Performing Justice: Guatemalan Women Reconfiguring Resistance through Activism and Performance

Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 - Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

691 Barrows Hall

Center for Race Gender Thursday Forum Series presents…
Performing Justice: Guatemalan Women Reconfiguring Resistance through Activism and Performance

Tejiendo La Memoria: Guatemalan Women Contesting Violence during La Guerra Civil and its aftermath”

Carolyn Vera, Ethnic Studies, Chican@ Studies

In this paper, I interrogate the performance art of two Guatemalan performance artists, Regina Jose Galindo and Maria Adela Diaz, emphasizing the ways they use performance art to intervene in Guatemala’s history of gendered violence. Focusing on the experience of the civil war (1960-1996) and its aftermath, I argue that this intervention summons silenced narratives of collective memory and trauma. In doing so, these artists chronicle a history of gendered violence systematically erased from the nation’s archives and sanctioned accounts of Guatemalan history. I propose that the performances reposition the marginalized memories of indigenous women in particular. Engaging Cecilia Menjívar’s conceptualization of ‘normalized violence’ in Guatemala and Diana Taylor’s theorizations of the ‘spectacles of gender and nationness,’ I assert that Diaz and Galindo push against the all too generalized belief that the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War does not permeate through the present. By centering marginalized memories of feminicide, military violence, and genocide, I propose that the artists perform acts of remembering and knowledge as forms of resistance.

“¿Desarollo Para Quienes?” Maya Women’s Resistance Against Megaprojects in Guatemala
Zully Juarez, Gender and Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies

On June 23rd 2007, the community of Santa Cruz Barillas organized a referendum where approximately 50, 000 people voted, rejecting mining and other hydroelectric projects within their municipality. However, in 2009, Hidralia Energia, a Spanish owned hydroelectric company, arrived in Santa Cruz Barillas planning a series of dams, ultimately leading to protests rejecting the presence of this company in their lands.
This project explores how Maya women have defended both their land and bodies simultaneously, through the case of Hydro Santa Cruz. My methodology involves 6 qualitative interviews as well as participant observation at a local radio station. This research took place in Santa Cruz Barillas, a municipality in the northern department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, with a population of 130,000, the majority of whom are Maya Q’anjob’al. Findings include a difference in gendered response to colonialism. When local residents received threats from Hydro Santa Cruz after refusing to sell or leave their land, men had more mobility to leave the home and go into hiding where as women who also received the same threats had less mobility because they had to secure the safety of their children and land. Women made a strong statement about the importance of defending mother earth and observed a connection between the Spanish hydroelectric company, the colonial invasion, and the 36-year Civil War (1960-1996), terming this megaproject as a “new invasion”.
By examining the conditions of indigenous women and their connection to the land, as Andrea Smith has observed, colonial sexual violence establishes the dominant colonial ideology that Native bodies are inherently violable, particularly women’s, and by extension, that Native lands are also inherently violable (Smith 2005: 12), one can analyze how indigenous communities are violated through a variety of state policies and sexual assault impacting the lives of women, as explored in this project.

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