Winner of the 2019/20 Humanities Research Fellowship: Alicia Estrada, Ph.D. for her proposal titled, "Ka Winaq: Genocide, Survival and the (Re) Construction of Maya Communities in Los Angeles"
Most research root the migration of Central Americans to the United States in the Civil Wars of the 1980s. In most recent decades these migratory movements are contextualized as a consequence of economic hardships as well as the rise of drug and gang violence in the region. My book expands the existing literature both in the framework employed and its scope. It contextualizes Maya migration within the ongoing legacies of genocide and state violence against indigenous peoples in Guatemala. I suggest that migration to the United States becomes another form of survival for members of these Maya communities. Though Mayas have been migrating to the US since the late 1970s, their migration recently gained international attention with the violent deaths at the US/Mexican border of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquín (Q’eqchi), eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo (Mam) and twenty-year-old Claudia Gómez González (Mam). While scholars and the media made the conditions in which the migrants died visible, they continued to explain their migration as merely economic. Thus, in framing these forced displacements as part of the ongoing legacies of the genocide that continue to violently shape Maya lives, my manuscript not only expands the established literature, but also provides other ways of thinking about Maya migration to the United States. Though there are Maya diasporic communities throughout the US, the largest Maya population outside of Guatemala is located in Los Angeles. For this reason, in the book, I also examine the ways Mayas in Los Angeles (re) construct a sense of community through the production of collective memories on the genocide, the creation of community spaces and the affirmation of their cultural practices. In doing so, these diasporic communities construct transnational Maya identities that are rooted in their own specific histories and experiences and contest assimilationist as well as homogeneous Latina/o paradigms.
Complete proposal (.docx)