An ethnographic study of the morality and self-identity of the Q'eqchi' people of Livingston, Guatemala.
The practice of morality and the formation of identity among an indigenous Latin American culture are framed in a pioneering ethnography of sight that attempts to reverse the trend of anthropological fieldwork and theory overshadowing one another.
In this vital and richly detailed work, methodology and theory are treated as complementary partners as the author explores the dynamic Mayan customs of the Q'eqchi' people living in the cultural crossroads of Livingston, Guatemala. Here, Q'eqchi', Ladino, and Garifuna (Caribbean-coast Afro-Indians) societies interact among themselves and with others ranging from government officials to capitalists to contemporary tourists.
The fieldwork explores the politics of sight and incorporates a video camera operated by multiple people—the author and the Q'eqchi' people themselves—to watch unobtrusively the traditions, rituals, and everyday actions that exemplify the long-standing moral concepts guiding the Q'eqchi' in their relationships and tribulations. Sharing the camera lens, as well as the lens of ethnographic authority, allows the author to slip into the world of the Q'eqchi' and capture their moral, social, political, economic, and spiritual constructs shaped by history, ancestry, external forces, and time itself.
A comprehensive history of the Q'eqchi' illustrates how these former plantation laborers migrated to lands far from their Mayan ancestral homes to co-exist as one of several competing cultures, and what impact this had on maintaining continuity in their identities, moral codes of conduct, and perception of the changing outside world.
With the innovative use of visual methods and theories, the author's reflexive, sensory-oriented ethnographic approach makes this a study that itself becomes a reflection of the complex set of social structures embodied in its subject.
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Field(s) of Engagement: Livingston and Proyecto Ajwacsiinel
- Chapter 3: Cycles of Debt: Colonialism, Coffee, and Companies
- Chapter 4: Envisioning Power and Morality: Tzuultaq'a, Germans, and Action-in-Place
- Chapter 5: Private Consumption, Communities, and Kin
- Chapter 6: Publicly Performing Moralities and Internalizing Vision
- Chapter 7: Anachronistic Mediators and Sensory Selves: Exploring Time and Space
- Chapter 8: Día de Guadalupe: Identity Politics
- Chapter 9: Crime, Globalization, and Ethnic Relations in Livingston and Beyond
- Chapter 10: I Am a Camera: Vignettes of Ethnographic Vérité
- Chapter 11: Endings and Beginnings
Ash Wednesday 1996
I can see but not be seen. From a lofty window I observe a standoff. Two masses of young people are facing each other in the street below. Ladinos versus Garifuna. Armed with buckets, bags, and boxes, all brimming with white flour, the youths are determined not only to catch the opposing team's banner, but also to blanket their opponents with sticky white "ash." When an individual becomes separated from their group, he or she is tugged and shoved until covered in flour by the opposing team. Without receiving physical injury, but symbolically transformed through ethnic bleaching, these individuals are always pushed safely back to their home team. Whitened and sweaty bodies, sounds of conch shell horns and screaming youths, and tempered aggressions merge in this battle of identities.
An Australian couple, wondering what the commotion is about, stroll through town on their first day in Livingston. Ambushed by both teams and enveloped in "ash," they run to escape the ethnic conflict. As they emerge, whiter than white, from the orgy of bodies, the flour accentuates their already pale skin, marking and ridiculing their outsiderness. Tourists have no recourse but to run back to their hotels, where they hide from the roving youths who have marked them as prime targets for Ash Wednesday whitening. I remain in my second-storey roost. Although I am known by many in town, I have been warned to lay low. Only elderly people within the youths' ethnic group are spared whitening.
From my haven above I see a surreal apparition. A Q'eqchi' woman and her two children glide out from the riotous crowd and pass the ethnic battle lines without so much as a dusting of flour or a hair out of place. I feel as if I am having a vision. The mass of youths becomes a background blur, while the woman and her two children appear in hyper-focus, as though levitating out of this chaotic space. I am shocked and mesmerized. The little Q'eqchi' boy looks around curiously. His mother grabs his hand and yanks him away to run her errands. I am jolted out of my trance. I realize that this is not a dream at all. Although initially appearing untouched and unfazed, this Q'eqchi' family is quite aware of its surroundings.
