from other people and cultures. The more we are exposed to the outside world, the more we lose our identity… We learn new ways, new costumes… As I said before, quite inevitable. 

  • Eric

    Just a few opinions; no soy chapin, pero me encanta el pais.  That being said:

    Personally, I love to see what other cultures have to offer.  If there’s something that I like or can use, I adopt it (sometimes adApt it); if not, it was still cool just to experience something different.   I know many chapines who feel the same.  Not viewing English phrases or non-traditional music or industrially-made clothes as a ‘loss’ of anything cultural; more like an addition.

    From what I’ve seen, there’s plenty of guatemalan-ness around; it just gets mixed occasionally with a bit of something else, like trying a different spice in pepian.  Maybe you like it better; maybe you go back to the recipe you had before.  A veces, cosas se transforman…asi es la vida.  If you look for tradition, you’ll find it.  Probably easier than finding coffee cherry jam.  ;D

    My inspiration for survival of guatemalan culture comes from the young lady I saw today here on campus, going to classes like she does everyday, dressed in traje from somewhere in Quiche (I think).  I’ll have to say “Hi” and find out her story. It’s nice to see a touch of class (and guate-ness) up here in the corner pocket, amidst the sea of flip-flops, shorts and AE t-shirts.
     
    Just an opinion or two.  One day, when I grow up, I hope to be a man of few words; words that smack of profound insight and knowledge beyond my years.  You know, like Manolo.

    • JAguilar

      I agree with the desire many of you express, of appreciation for our Guatemalan culture… but, I also think that we as human beings are free to choose for ourselves, what we want to wear and what we want to look like. 

      Europeans and Americans have been doing it for a long time… Not all “Westerners” look exactly the same. And just like “westerners” can and should experiment with their looks, so should everyone else. 

      It is one thing to experiment with your look and another to abandon yourself or your culture. And, I think that as long we, in the larger society, contribute to and encourage the appreciation of our Guatemalan roots, the knowledge of our history (good and bad), and knowledge of the immense diversity within our borders, we are contributing to the preservation of our culture. 

      I live in NY and in Italy. I’m Guatemalan. I don’t feel any less Guatemalan for being outside of the country of my birth and the country of my heart, and I see Americans and Italians all the time who are also “in search” of their identities or running away from their identities. I think this search which may sometimes appear as a running away, is a human process of growth not of alienation. 

      • Eric

             @JAguilar : In the first version of my comment, I had written almost exactly what you have here.  Estoy de acuerdo, completamente.  Me interesan mucho las diferentes maneras en que personas expresan su identidad y su cultura.  Como usted, pienso que la llave de preservacion de la cultura es el agradecimiento.  Y, de todos estos comentarios, es obvio que el agradecimiento existe.  Le saludo a usted con cafecito guatemalteco, senor ! 

  • Hugo, no confundas Identidad con Nacionalismo. 

    “According to the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann (related entries in AGDP), the saddest thing about the clash of the civilizations of Europe and the civilizations of the Americas was the loss more than 2,000 ways of being human…” 

    http://antiguadailyphoto.com/2007/03/30/kings-of-spain-visit-antigua-guatemala-photos-video-and-slideshow/

    • No lo hago.  Lo decía por el comentario de Manolo que aparece al inicio.

  • Did you know that in Guatemala they don’t sing Feliz cumpleaños, but instead they sing Happy Birthday even though most people don’t know any English. This past weekend, I was at Chinese restaurant full of Guatemalans and I heard Happy Birthday at least seven times witch Chinese firecracker as sound track. 😉

  • There are so many examples. As many things have been lost, there is an effort to recover them, or at least to acknowledgment. For example, how many of us Guatemalans (particularly ladinos) would actually accept that there is a good possibility of having some degree of Mayan genes in our gene pool?

    Perhaps alien-nation/alienation also imply some degree of discrimination. What does it imply to be truly Guatemalan? Probably we can start by knowing what we love eating, like nuestros frijolitos, tortillas, pepián, jocón, tamalitos, atoles, etc.

  • Perdón, mi comentario se fue en inglés… Apenas otro ejemplo 🙂

  • Ah, ahora con Google+, ya le dicen: “dale un plus”, “le di un plus”, “es un plus”, etc… En fin 🙂

  • Ugo Hernandez

    Buenas tardes a todos, los invito a ver la exposición de fotografía
    “aleNACIóN” que se esta llevando dentro del marco de FOTO>30 en
    N.O.A.’s Gallery (12 calle 5-59 zona 1, Interior N.O.A. segundo nivel,
    Ciudad de Guatemala).  La muestra se puede visitar de martes a sábados
    de 11:00 am hasta hasta la media noche.   Es una muetsra muy interesante
    donde por medio de imagenes (8 fotografos nacionales, Andrea Aragón,
    Rudy Girón, Eny Hernández, Ileana Galvez, Manu Pineda, Neko Saldaña,
    Julián Quevedo y su servidor Ugo Hernández) estamos mostrando todo lo
    que se ha hablado aquí.  Slds a todos, la muestra estará hasta el 10 de
    Octubre. 

    • Gracias Ugo por la invitación y de verdad si tienen la oportunidad de ir a ver la exposición «alieNación» no se lo pierdan.