Mayas in the Marketplace

[ Latin American Studies ]

Mayas in the Marketplace

Tourism, Globalization, and Cultural Identity

By Walter E. Little

Drawing on over a decade of fieldwork, Walter Little presents the first ethnographic study of Maya handicraft vendors in the international marketplace.



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6 x 9 | 332 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-70567-8

Selling handicrafts to tourists has brought the Maya peoples of Guatemala into the world market. Vendors from rural communities now offer their wares to more than 500,000 international tourists annually in the marketplaces of larger cities such as Antigua, Guatemala City, Panajachel, and Chichicastenango. Like businesspeople anywhere, Maya artisans analyze the desires and needs of their customers and shape their products to meet the demands of the market. But how has adapting to the global marketplace reciprocally shaped the identity and cultural practices of the Maya peoples?

Drawing on over a decade of fieldwork, Walter Little presents the first ethnographic study of Maya handicraft vendors in the international marketplace. Focusing on Kaqchikel Mayas who commute to Antigua to sell their goods, he explores three significant issues:

  • how the tourist marketplace conflates global and local distinctions.
  • how the marketplace becomes a border zone where national and international, developed and underdeveloped, and indigenous and non-indigenous come together.
  • how marketing to tourists changes social roles, gender relationships, and ethnic identity in the vendors' home communities.

Little's wide-ranging research challenges our current understanding of tourism's negative impact on indigenous communities. He demonstrates that the Maya are maintaining a specific, community-based sense of Maya identity, even as they commodify their culture for tourist consumption in the world market.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Subjectivity and Fieldwork among Kaqchikel Vendors
  • Chapter 1. Guatemala as a Living History Museum
  • Chapter 2. Place and People in a Transnational Borderzone City
  • Chapter 3. Antigua Típica Markets and Identity Interaction
  • Chapter 4. Mercado de Artesanía Compañía de Jesús and the Politics of Vending
  • Chapter 5. Gendered Marketplace and Household Reorganization
  • Chapter 6. The Places Kaqchikel Maya Vendors Call Home
  • Chapter 7. Home as a Place of Exhibition and Performance in San Antonio Aguas Calientes
  • Chapter 8. Marketing Maya Culture in Santa Catarina Palopó
  • Conclusion: Traditions and Commodities
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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Scene I: Ruq'ij Ala', San Antonio Aguas Calientes, March 1997

Tomás and Alejandra invited me to celebrate their son's ninth birthday, a gathering attended by numerous members of their family. As is customary, pepián (roasted chile and tomato sauce for meat) was served with rice and tortillas. For dessert we ate white cake and drank Coca-Cola. Afterward, the adults discussed family, work, and me while the children played in the courtyard.

We compared the land and rent prices in San Antonio Aguas Calientes and Chicago, as well as other cultural differences between our towns. They were curious to know if the children of Spanish speakers spoke Spanish in Chicago. Was bilingual schooling promoted? Were children embarrassed to speak Spanish? Tomás's mother commented that the public school in San Antonio was giving lessons in Kaqchikel. "It's good that the children are learning it in school, but the lessons aren't very good because the teachers don't speak Kaqchikel."

Her sister laughed, "And you don't know Kaqchikel either. You use a lot of Spanish words when you speak." They all laughed, and someone commented that it is important to know Kaqchikel. In the courtyard the children yelled at each other in Spanish.

"It's really good that you speak our language," Alejandra told me.

"You don't use any Spanish words," commented another relative.

Tomás said to me, "We saw you the other day when we were walking in the Central Plaza in Antigua. You are an indígena the same as us."

"Thanks," I answered, "but why?"

Tomás explained, "Because you speak our language well. You like our food. Also, the Ladinos treat you badly."

I replied that I did not understand what he meant.

Alejandra continued, "When we passed through the plaza, we saw that you were with some vendors from Santa Catarina [Palopó]. The Ladinos said foul words to you and spit at you. You are indígena like us."

Seizing the moment to talk about identity issues, I asked them what they thought about the debates going on in the newspapers about Maya and Ladino identity. Several of them said that they had seen the editorial columns, but they do not read them anymore. "They only write because they like to talk a lot. We know who we are," one of them commented.

