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Indigenous Leaders Claim Discrimination and Racism Persist

August 13, 2010

By: Ligia María

Guatemala, August 8, 2010. In Guatemala, where Mayan pueblos have little access to politics, education or legal recourse, indigenous leaders claim that discrimination and racism persist.

Translated from Spanish; original version below.

Rigoberta Menchu

Rigoberta Menchú

Versión original en Español, abajo

According to Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu, “…the problem is still there, although it’s been discussed for 30 years. Politics are needed, because the discrimination continues, though stealthily.”

Menchu indicates that the plight of indigenous people stems from a lack of pluralism within the government: “There is no estate (representation) in Guatemala for the indigenous pueblos. For instance, if we go to Ixil (northwestern Guatemala), the Estate (State) reduced the participation to one indigenous representative.” In the opinion of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Guatemalan Mayan pueblos report only slight political progress after decades of conflict.

“Although many indigenous citizens from the pueblos qualify for Public Administration positions, the State maintains a colonialist…environment,” opines Menchu.

Isabel Cipriano, leader of the Mayan Women’s Association, “MOLOJ,” believes that the disease of racism motivates the manipulative use of indigenous peoples and pueblos as de-humanized “ornaments.”

Cipriano claims that clear evidence of discrimination against indigenous populations emerges in their limited access to political power, education and legal recourse.

Alvaro Colom, President of Guatemala, ostensibly formed a government with a Mayan face.  However, Minister of Culture, Jeronimo Lancerio, remains the sole indigenous cabinet member.  Furthermore, of the 158-member Congress, only 15 are Maya.

But, Alvaro Pop, a member of the Permanent Forum of the United Nations for the Indigenous Pueblos, sees important political progress on the local level.  Out of a total of 333 mayors in Guatemala, 129 are indigenous.

On August 9, 2010, Guatemala celebrates the International Day of Indigenous Pueblos. These Pueblos survive against all the odds of poverty and political exclusion.  But, we must “…celebrate that we are here, “ claims Cipriano.

Guatemala boasts 23 ethnic Mayan groups, including the Garifunas and Xincas. According to the most recent census, completed in 2002, these indigenous groups account for 42 percent of Guatemala’s total population of 11 million.


Spanish Version. Versión en Español.


Guatemala, 8 ago (EFE).- La discriminación y el racismo continúan en Guatemala, en donde los pueblos mayas tienen acceso limitado en el ámbito político, educativo, sanitario y justicia, según coinciden varios líderes indígenas en declaraciones que publica hoy la prensa local.

Puede encontrar esta noticia en español en el siguiente link:

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