Unlike the white tourists who pass by and who are labeled transgressors, Q'eqchi' Mayans are perceived stereotypically by Garifuna and Ladinos, among others, as being culturally traditional, unchanging, and opposed to modernization; and therefore, I surmise, immune to the re-creation of their identity through whitening. However, while this may be what the Garifuna ascertain, Q'eqchi' do not envision themselves as so unalterable. In fact, they consider themselves part of an enduring, yet ever-changing, network of relations—social and cosmological linkages that connect them to deities, outsiders, owners, and other beings who constantly shift back and forth between positions of power, personae, visibility, and meaning. The Q'eqchi' categorize themselves and others through this dynamic structure that defines morality as action and categorizes behavior into acts of respect and disrespect. Visuality and its political differentials—whether one is the object of sight or the subject of seeing—support the practice and codification of this imaginary model. Individuals and institutions are organized into a social and cosmological taxonomy of visible and invisible, selves and others, and benevolent givers and criminally oriented takers.
Because of its porosity—the ability to structure and be structured—cosmological, historical, and economic exchanges are embedded and mirrored in intimate, familial, community, ethnographic, and interethnic networks. Thus, like the family who emerged unblemished from the mob on Ash Wednesday, Q'eqchi' Mayan perception and behavior surface from historical and cultural imaginaries. And, like the little Q'eqchi' boy who remained ash-free on his exterior, Q'eqchi' people look around, internalize, and recreate themselves from within webs of relations that they themselves have spun (Geertz 1973:5).
Ash Wednesday in Livingston is neither solemn nor religious. It is a performance of ethnic identities demonstrating the dynamic strata that intersect in multicultural Livingston. Like many other local rituals, this event mirrors the antagonism between the Ladinos—Hispanic people of mixed European and Indian descent—and the Garifuna—the Afro-Amerindian population that makes up the majority of this small Caribbean town. Ash Wednesday also provides us with a glimpse of the usually unobservable moral logic embedded within the Q'eqchi' imaginary. Because they do not see reciprocity or any form of active respect, but rather fruitless frivolity, Q'eqchi' people work during this day, considering the ethnic contest lavishly wasteful and unproductive.
According to Catholic doctrine, ash smeared on the forehead symbolizes the body's inevitable transformation to dust. The showering of flour in Livingston, by controlling the manifestation of identities, challenges cultural and historical structures. Participants of this ethnic battle mock the histories, unequal power relations, and color-coded hierarchies that maintain animosity between the Garifuna and Ladinos and that bolster Q'eqchi' understanding of this ritual as a frivolous waste of time. The Ash Wednesday competition cumulates in all the flour-coated participants jumping off the pier in a social ablution, again assuming their original identity.
People create identities, whether self or collective, from within a shifting network of personal, social, cultural, economic, historic, and political relationships. Identities are thus articulations emerging from motion. Selves, communities, ethnicities, foreigners, and images are "be-ings" (i.e., movements rather than things) in process (Spanos 2000). Academic and experienced categories of object and subject, home and field, self and other, insider and outsider, method and theory, and image and word are reified through practice and tentatively given meanings through active exchange. Significance is positionally assigned to people, inanimate entities, images, and spiritual and mythical beings within fields of action. This research itself becomes one of these fields of motion, allowing us to peek into the flexible yet durable linkages that provide meaning to social exchange.
Articulations are likewise amassed within the Q'eqchi' imaginary, an internalized model that guides perception of self and other in various social fields. It is a mental trope used by the Q'eqchi' to understand neo-feudalistic economies, colonial oppression, capitalism, and pre-Columbian and contemporary ritual payment to deities, as well as crime, tourism, transnational relations, community construction, ethnic relations, and ethnographic image-making. Within the Q'eqchi' imaginary, visibility, respect, reciprocity, ownership, and consumption are actions utilized to reinforce positions of power and maintain the integrity of the model. The role of foreigner is vital, and there exists a general orientation to the external, although the Q'eqchi' use this tendency to recreate more internalized concepts of community. External and internal, and outsider and insider, are thus, in many ways, one and the same, both being transitions rather than coherent entities.
