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Out of the Shadow

Out of the Shadow
Revisiting the Revolution from Post-Peace Guatemala

More than a dozen scholars, representing fields ranging from sociocultural anthropology to Latin American history, present a new understanding of Guatemala in the era from 1944 to 1954, when social reform flourished.

July 2020
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336 pages | 6 x 9 | 2 b&w illus. |

Guatemala’s “Ten Years of Spring” (1944–1954) began when citizens overthrew a military dictatorship and ushered in a remarkable period of social reform. This decade of progressive policies ended abruptly when a coup d’état, backed by the United States at the urging of the United Fruit Company, deposed a democratically elected president and set the stage for a period of systematic human rights abuses that endured for generations. Presenting the research of diverse anthropologists and historians, Out of the Shadow offers a new examination of this pivotal chapter in Latin American history.

Marshaling information on regions that have been neglected by other scholars, such as coastlines dominated by people of African descent, the contributors describe an era when Guatemalan peasants, Maya and non-Maya alike, embraced change, became landowners themselves, diversified agricultural production, and fully engaged in electoral democracy. Yet this volume also sheds light on the period’s atrocities, such as the US Public Health Service’s medical experimentation on Guatemalans between 1946 and 1948. Rethinking institutional memories of the Cold War, the book concludes by considering the process of translating memory into possibility among present-day urban activists.

  • List of Figures
  • Foreword. The Path back to the Future--the Enduring Legacy of the Revolution (Jim Handy)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction. Revisiting the Revolution in Contemporary Guatemala (Heather Vrana and Julie Gibbings)
  • Part I. New Regions
    • Chapter 1. “To Wrench Our Rights from La Frutera”: Race, Labor, and Redefining National Belonging on the Caribbean Coast (Ingrid Sierakowski)
    • Chapter 2. The Coastal Laboratory: Milpa, Conservation, and Agrarian Reform (Patrick Chassé)
    • Chapter 3. Arévalo’s Tomorrowland: The Revolutionary Crusade to Build and Defend the New Guatemala on the Petén Frontier (Anthony Andersson)
  • Part II. New Frames
    • Chapter 4. The “Indigenous Problem,” Cold War US Anthropology, and Revolutionary Nationalism: New Approaches to Racial Thinking and Indigeneity in Guatemala (Jorge Ramón González Ponciano)
    • Chapter 5. Youths and Juan José Arévalo’s Democratic Government in Guatemala, 1945–1951 (Arturo Taracena Arriola)
    • Chapter 6. Rethinking Representation and Periodization in Guatemala’s Democratic Experiment (David Carey Jr.)
  • Part III. New Actors
    • Chapter 7. “A pack of cigarettes or some soap”: “Race,” Security, International Public Health, and Human Medical Experimentation during Guatemala’s October Revolution (Abigail E. Adams and Laura Giraudo)
    • Chapter 8. “Una obra revolucionaria”: Indigenismo and the Guatemalan Revolution, 1944–1954 (Sarah Foss)
  • Part IV. New Memories
    • Chapter 9. Water Power Promise: Revisiting Revolutionary DIY (Diane M. Nelson)
    • Chapter 10. Reclaiming a Revolution: Memory as Possibility in Urban Guatemala (Betsy Konefal)
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index

Julie Gibbings
Edinburgh, Scotland

Heather Vrana
Gainesville, Florida

Julie Gibbings is a lecturer in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh and the author of the forthcoming Our Time Is Now: Race and Modernity in Postcolonial Guatemala.

Heather Vrana is an assistant professor of history at the University of Florida and the author of This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944–1996.


“By emphasizing narratives from 'new regions, new analytical frames, new historical actors, and new historical memories,' [Out of the Shadow] offers nuanced analysis that challenges the dominant, coup-centric interpretation of events...the volume offers a meticulous reflection of the period, region, and legacies of the revolution.”
NACLA Report on the Americas

“As Guatemalans face neoliberalism, corruption, and dashed hopes following the peace accords, Out of the Shadow demonstrates that revolutionary ideals continue to resonate across the decades. These essays illuminate sociopolitical continuity and disruption, shifting memories, and new stories. The complexity offered here suggests that the revolution reformed existing institutional structures rather than replacing them. This critical volume excavates the forgotten revolutions while also attending to their enduring legacies and potency within the present, which suggest that revolutionary ideals remain even more urgent.”
Hispanic American Historical Review

“This ambitious, multi-stranded excavation of Guatemala's 'Ten Years of Spring' (1944-1954) effectively adds the Guatemalan revolutionary experience to recent studies of the Mexican and Cuban Revolutions, Colombia's decades of Violencia, and the brutal conflict involving Peru's Shining Path. Out of the Shadow brings the Guatemalan revolutionary process in from the dichotomous debates that were themselves a product of outmoded bipolar narratives of the Central American Cold War. In the process, the collection portrays a nation experiencing many revolutions, obliging us to consider new regions, new actors, new interpretive frames, and a new approach to memory struggles that provocatively connects Guatemala's Ten Years of Spring and the decades of repression that ensued to the nation's present struggles and future imaginaries.”
Gil Joseph, Farnam Professor of History and International Studies, Yale University


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3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca