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Following a civil war that engulfed the nation for thirty-six years, the Guatemalan state has taken steps to integrate previously remote territories into its broader political and economic system. This has led to the increased political inclusion and economic integration of Mayan communities that had remained on the outskirts of Ladino society. Unfortunately, not much attention has been given to understanding the effects of this process on indigenous political institutions. After traveling to the Western Highlands region in December 2013 and surveying research from political science, anthropology, and environmental science, I have concluded that the 1996 Peace Accords have not helped to empower local Mayan political institutions. In fact, this process of political and economic integration has delegitimized indigenous political authority through the state institutionalization of private property rights and democracy. Thus, the state has both violated cultural rights afforded to these communities after the civil war and taken away a platform for indigenous communities to constructively engage with the social change that will come with increase economic inclusion and development. This conclusion can lead us to question or refine any understanding of the proper balance between individual political inclusion and local institutional autonomy when discussing cultural rights.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Political Science and Economics

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Jason Levy


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

Cultural Rights and Political Authority in Maya Guatemala