Then someone changed the subject, "In England there is a problem. A lot of cows have been killed because of a bad disease."

"That's true," another said, "because they are mad cows."

We did not return to identity issues.

Scene II: Compañía de Jesús Artisan Marketplace, Antigua Guatemala, May 1997

On my way into the Compañía de Jesús Artisan Marketplace, Delmi waves me over. Her small típica tienda (store selling handicraft goods) is on the northeast corner of the marketplace. "Where are you hurrying now?" she asks me in Kaqchikel.

"I have to do an interview inside the marketplace," I answer.

"Wait! It's not good to rush by and not talk to us for a few minutes," she says, motioning me to sit down.

As I squat down to talk, she comments, "You haven't passed by here in many days."

"That's because I moved and then I went to Comalapa," I respond as a group of tourists walks up to her display of textiles, dolls, and key chains.

One asks slowly in Spanish with an American accent, "Where is the post office?"

Delmi tells them and then says in Kaqchikel, "I have to sell maps. If I sell them for Q1 (US$0.17), I would make a lot of money."

We notice that a few elderly women, dressed in threadbare blusas (machine-made blouses) and cortes (wraparound skirts), have paused and are listening to us converse. One asks Delmi, "Does he know lengua [literally "tongue," but used as a synonym for "language"]?"

"No," Delmi answers. "He knows Kaqchikel."

The women look perplexed, and then the oldest one asks me, "Do you know lengua?"

"Only a little Kaqchikel," I reply.

"Thanks and praise the Lord that you speak lengua." she says, patting me on the shoulder.

Delmi interrupts, "He doesn't speak lengua; he speaks Kaqchikel."

"What is Kaqchikel?" the woman asks.

"Qach'ab'äl [Our language]," Delmi informs her. "What is your language?"

"Lengua," she replies.

"No. There is no language named lengua," Delmi says. "I speak Kaqchikel because I am from San Antonio Aguas Calientes. Where are you from?"

"Salcaja," she answers.

"Do you speak the same as those from Santa Cruz del Quiché?" Delmi inquires.

"Yes, the same," she answers.

"Then, you speak K'iche'," Delmi tells her.

"I don't know," the woman says. She turns and speaks to the other women with her. When she turns back to Delmi and me, she says, "We speak lengua." Then, she asked me, "Do you know a lot [of lengua]?"

"A little," I say before Delmi interrupts and says, "He is fluent in Kaqchikel. He is teaching my daughter how to speak it."

The women laugh and one asks (in K'iche') the girl next to Delmi if it's true, but she says in Spanish, "I don't speak Kaqchikel. I only understand a little."

The women laugh and continue in the direction of the Central Plaza.

Tourism, Social Relations, and Identity in Guatemala

Kaqchikel Maya handicraft vendors work and live in places that are situated within a range of local, state, and global political and economic forces. The scenes above illustrate concerns they have about identity, language, and social relations among themselves and with Ladinos and tourists. This book focuses on how Kaqchikel Maya handicraft vendors strategically use different identity constructions for political and economic reasons to help maintain their livelihoods.

In Guatemala, a country that comprises over twenty different ethnolinguistic groups and has a history of discriminatory practices against the Maya and political violence, it is important to understand the types of social relations that exist between different groups of people and then know how the people involved in these relations position themselves socially, politically, and economically vis-à-vis others. In this book, I am less concerned with discussing specific categories of identity, such as ethnic, national, cultural, gender, or class identities, than I am with examining the ways that Mayas, specifically Kaqchikel Mayas, strategically make and use these categories within the contexts of national and international tourism. In other words, instead of pursuing identity categories and identity as an attribute that Mayas have, I treat identity as a process.

