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Mayan Languages and Guatemala Law: Shifting Identities and Ideologies

  • Judith M. Ixq’anil MaxwellEmail author
Reference work entry

Abstract

In the sixteenth century, Spanish clerics sought to learn the indigenous languages of Guatemala to better proselytize, but early Bourbon reforms had ruled these languages inadequate vessels for the gospel. In 1646 Antonio de Lara was dispatched to proscribe the indigenous languages and hasten adoption of Spanish as the language of Guatemala. Since then government initiatives until the late twentieth century continued to promote assimilation. Not until the Peace Accord on Indigenous Identity and Rights of 1995 was the right of Mayan peoples of Guatemala to speak their languages and maintain their cultures acknowledged. In 2003 the Congreso Nacional decreed that government educational, health, security, and legal services should be available to speakers of indigenous languages. In 2010 the Ministry of Education began requiring that all national schools K-12, public and private, teach the indigenous language of their region. After 500 years of repression, the Mayan languages are being acknowledged as such, as opposed to “dialects” or “tongues.” Their speakers are emerging from the shadows to speak their languages in public. Identities are being renegotiated, while many Maya still seek to pass as non-indigenous, others are defining new ways to be indigenous, and new Maya ethnicities are being declared and seeking official government ratification.

Keywords

Peace Accords Language and identity Bilingual education Language revitalization Cultural resurgence Legal linguistic landscapes 

Notes

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Linguistics ProgramTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

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