This is where I, the foreign ethnographer, enter the picture. In 1995, I initiated a collaborative video project that became one of these social fields. Through participation in the project, we—Q'eqchi' individuals, myself, and the camera—unknowingly created a context in which long-standing structures guided not only the relationships we formed, but the way the Q'eqchi' participants appreciated what we were doing, the significance of the imagery we produced, the problems we encountered, and the way I, an outsider, was perceived and categorized. This collaborative methodology provided much more than qualitative data and video footage; it became a field of practice that revealed how a culturally modeled imaginary guides social action and processes of perception. Because of historic precedence and the project's inherent metaphors of sight, reciprocity, action, and foreignness, the Q'eqchi' seamlessly fit the project and me into their imagined world.
A cultural model of practice and perception is meaningless unless it is considered contextually, in coordination with a particular field where relations between people, institutions, nature, mythical beings, deities, and images are the structures embodied as internal dispositions. In this book, we (the reader, the Q'eqchi', and I) explore these linkages of the Q'eqchi' imaginary. I consider this a multi-sited ethnography (Marcus 1995), because it traverses the structure of a cultural script and it contextualizes the sites of contact within their particular fields of action. The video methodology helped me to accomplish this. An embedded set of codes guided the structural constitution of the project through a process of misrecognition—that what we saw as naturalized, personal behavior was actually the result of logic. The nature of our exchanges, the production of imagery, the decisions we made, the conflicts that arose, and the positions we occupied were ordered by a cultural script. Our collaboration became a form of ethnographic vérité, creating a third eye of deep cultural insight (Rony 1996:4). As protagonists, our methods brought unobservable culture within tangible reach, ultimately leading to the fortification of my own theoretical understanding of Q'eqchi' social action as guided by an internalized imaginary.
Because this is a multi-sited ethnography, it is vital that you, the reader, shift positions and maintain mobility—as does the practitioner of ethnographic vérité—if you, too, will access the insight provided by a third eye. You must be subject and object, observer and participant, insider and outsider, and simultaneously in the field and in your home. This intercultural slippage between categories and identities is what provides insight into unobservable culture. In this type of engaged ethnography, gazes are diverted, thwarted, and challenged; objects find voice; and the local melts into the global. In this book, therefore, not only will you look upon the members of the project and the community, but you will also step into their gazes as they look at (and sense) others. It was no chance occurrence that during Ash Wednesday I was in my lofty position above the street, invisible to the youth below, but free to gaze upon their moving bodies. Outsiders, like archetypal overseers, maintain positions of power through metaphors of vision: through the ability to see but not be seen (Foucault 1977). Q'eqchi' mountain spirits and other deities, for example, are invisible until a lack of respect is displayed or a wrongdoing occurs. Their authority to govern is based on their own intangibility and simultaneous ability to gaze upon constituents. Visual surveillance reproduces the Q'eqchi' imaginary, in a way akin to how anthropology and other academic disciplines gain knowledge and authority through visual dissection and investigation (or even the way globalization increases revenue through invisible outsourcing).
Our collaborative video project reverses the visual paradigm of Westernized knowledge production, which epistemologically originates from a distant, objective, and singular point of view. By providing multiple people the opportunity to see and to share their visions and other sensory experiences, we produce a montage of gazes, voices, and meaning. We thus deny the invisible, omnipresent social science viewpoint by sharing sight with subjects, by questioning our means of representation, and by likening our method to a bastion of theory. By breaking down differences between self and other, method and theory, word and image, insider and outsider, home and field, and object and subject, we peek through the third eye that provides insight into social mediation from multiple positions (Pink 2001:117-119; Rony 1996:4).
An additional and critical reason you see faces, witness gazes, and hear individual voices is that this research focuses on relationships and collective dispositions. I tend to reinforce the structures rather than the heterogeneity that exists within this Q'eqchi' community. I de-emphasize, but I do not deny, the vast range of cultural, social, and idiosyncratic means individuals use in the formation of their self-images. Hence, it is vital that you hear and see the people who represent this collective process. In this way, I hope to balance individual voices and localities with shared ideas, histories, and relations.
