Indigenous and Refugee: Pageantry, International Migration, and the Reconstruction of Mayan Cosmology

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Oscar GIL-GARCIA, Binghamton University, USA
My paper will explore how international migration serves as an important catalyst to redefine the “traditional” within indigenous Mayan cultural frameworks – along racial and gender lines – and the power relationship between indigenous communities and the Mexican secular state. Specifically, I examine how an annual pageant in Chiapas, Mexico serves as a site to perform gendered and indigenous Mayan identities that reference a “traditional” past, displacement from military conflict in Guatemala, and cultural survival in Mexico. Ethnographic observations of two public performances: 1) the coronation of the Migueleña Princess, and 2) a military raid on a village will be examined. Findings reveal how the pageant serves as a public site where racial and gendered hierarchies are contested. The recreation of a military raid will also illustrate divergent perspectives regarding the participation of mestizo “outsiders” during the pageant as either denigrating or affirming of indigenous customs and beliefs. As a whole, both performances serve as sites where indigenous Mayan community members test the limits of public discourse for the purpose of reproducing the past, resisting the present, and redefining claims for national belonging and membership to a larger transnational Mayan diaspora.