Diane M. Nelson is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and the author of
Mayan Pyramid (Scheme)
This chapter tells how, in 2008, a mob from a highland town tried to kill a man known as El Millonario. As he had fled, they burned his home, Hummer, and gas station, on which they wrote “People’s property, sale prohibited.” This was the fallout from a Mayan-only development project that had pulled in thousands of indigenous people across the highlands over the course of almost a decade. They had placed their faith in a man who promised them half a million quetzals. Actually an elaborate Ponzi (or pyramid) scheme, he bankrupted families across a wide swathe. Examining Mayan social networks and financial logics, the chapter explores how people calculated their participation and conjured enchantments and looks at how they are dealing with the after-math.