Social scientists have been criticized for extracting their research findings from the processes that lead to their academic theorizing (Agar 1996:59-63; Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992:8). Ethnographers have been rightly accused of stripping away the methods and personal dialogues that form the basis of inquiry. The research reported here represents a more reflexive, sensory-orientated, and phenomenological trend in anthropology (Behar 1996; Stoller 1992; Ruby 1980) and film (Minh-ha 1991), where product and process are collapsed into one, where histories and cultural scripts are embodied in perception and practice, and where the intricacies and inadequacies of method are given their rightful position next to theory and qualitative results.
In Chapter 2 I introduce the methodology I employed, which was vitally important to the project as a whole. By initiating a collaborative video project, the participants and I created a secondary field—a situation where the act of collaboration was itself a reflection of the complex set of social structures that are embodied in the Q'eqchi' imaginary. Through this active engagement, relationships were formed between individuals, the community, and representative outsiders—the camera and me. I began to understand how Q'eqchi' identify themselves and others, and how appropriate moral behavior emerges from the internalization of real and metaphoric exchanges that transcend time and space. I also realized how important sight and visibility is to the reproduction and maintenance of the imagined landscape of morality (Harvey 1989).
Chapter 2 thus provides a description of Livingston, the location of my ethnographic research, and Proyecto Ajwacsiinel, the field of action reproduced through collaborative video. The chapter begins with a historical sketch of Livingston, from its founding by the Garifuna people in 1802, through its transition from a thriving Atlantic port at the turn of the century to an economically depressed town, highly dependent on outward migration and tourism, by the 1960s. I then provide a portrait of Livingston today and an account of the social and economic lives of its residents, before turning to a discussion of the intricacies of the collaborative methodology we used in the field.
Chapter 3 is an "official" historical background of the Q'eqchi' people of Livingston, who are originally from Alta Verapaz, a northeastern department in the highlands of Guatemala. I begin immediately before Spanish contact in the early sixteenth century, and continue through the colonial period, with its reordering of indigenous models of autonomy. I then discuss the oppressive governments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries whose onerous tactics provided indigenous labor to large fincas (sp. plantations), which in Alta Verapaz were owned and operated mainly by Germans.
These pre-Columbian and historical contexts are the fields that have contextualized the incipient reproduction of an internalized framework that, although drastically reformulated through time, is still embedded in contemporary practice and perception. The Q'eqchi' imaginary has been maintained through socioeconomic and cosmological exchanges that for centuries have placed Q'eqchi' people in an obligatory cycle of reciprocal debt with outsiders: deities, leaders, and landowners. Pre-Columbian exchanges, followed by colonialism, Catholicism, coffee exportation, and now globalism and tourism, are the cosmological, socioeconomic, and political fields where outsiders are merged and internalized as metaphoric units. Q'eqchi' people situate themselves within these contexts, fortifying their structural links to and between outsiders. Foreign entities are envisioned either as benevolent providers and quasi-kin or as malevolent bodies that fail to reciprocate and through coercive means strip away labor, individuals, knowledge, cultural and political autonomy, and currency. Or, more commonly, outsiders can be both: the ambiguous foreigner. The way in which Q'eqchi' people categorize outsiders within each social context is pivotal in the moral reading of the exchange.
In Chapter 4, I investigate contemporary Q'eqchi' exchanges with the Tzuultaq'a—mountain spirits, both male and female, who reside within caves and are said to own and control nature. These sacred deities are typically personified as outsiders—most often Ladinos or Germans, but occasionally ancestors or ancient Mayans. Individual and community relationships with these spirit entities embody the moral metaphors of consumption, sight, reciprocity, and respect that bolster the Q'eqchi' imaginary. Q'eqchi' people and communities are obligated to pay respect to (and feed) these hungry deities through reverence and sacrifice. If the Q'eqchi' fail in this duty, Tzuultaq'a shift from invisible, benevolent providers of crops, water, and animals to visible nefarious forces that cause illness, drought, poor crops, and even death. Tzuultaq'a provide an archetypal model that illustrates how exchanges with outsiders (who are not only categorically foreign, but also familiar—self and other) form the basis of Q'eqchi' practice, perception, and processes of identification. Foreignness is also bolstered by and conflated with ownership and visibility, as many of the deities and outsiders, whether actual owners or not, are conceived as invisible owners, controllers, and masters of time and space. Their control of sight and gazes is directly related to their powerful positions within the Q'eqchi' imaginary.
