On the front page of October 23, 2019, edition of the newspaper El Periódico, a headline said: “Guatemalan migrants look for a better world” (my translation).
The headline was followed by the words: “They had to leave Guatemala in order to succeed. Now they try to share and develop their acquired skills to change the lives of others”. While the visibilization of migrants is crucial and necessary, the eight individuals featured on the cover were all non-indigenous. The fact that the newspaper didn’t feature or celebrate the achievements of indigenous people is not surprising, but it’s still infuriating. It’s important to note that this critique is n...
The headline was followed by the words: “They had to leave Guatemala in order to succeed. Now they try to share and develop their acquired skills to change the lives of others”. While the visibilization of migrants is crucial and necessary, the eight individuals featured on the cover were all non-indigenous. The fact that the newspaper didn’t feature or celebrate the achievements of indigenous people is not surprising, but it’s still infuriating. It’s important to note that this critique is not against the success non-indigenous migrants have obtained outside Guatemala, but rather to highlight the continuous belittlement of indigenous people in Guatemala and abroad. The online article talks about the success of these eight individuals and provides a brief quote of Q’anjob’al Marcos Antil, but it doesn’t highlight his achievements.
I have travelled to many places in the US and have met many Maya community organizations and people who have been working towards social justice and immigrant rights, in community radio, providing translation services or working towards creating community in the diaspora. There are Maya children born in many places inside the US, from California to Florida, who are creating spaces to promote their culture and languages and have served as translators for Maya immigrants in order to provide an access to social services or the court system. I know of Mayas who have gained university degrees, including PhDs, the highest level of academic achievement one can obtain. I know of Mayas who struggle on a daily basis, who perform one, two or even three jobs in order to provide for their families, send remittances and continue to pursue a better future for their children. I know of Mayas who have established their own businesses, from coffee shops in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to an upholstery shop in Los Angeles, California, or a bakery in Covington, Kentucky. These are the individuals and the stories left out from the cover of El Periódico.
The cover of the newspaper and its story are also problematic because of how they whitewashed the image of Congresswoman Norma Torres, specially her official picture, available on her website. After comparing Torres’ official picture with the one edited by El Periódico, one can observe that the newspaper’s image was altered to make her appear with a paler skin. The whitewashing of people with darker skin in magazines and newspapers is rooted in white supremacy, colorism and racism, which view whiter skin as superior and appeal to European standards of beauty.
Mayas have been migrating to the US in significant numbers since the 1970s as a result of the Guatemalan Civil War. To discuss indigenous displacement from Guatemala is to ask why people migrate in the first place. This would then require to recognize the genocidal structures of violence maintained and created by the Guatemalan state that displace people from their ancestral territories. The cover of El Periódico is in accordance with this colonial logic of wiping out indigenous people and reinforce Guatemalan severe culture of racism and classism.
Las opiniones expresadas en este artículo son responsabilidad exclusiva del autor. Plaza Pública ofrece este espacio como una contribución al debate inteligente y sosegado de los asuntos que nos afectan como sociedad. La publicación de un artículo no supone que el medio valide una argumentación o una opinión como cierta, ni que ratifique sus premisas de partida, las teorías en las que se apoya, o la verdad de las conclusiones. De acuerdo con la intención de favorecer el debate y el entendimiento de nuestra sociedad, ningún artículo que satisfaga esas especificaciones será descartado por su contenido ideológico. Plaza Pública no acepta columnas que hagan apología de la violencia o discriminen por motivos de raza, sexo o religión
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