Additionally, the two examples of conversations reveal some of the interrelated social and economic issues that have concerned Kaqchikel Mayas since the 1990s, such as crime, language retention, money, tourism, and inequalities (social, political, and economic) between Ladinos and Mayas, among other interests. Tourism is one of the more important institutions around which Kaqchikel and K'iche' Mayas organize their economic lives in Guatemala. Típica vendors, those who sell handwoven textiles and handmade crafts, have been a common fixture in Guatemala since at least the 1930s. Although there were significant numbers of them until the early 1980s, when violence against Mayas—a direct result of the conflict between the Guatemalan military and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (Unidad Nacional Revolucionaria Guatemalteca, UNRG)—contributed to a decline in number of tourists, tourism dramatically increased in the postwar 1990s. In turn, the number of vendors selling handicrafts increased for multiple reasons: more tourists (averaging over 500,000 per year since 1990, which represent larger numbers than for any year prior to the violence), resulting in a greater demand for handicrafts; easier within-country travel as the conflict ended; high levels of unemployment and underemployment (46 percent or higher); poor or low wages in the countryside (US$2/day for ten hours' labor); land shortages as a result of population growth in some towns (e.g., San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Santa Catarina Palopó); and low capital investment to enter típica sales (a backstrap loom costs around US$1.50, and one need only bring bracelets and some used clothing to get started). Because of changes in politics (the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996 between the government and revolutionaries) and in the infrastructure (building and improving roads has been a priority of recent presidential administrations), Kaqchikel Maya vendors have become commuters. They travel regularly, sometimes daily, between their hometowns and their workplaces in tourism marketplaces.

It is primarily Mayas who create and sell the handicrafts that tourists buy. They also clean rooms and tend gardens in hotels and wash dishes and bus tables in restaurants. The garden produce (tomatoes, peppers, carrots, squash) and commercial crops (maize, beans, broccoli) they grow end up on the tables of hotels, restaurants, and Ladino families that host foreign students studying Spanish. They build the hotels, restaurants, and sites that tourists use. Típica vendors, however, have intense connections to tourism because they interact directly with tourists in the marketplace. Other Mayas' relationships to tourism are indirect (in the case of farmers and construction workers) or mediated through their mainly Ladino employers (for hotel and restaurant employees).

How Maya típica vendors participate in tourism gives rise to two interrelated problems. First, not only do the interests and practices of foreign tourists affect the ways that Kaqchikel Maya vendors present themselves in the marketplace and in their hometowns, but vendors' participation in these tourism marketplaces has also led to changes in the performance of some gender roles in their households and in how they participate in hometown social and political activities. Furthermore, international tourism contributes to their thoughts about and practice of language and identity among themselves in their hometowns and households.

The second problem relates to how Mayas construct and maintain their identity within a globally oriented tourism market. I argue that one of the more significant components of identity construction for Mayas is their ongoing social relations, but maintaining social relations with others is no simple matter. That Kaqchikel Maya típica vendors commute to tourism sites such as Antigua and Panajachel from their hometowns presents both theoretical and methodological problems with regard to how vendors are economically and socially connected to their hometowns and to global markets through international tourism. Hence, the social relations in which they participate span three overlapping social spheres: those with persons from their hometowns; those with other vendors, middlepersons, and craftspersons in the handicraft market; and those with consumers—usually foreign tourists but also Ladinos and occasionally other Mayas.

That international tourists and tourism institutions affect Maya handicraft vendors' lives will be apparent in the coming chapters. However, this is not a study about the impact of international tourism on Mayas. The Mayas described in this book do not have to enter the tourism business. They choose to participate and in the process use various kinds of identity in calculated ways. They work to maintain social relations with residents from their hometowns and other handicraft market participants. These concerns distinguish this study from impact studies outlined by Cristóbal Kay (1989) related to underdevelopment research, and by June Nash (1981) related to world systems analysis. Instead of focusing on the impact of international tourism, this book concentrates on how Maya handicraft vendors participate in this global economy and construct and use dynamic and flexible cultural identities to provide livelihoods for themselves.