The Q'eqchi' imaginary is reproduced by people and made tangible through the practice of morality. Following, though somewhat altering, the work of Mary Douglas, I find it most appropriate to theoretically conceive morality as action-in-place, rather than matter-in-place (Douglas 1966:35). I also apply the theoretical framework of practice theory (Bourdieu 1977, 1990; Ortner 1989) and more cognitive-oriented explanations of cultural continuities and discontinuities (Strauss and Quinn 1997; Holland et al. 1998) in this investigation into what are cultural dispositions, their endurance, malleability, and role in social action and discernment. However, Q'eqchi' people are not passive recipients of their imagined models; they actively create and maintain, and potentially alter, their framework of dispositions.
Chapter 5 demonstrates how foreignness and kinship are not opposing entities, but mutable constructions in flexible relations. Here I focus on private rituals, where individuals and the community actively respect (and/or feed) outsiders/owners and each other through collaboration, sacrifice, ritual, and consumption. We see how, by paying respect to foreigners, the Q'eqchi' community is reified.
At the wedding ritual of uk'iha (q. drinking of the water), the community consumes as one and simultaneously feeds Tzuultaq'a. This social and sacrificial act binds the two families, recognizes the new couple, and respects Tzuultaq'a in order to sanctify the union. K'ajb'ak is another ritual that structurally adheres to codes of community, collaboration, and consumption. Through communal feeding and respecting of Tzuultaq'a, the owners are granted permission to sow their corn fields, and because of this reverence and their adherence to ritual taboos, they are ensured a healthy and bountiful yield. These two rites of consumption introduce kinship as another taxonomic framework that magnifies structuring relations. Gender, age, and marital status are used to position individuals within the family hierarchy, which too is based on moral concepts of ownership and paying.
Like morality and ownership, respect is an action—a process rather than a thing—and the Q'eqchi' often practice it through forms of sacrifice and consumption. Occasionally, individuals, families, and communities forget to feed the deities, or outsiders fail to follow the rules of reciprocity. Q'eq, for example, is a mischievous, mythical entity who robs the poor to bring his bounty to his owners, the rich, foreign finqueros (sp. finca owners). He has a voracious appetite and he flies through the sky on midnight sprees, whistling and consuming food, household items, and money. This allegory of globalism is the antithesis of Tzuultaq'a, although both are active consumers who embody the moral framework. Q'eq is the symbolic outsider who breaks local rules of respect, but who, if treated appropriately, can be rehabilitated and made into kin.
In Chapter 6, we again encounter Q'eq when I turn from private to public performances. Both public and private acts are guided by an imagined model though they differ in the way they gain meaning through visual politics: private rituals are kept away from community gazes, whereas public performances are intentionally displayed. The two public dances I discuss in this chapter—the Deer Dance and the Devil Bull Dance—involve a socioeconomic struggle between foreign landowners, who take without permission, and local representatives, who struggle to maintain autonomy. These dances mimic the structures of morality and also turn them on their head, which leads me to question whether they magnify the socioeconomic field or resist it. After a discussion of these publicly viewed performances in terms of visual politics, I initiate an analysis of the different conceptions of costumbre (sp. custom) and tradición (sp. tradition), which are categorized respectively as invisible and visible, intangible and tangible, and, for some more orthodox thinkers, godly and worldly (i.e., the work of the Devil). These "opposing" labels are relatively defined and used by different individuals to designate the same object or practice. This reinforces the dynamic flexibility of the Q'eqchi' imaginary and its transient attachment to meaning. These distinctions also provide an opportunity to probe further into the meaning and potency of public and private ritual, to briefly address distinctions and non-distinctions between forms of faith, and to introduce vision as a key element in positioning selves, giving meaning to practice, and maintaining power. Objectifying gazes and ocular metaphors of knowledge are inherent components of anthropological investigations and the production of photographic and videographic images. Yet centralized gazes can be challenged and distorted through collaboration, multiplicity, and more intimate and sensory forms of ethnographic production (Marks 2000).
