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I Ask for Justice

I Ask for Justice
Maya Women, Dictators, and Crime in Guatemala, 1898–1944

This study of the Guatemalan legal system during the regimes of two of Latin America’s most repressive dictators reveals the surprising extent to which Maya women used the courts to air their grievances and defend their human rights.

Series: Louann Atkins Temple Women and Culture Endowment

October 2013
This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.
$34.95
363 pages | 6 x 9 | 31 photos, 2 maps, 14 tables |
ISBN: 
978-1-4773-0210-1
Description: 

Given Guatemala’s record of human rights abuses, its legal system has often been portrayed as illegitimate and anemic. I Ask for Justice challenges that perception by demonstrating that even though the legal system was not always just, rural Guatemalans considered it a legitimate arbiter of their grievances and an important tool for advancing their agendas. As both a mirror and an instrument of the state, the judicial system simultaneously illuminates the limits of state rule and the state’s ability to co-opt Guatemalans by hearing their voices in court.

Against the backdrop of two of Latin America’s most oppressive regimes—the dictatorships of Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898–1920) and General Jorge Ubico (1931–1944)—David Carey Jr. explores the ways in which indigenous people, women, and the poor used Guatemala’s legal system to manipulate the boundaries between legality and criminality. Using court records that are surprisingly rich in Maya women’s voices, he analyzes how bootleggers, cross-dressers, and other litigants crafted their narratives to defend their human rights. Revealing how nuances of power, gender, ethnicity, class, and morality were constructed and contested, this history of crime and criminality demonstrates how Maya men and women attempted to improve their socioeconomic positions and to press for their rights with strategies that ranged from the pursuit of illicit activities to the deployment of the legal system.

Awards: 

Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association

Contents: 

List of Illustrations, Maps, and Tables

Foreword by Pablo Piccato

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Justice, Ethnicity, and Gender in Twentieth-Century Guatemala

Chapter 1. Dictators, Indígenas, and the Legal System: Intersections of Race and Crime

Chapter 2. "Rough and Thorny Terrain": Moonshine, Gender, and Ethnicity

Chapter 3. "Productive Activity": Female Vendors and Ladino Authorities in the Market

Chapter 4. Unnatural Mothers and Reproductive Crimes: Infanticide, Abortion, and Cross-Dressing

Chapter 5. Wives in Danger and Dangerous Women: Domestic and Female Violence

Chapter 6. Honorable Subjects: Public Insults, Family Feuds, and State Power

Conclusion: Emboldened and Constrained

Appendices

Notes

Glossary

Bibliography

Index

Author: 

David Carey Jr. is Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine and author of Engendering Mayan History: Kaqchikel Women as Agents and Conduits of the Past, 1875–1970, Ojer taq tzijob’äl kichin ri Kaqchikela’ Winaqi’ (A History of the Kaqchikel People), and Our Elders Teach Us: Maya-Kaqchikel Historical Perspectives.