Anthropological Studies of Globalization

There are ethnographic and theoretical gaps related to studies of globalization, international tourism, and locality (or place). Recent anthropological studies of globalism and transnationalism and their relation to locality, such as Arjun Appadurai's (1996) Modernity at Large, Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson's (1997) Culture, Power, Place, and Michael Kearney's (1996) Reconceptualizing the Peasantry, have staked out a theoretical ground that does not always focus on the day-to-day practices of the people they discuss. They are mainly concerned with diasporic peoples who maintain connections with and get news about their compatriots through e-mail, the Internet, and various forms of mass media. In favorable economic and political climates, these peoples may return periodically to their homelands and hometowns. Research of this type has focused primarily on boundary crossing, on how members of dispersed social groups stay in contact with each other, and on classifying or describing observable features of these peoples' global and transnational interactions.

Instead of working in their hometowns, workers move between their "hometowns" and places of employment in other cities and even other countries. With these labor practices, meanings of nation, community, and identity are changing for those who migrate for work because they are in regular, intense contact with cultural Others. Increasingly, the subjects of anthropological interest do not fit traditional academic categories, such as primitive and peasant (Kearney 1996). Furthermore, as Nash (1993b: 20) points out, people from different cultural traditions are linked through commodities, as when "consuming elite" travelers "search for identity through consumerism" and form strange alliances with "producing communities" that lead to new forms of handicrafts that are still perceived as "traditional." Thus, community for Mexican/Zapotec migrant laborers to the United States (Kearney 1996) and for Mesoamerican producers of handicrafts to tourists (Nash 1993a) is linked in concrete ways to both local and global economic interests.

According to Appadurai (2000: 1-3), globalization is a "source of anxiety" for social scientists, activists, and the poor that is reflected in a "double apartheid." One aspect of this is the separation between academic debates and "vernacular discourses about the global" that attempt to maintain local and national cultural and economic autonomy. The other aspect of it is that the poor are removed from both "nationalist discourses about globalization" and global discourses "surrounding trade, labor, environment, disease, and warfare." Appadurai (2000: 3) argues that new social organizations, "grassroots globalizations," are emerging that "contest, interrogate, and reverse these developments."

There is nothing unique or profound in this statement. Earlier, Stuart Hall (1997a, 1997b) made a similar observation that people in today's world feel forced to go global but sometimes react by going local—creating new strategies for creating locality and identity. The question should not be Does globalization homogenize or differentiate people and social groups?—a theme also addressed in Identities on the Move: Transnational Processes in North America and the Caribbean Basin (Goldín 1999). Instead, globalization studies need to focus on the particular ways that people live in the world, how they work, and how they reproduce their collective identities. Depending on the social, economic, and political contexts and the goals of the persons in question, globalization can be both homogenizing and differentiating. Compared to Appadurai and Hall, Nash and Christine Kovic (1997) offer a concrete ethnographic example using the Zapatista National Liberation Army's uprising to illustrate political resistance to the Mexican government's promotion of global trade and finance. And Marc Edelman (1999) shows how "peasant" can be a political identity and practice for Costa Ricans that also contests globalization. One of the conditions of living and working within the world today is dealing with globalization in specific ways, as the Zapatista revolutionaries in Mexico, the peasants in Costa Rica, and the Maya handicraft vendors in Guatemala are doing.

Rather than map global labor, commodity, and other flows, I describe ethnographically how Kaqchikel Maya vendors who are not displaced from the places where they were born and raised are nonetheless tied to the ways that "global" and "local" converge in the places where they live and work. In thinking about this convergence, I endeavor to fuse Appadurai's theories on the production of locality with John Watanabe's (1990, 1992) theories on Maya practices of community construction to show how Mayas incorporate themselves into the global while continuing to reinscribe significance in the local.

Tourism as a Global Process

In contrast to most of the research done on globalization and transnationalism, this book looks at the mundane practices of vendors, attending to such things as how they sell to tourists; what foods they eat; how they refer to themselves and others in conversation; and who takes care of children, cooking, and cleaning. In these ordinary practices, one can find evidence of how global processes are part of household organization and local identity concepts. International tourism has contributed a larger palette and more colors from which Maya vendors can construct, maintain, and reflect on their identities as vendors, Mayas, and indígenas. I illustrate how these processes are embedded in the daily lives of vendors in their households by paying attention to existential practices.