Whereas so far the discussion focuses primarily upon how families and communities are bound to a network of exchanges of respect with outsiders and among one another, Chapter 7 narrows (and broadens) the frame of reference from collective identities of community to more bodily conceptions of sensory realization and spiritual selves within cosmological realms. By building a sensorial and phenomenological picture of the Q'eqchi' imaginary, I conceptualize the hyperspace where selves arbitrate the moral structures linking individual to the community and beyond. The imagined landscape of morality is deeply embodied in Q'eqchi' personhood, in sensory perception, in bodies, and in the social processes of death—when ancestors transform into a type of outsider. As groupings of "lived-through meanings" (Merleau-Ponty 2002 :177), bodies link the past to the present through practice and perception. Ancestors (and their clothes) are likewise linkages; they are anachronistic mediators who traverse the external regions of the Q'eqchi' universe, actively demand exchange, and embody the relations from which they emerge. Ancestors actively keep the community. They demand respect and reverence, and they will come to haunt or cause illness if kin fail in this obligation.
The discussion of ancestors and spiritual selves begins with the annual ritual of Todos Santos (sp. All Saints' Day), when ancestors return home to be respected and fed. The Q'eqchi' use inconsistent terminology to describe their inner selves, a multiplicity that is also reflected in more external forms of Q'eqchi' identity (which I return to in Chapter 8). Yet the entire social process of death—particularly how the spirit mu (q. shadow) becomes separated from the deceased and lodged in their possessions—is guided by rules of respect and reciprocity. Spiritual selves are not only linked to human bodies or bound by human flesh; they are sheltered in personal items, such as clothes, beds, and canes, which are either buried with the deceased or subsequently burned, boxed, or stored. It is terribly disrespectful to wear a dead person's clothes or to sleep in his or her hammock. If one does so, the ancestor may appear in dreams or knock during the night until he or she is satisfied that the living descendent is practicing the appropriate form of morality. Possessions, like selves, are active mediators of time and space within cosmological universes.
The deeply ingrained structure that molds Q'eqchi' morality and perception also guides sensory discernment. Sight, space, and time, for example, are intricately linked to the ability of transcendental owners to maintain their positions of power. Tzuultaq'a, the mythical Ch'olwiinq (q. wild men), and ancient Mayans are powerful, quasi-foreign entities that have the capacity to control visual, temporal, and spatial processes. They are timeless and spaceless mediators who have the ability to oversee, govern land, and control time while they themselves are only visible during immoral breaches in reciprocal respect, when action is out-of-place.
Sight is thus not the only sense guiding perception and social practice. Muteness, for example, is a common symptom of soul loss, which tends to be a physical manifestation of an inappropriate action. Sensory perception of time and space is linked as well to how the past is conceived and is equally relevant to the successes and problems encountered in the video project, particularly since I introduced a foreign technology that, like ancestors and illness, distorts the senses. I thus conclude this chapter by considering the appropriateness of our visual methodology and the role of the Q'eqchi' participants who appear to link time and space through tangible action, and fear and desire through anachronistic mediators. Although video replicates temporal processes of life, it also distorts them by capturing and reifying these processes within the bounded space of videographic technology. However, the collaborative video project stirred up and brought unobservable culture "in-sight" and within sensory reach.
Chapter 8 focuses on Día de Guadalupe, a festival that takes place on 12 December in which Q'eqchi' identities are borrowed, exchanged, and confirmed. In Livingston, this day centers on the dance of the Pororo in which some Q'eqchi' women participate by renting their indigenous dress to the performers. That these women commodify what is considered a key component of their ethnicity may seem peculiar, particularly considering that Q'eqchi' women frown upon the way the Garifuna disrespectfully handle their clothing. However, the practice of renting their clothing is about controlling acts of consumption.