Furthermore, I have concentrated on the perspectives of people who are the subjects of international tourism and participants in other global processes. This may seem an obvious goal, but with respect to research on tourism, this tends not to be the case. The majority of tourism research is about tourists—their behavior and attitudes—and the sociocultural construction of tourism sites, persons, and objects by outsiders. Castañeda's (1996) research on the tourism/archaeology site Chichén Itzá in Mexico is an important contribution to these issues. A survey of the last five years of the Annals of Tourism Research also demonstrates this trend, as do other anthropologically oriented studies, including Pierre van den Berghe's (1994, 1995) research on tourism in Chiapas, James Urry's (1990, 1992) research on touristic gazes, Edward Bruner and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's (1994) research on the Maasai, and edited volumes by Marie-Françoise Lanfant, John B. Allcock, and Bruner (1995), International Tourism: Identity and Change, and by M. Thea Sinclair (1997a), Gender, Work, and Tourism.

Sinclair (1997b) explains that although tourism research has focused on the cultural, economic, status, and power divisions between tourists and persons working in the tourism sector, few studies have focused on the divisions between workers themselves, especially with regard to gender and race. As she notes, the volumes by Vivian Kinnaird and Derek Hall (1994) and Margaret Swain (1995) and miscellaneous articles on sex/prostitution tourism are the exceptions. This research, including the volume edited by Sinclair (1997a), focuses on women's roles, largely positing that women's work is an extension of the domestic sphere and subject to patriarchal relations and traditional cultural gender roles. These studies do not look at the relationships between men and women within tourism, but rather reduce gender to a category pertaining to women only.

Cynthia Cone (1995), Lynn Meisch (1995), and Margaret Swain (1993) offer examples of this gendered research on tourism workers in Mexico, Ecuador, and Panama, but they do not look at the specific ethnographic interactions of female and male tourism workers either. Cone's research compares two different strategies used by Maya women for economic success. Meisch looks at the sexual relations between men from Otavalo and foreign female tourists that is only sanctioned if the tourist conforms to local norms and standards. Swain analyzes the work of Cuna female artisans whose economic success can improve their power within their households, but not in the larger Panamanian society. In contrast to this research, I offer an ethnographic case that illustrates how Maya men and women interact within the tourism industry and how traditional gender roles for men and women are changing in Maya households, contributing to women's economic and political power beyond the realm of the household.

An example of ethnographic research that considers male-female relations within tourism is Nash's (1993c) "Maya Household Production in the World Market: The Potters of Amatenango del Valle, Chiapas, Mexico," which looks at specific ways that global economic forces, of which tourism is one, change local economic and social practices in terms of gender relations and roles. I build on her research by looking at the gender relations of female and male Maya handicraft vendors.

Community in the Global Context

The focus on the existential practices and the opinions of vendors makes it possible to gain insight into the ways that global forces act on them, as well as to demonstrate how localities (places) come to be what they are and how they are used and interpreted. My research fits into an emerging trend in anthropology—represented by works such as Bruner (1999), Nash (1993c), Ortner (1997), and Stoller (1997)—that is trying to bring more detailed ethnographic data into studies of global and transnational processes. This research takes issue with how "community" has been studied anthropologically as a largely self-contained whole, and it calls for a reformation of the concept. As Bruner (1999: 475) remarks of the Batak village where he did research but is equally applicable to other places, it "remains a fixed, bounded locality, but the ways of the outside world now reside within the village and within the minds of the villagers."

Nash (1993c) describes how Maya women's pottery production in Amatenango has become part of a global tourism economy, but women themselves have indirect or limited contact with tourists. The town itself is not a tourism site, though that is changing. Bruner (1999) describes how Balinese villagers participate in tourism by meeting tourists in "touristic borderzones." The borderzone is a performative space, but Balinese persons and tourists do not live in it. Paul Stoller (1997) describes how West African vendors from different ethnic groups migrate to a transnational locality, New York City, and form occupational groups. Kaqchikel vendors, described here, are embedded in global, transnational, as well as Guatemalan national tourism in different ways than the people these ethnographers describe.

Unlike Mayas from Amatenango, the Maya vendors in Guatemala are in direct contact with tourists, tourism guides, and tourism places, such as hotels, restaurants, and sites, that are part of the Ruta Maya tourism system that includes Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Tourism is concentrated in just a few areas in Guatemala, particularly Antigua, Lake Atitlán, Chichicastenango, and Tikal. The most-traveled tourism routes are located firmly within Kaqchikel Maya regions of Guatemala. If, on average, only 500,000 tourists visit Guatemala in a year, they pass through at least one of these four places. Furthermore, the vendors that received the most attention from tourism organizations and tourists are from two towns, San Antonio Aguas Calientes and Santa Catarina Palopó, that have been fully incorporated into the main tourism routes in Guatemala for seventy or more years. For these Mayas, it is difficult to get out of the touristic borderzone, and people living in these towns have grown up in this performative space. Some have even made their homes and domestic spaces performance areas. Similar to West Africans in New York City, persons from different Maya ethnolinguistic groups come together in the tourism marketplace in Antigua and constitute an occupational group that lives in a transnational space. Unlike the West Africans, however, they are not separated from their hometowns for long periods of time, and their homes are also part of the transnational space.

The ethnographic context in which Kaqchikel Maya vendors are located allowed me to gain insights into how they conceive of, construct, maintain, and use identity. Sol Tax's (1937) theories about Maya identities being situated at the level of the municipio (cultural and political community) and how participation in marketplaces heightens awareness of ethnic differences still hold true today in most cases. Mayas continue to use identities that are based on the municipio, and marketplaces can still be arenas where these identities are reaffirmed. Mayas today are more conscious of their identities, as well as the political and economic ramifications of using them (see Warren 1998a, 1998b). They use different identities in self-conscious ways that Tax did not explain or anticipate. It is significant to note, however, that community remains as one form of collective identity expression, despite dramatic changes in the economic and political contexts of contemporary Guatemala.

Identity Construction through Social Relations

Tax (1941) explains how, historically, Mayas of one town are well aware of other towns' differences and have maintained distinctions among themselves. These distinctions are not preserved by physical isolation, but, according to Tax, by a "system of impersonal relations." Or in Fredrik Barth's (1969: 9) terms, ethnic "boundaries persist despite a flow of personnel across them" and a significant amount of knowledge about others. Although it is not currently fashionable to use Tax's and Barth's theories on identity construction, they are appropriate for positioning some of the theoretical arguments in this book and for framing a theory of identity construction through social relations. The research informing this book draws on Tax's and Barth's theories of how ethnic identity emerges through a dialectic of self-identification and ascription by others, but it moves beyond them to look at how identity concepts in general emerge from the interactions of people within the same group (Kaqchikel vendors and people from their hometowns). The data also show that how identity is used, signified, and negotiated within a group depends on an interplay of factors, including local collective notions of tradition, belonging, work, and beliefs, as they relate to broader national and global contexts.

Tax's and Barth's work on identity construction is not far removed from contemporary and more fashionable discussions of identity as cultural difference that are formulated by Appadurai (1996: 12-16) and cultural theorist Homi Bhabha (1994: 1-2,162-164). Appadurai's and Bhabha's formulations of cultural difference treat identity as a process. For Appadurai (1996: 14), this means that identity construction "takes the conscious and imaginative construction and mobilization of differences as its core." For Bhabha (1994: 2), "collective experiences . . . are negotiated" within spaces of difference and lead to identities that are more than "the sum of the 'parts' of difference (usually intoned as race/class/gender, etc.)."

Cultural difference is key to understanding Tax's (1937, 1941) descriptions of Guatemalan marketplaces and interethnic relations in the 1930s, as well as the handicraft marketplaces of 1990s Guatemala. Difference becomes manifest through economic and social participation in the marketplace. It is a place where difference is tied to unequal relations of power—economic and political—between social groups. John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff (1992: 52-54) note this about ethnic relations in general where differentiation occurs. Identity relations of social groups today are different than during the period when Tax conducted fieldwork because of the globalization of society, politics, and the economy. This has led to the formation of new ethnicities (Hall 1996a, 1996b), creative uses of cultural identity and difference—in the case of Maya political activists in Guatemala (Warren 1998a)—and the increased internal differentiation of once autonomous sociocultural groups (Kearney 1996; G. Smith 1989). The common thread running through these discussions of identity construction is that it is processual and related to specific power relations rather than lists of traits. For Mayas, identity as a process emerges in part from within "the company of particularly Maya neighbors" (Watanabe 1992: 16). In the contexts of selling in the handicraft marketplace and commuting between the home and the marketplace, Maya vendors especially rely on specific kinds of social relations with particular types of people to maintain, modify, and differentiate their cultural identities.