This festival also demonstrates how Q'eqchi' people identify themselves as montages of internal selves and external identities. Like the spiritual selves internalized in practice and possessions, identities are hybrid processes that emerge from the encounters between cultural imaginaries, individual wills, and various fields imbued with power and difference. Q'eqchi' identify themselves through local, interpersonal, cosmological, and even transnational linkages where institutions and individuals are intertwined, related, and in a constant process of producing, reproducing, and redefining social and cognitive structures. I will argue that identities, subjectively constructed and objectively reproduced, semiotically parallel photographic and videographic images, as well as most every form of social reification.
Q'eqchi' identities and images are composites formed through and reinforced by a variety of relationships within diverse fields of action where exchange and production are as symbolic as they are material. Lastly, the categorical distinctions between self and other, foreign and familiar, internal and external, and subject and object are more the results of a Westernized fascination with bounded sites of knowledge than with Q'eqchi' perception and processes of identification. These dichotomies dissipate when morality, selves, and research are considered as relational and always in motion.
Chapter 9 elaborates upon those whom the Q'eqchi' categorically define as non-reciprocating criminals, which allows me to delve further into the means by which the Q'eqchi' perceive their Garifuna neighbors. Simply and crudely, the Garifuna are completely misunderstood by the Q'eqchi', who see them as wasteful criminals who do not labor for the fruits they receive. This is far from true. In fact, Garifuna social networks and rituals adhere to rules similar to Q'eqchi' practices, but because the Garifuna seem to fall between categories, I argue that the Q'eqchi' have a difficult time marking them. They inscribe them—along with tourists, guerrillas, and the state—as non-producers and criminals. It is estimated that one quarter of the entire Garifuna ethnic group are immigrants to New York City (Jenkins 1998:152), and kin who stay behind are heavily reliant on remittances sent from abroad. It is likely this linkage to the United States, the greater contact with foreign tourists, and the mythical Q'eq that ensures this Q'eqchi' misconception of the Garifuna in Livingston.
Chapter 10 brings us to the pulse of ethnographic vérité. Three ethnographic vignettes reveal how I—as an intimate friend and professional cohort—and my ethnographic methods were drawn into the Q'eqchi' imaginary. Through collaboration, the camera, the participants, the ethnographer, and even our methods were involved in a form of ethnographic vérité. We were catalysts to action and for the revelation of what exists below observable surfaces. We recreated a field for the emergence of the Q'eqchi' imaginary. Like the film genre of Cinéma Vérité, where cameras and filmmakers are protagonists that stimulate subjects to reveal themselves, collaborative image-making was a radically empirical anthropology that went beyond the visual ability to record and see (Stoller 1992:213-215).
The phenomenological method of ethnographic vérité challenges academic constructs. It dismantles the epistemology of Western-centered knowledge as originating from singular, objective points of view. In its place are multiple articulations that return temporality, spatiality, emotions, and the senses to ethnographic endeavors. Meaning emerges from movements and transitions rather than things (Merleau-Ponty 2002 :320-321). Collaborative methods and the effortless shifting of the ethnographic viewpoint open a third eye that explores deeper and more intimately what is deemed invisible. The intangible becomes tangible. With this roving third eye, movement, and self-awareness, ethnographic vérité also probes into the porosity between home and field, subject and object, and self and other (Rony 1996). Significance cannot be discerned without the entanglement of the ethnographer.
I conclude, in Chapter 11, by returning to beginnings. More importantly, I pay my respects to Lola, Eduardo Martín, Juana, Blanca, Mariano, and the entire Q'eqchi' community in Livingston, who shared their lives, homes, and smiles with me, and who extended their families to include me. I am forever indebted to them. I can only hope that this book is something they will cherish, as I envision it as an active process of respect that fortifies and pays reverence to the relationships we formed. The Q'eqchi' are the true authors. They are the ones ultimately responsible for the methods and theories discussed in this book. They are the ones who allow us to traverse their imaginary worlds. Because of them, we have insight into the invisible undercurrents of culture. I share my authorship with them and I bow before them with a heart full of respect. Selves are already becoming others, objects are merging into subjects, methods shift to theory, and distinctions between home and field are collapsing. Endings lead to beginnings as the Q'eqchi' in Livingston, Guatemala lead us within and far beyond.