Few Maya vendors thought about how their economic, social, and political practices were embedded within forms of globalization that structure the marketplaces where they work and communities where they sleep, worship, work, and play. Of greater concern to them was the continuity of social relations that they had with other people and the fostering of new, potentially long-term social relations. Vendors live within different, overlapping fields of social interaction, including family, community, marketplace, and the Guatemalan state. In each of these fields, vendors present themselves to the other people (à la Goffman 1959) and engage them through numerous types of social relations.

Kaqchikel vendors evoked concepts of identity in self-conscious ways, depending on the social context and the social relation in which they were embedded. The multiple identity concepts they used could not simply be explained in terms of boundaries or a dialectic of self-identification and attribution by others (Barth 1969). Certainly, these conditions are important to identity construction, but for vendors involved in numerous social interactive arenas and engaged with different types of social actors, the boundaries are gray because there are so many of them, all overlapping each other. Barth's dialectic is ambiguous, because Kaqchikel Maya vendors, for instance, interact with different categories of people: foreign and national tourists, vendors, middlepersons, police officers, garbage collectors, tax collectors, fellow Mayas from their hometowns, and others. Exactly what is significant and the degree of its significance relates to the time, place, and people involved. Mayas live in a social universe where they are, at the same time, members of families, households, towns, markets, and the Guatemala state. In each of these social contexts, global processes (tourism in the case of these Kaqchikeles) both subjectify and objectify them in observable ways. Identity constructions, hence, are structured around the overlapping constellations of social relations embedded in local, regional, national, and global spaces.

My contribution to identity studies in general, and Maya studies in particular, lies in the recognition that a significant component of Maya identity construction and maintenance is embedded in particular types of social relations. This is quite different from research that has been done on identity concepts within and outside of Maya studies. By referring to social relations, I'm not talking about the ascribed-assumed dichotomy that Tax (1937, 1941) effectively described and Barth (1969) popularized nor identity as cultural difference that was outlined earlier. Other anthropologists have taken up these positions as well as the Weberian-inspired debate over the primordial versus constructed aspects of identity (Fischer 1996a, 1999).

With regard to studying ethnicity or cultural identity, it is too easy to merely look at relations of power and social relations between subordinate (or subaltern or marginalized) groups of people and those who have political, social, and economic control. It is also important to understand local, within-group meanings and uses of identity. As part of their research with Mayas in Guatemala, Hendrickson (1995), Warren (1989, 1992), and Watanabe (1992) have focused on locally conceived and practiced identity. Both Watanabe's and Warren's research also calls attention to the importance of place in the construction of Maya identities.

Their findings are not contradicted here. However, Maya vendors had different relationships with the places they considered home and the other places where they worked and lived. Specifically, I am interested in what happens to Maya identity construction when Mayas spend a substantial amount of time outside their communities and with other groups of people (foreigners, Ladinos, and other Mayas). Although the place called home is the most important locality to vendors, their identities in relation to that place are maintained primarily through ongoing social relations with people from their hometown and regular trips home to participate in highly visible activities. It mattered less that vendors were actually in their towns all the time than that they participated in these ongoing social relations. Similarly, political activists, migratory laborers, and cooperative officials, all of whom work away from their hometowns, also maintain such social relations (Kearney 1996; Nash 2001; G. Smith 1989; Warren 1998a). If an individual did not foster these relations, then vendors and people in the hometown did not recognize that person's claim of community identity. In other words, being Maya is not only about always living in a specific type of locality and doing specific types of Maya practices (Watanabe 1990); it is about interacting socially with others from one's town (for community identity), with others from one's linguistic group (for linguistic identity), and with other Mayas (for Maya and indígena identities) on a regular basis. This is not to create the impression that the identities of Mayas are detached from material, historical, and ideological bases. Such conditions would probably create unstable subjectivities, where Mayas would not be sure of who they are. Maya vendors quite clearly know who they are. Simply put, they were not having "identity crises."

Identity Use as Strategy

Maya identities, as will be seen in the coming chapters, are also related to practices of difference, as Tax recognized long ago. Today, however, Mayas are constructing broader collective identities than Tax predicted. This, of course, relates to changes in Guatemalan national politics, mass media, and the global economy. Kay Warren and Jean Jackson (2002b), like Charles Hale (1997), suggest that indigenous activism is tied to identity politics in Latin America. Mayas, like other indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, have organized and spoken about political, economic, and social issues in terms of identity. Indigenous activists and mass media representatives have used each other—indigenous leaders to get their respective causes heard, and the media to sell images of exotic others, much as National Geographic has (Hervik 1998; Lutz and Collins 1993). The problem facing Maya political and social activists, as Watanabe (1995: 39) noted early, is that they "need first to persuade other Maya to recognise their lead."

Maya vendors share with Maya activists and other participants in the Maya movement (see Esquit and Gálvez 1997, Fischer and Brown 1996b, and Warren 1998a and 1998b for descriptions of this political movement) the practice of using identity in strategic ways to further their respective causes. Leaders of the Maya movement, such as Cojtí Cuxil (1995, 1997), have emphasized cultural education and specific cultural values (language, dress, cosmology) over economic and material concerns. At the same time, Maya handicraft vendors reject the calculated use of identity for cultural goals, using it instead for economically oriented purposes, though they do draw on some Pan-Mayanist constructions of language, as illustrated in the vignettes opening this introduction. I address the vendors' critique of the Maya movement elsewhere (Little 1998, n.d.; also see Esquit and Gálvez 1997 for an autocritique of the movement), but their main problem with it is that it is not based on the material conditions that are relevant to Maya handicraft vendors or, for that matter, Mayas working in agriculture, factories, or handicraft fabrication.

Maya vendors use identity deliberately in ways that are similar to the indigenous people and workers described in (post)peasant studies such as those by Marc Edelman (1999) for Costa Rica; Michael Kearney (1996) for Oaxaca, Mexico; and Gavin Smith (1989) for Peru, although these anthropologists differ in their views as to what constitutes the "peasant" in contemporary Latin America. Identity is also similarly used in political contexts by Maya activists (Warren 1998a) and other indigenous activists (Warren and Jackson 2002a). Although the link between identity construction and social relations is not part of these authors' discussions, it is not a leap to suggest that social relations play a prominent role in the maintenance and establishment of certain key identity concepts used by the subjects of their books. Costa Rican coffee workers, Mixtec and Zapotec transnational laborers in Mexico, huasicanchino laborers in Peru, and Maya handicraft vendors all use identity in intentional ways that are related to the particular conditions in which they maintain their livelihoods. Although cultural perspectives certainly play an important part in how these groups of people use their identities for economic and political gain, they do not use their identities only for narrow cultural goals.

Increasingly, Mayas perform cultural practices before tourists' inquisitive eyes and in anticipation of tourists watching them. In other words, Mayas involved with tourists—and probably others too, especially those involved with the Maya political movement—are self-conscious about their cultural practices and identities. In essence, this means that identity is both a concept held and used by them as well as an explanation of social and political relations.

Walter E. Little is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

"[A]n important addition to the literature on ethnic arts in Latin America, tourism, cultural identity, social change, and globalization."
The Americas

"This book is not only very readable, but also highly informative in the subject area of performance, as well as place, and how indigenous peoples have become engaged in, and deal with, that slippery phenomenon called globalization."
Journal of Latin American Geography

"Walter E. Little paints a complex and nuanced portrait of Maya identity formation in Mayas in the Marketplace."
American Ethnologist

2005 Best Book Award, New England Council of Latin American Studies