This very interesting and provocative book has a somewhat misleading title. Although the content is all about the political participation of Indian communities in Guatemala, Indians themselves rarely appear. Rather, the book primarily reflects the debates of liberal and conservative elites over the communities’ participation. Alda Mejías’s principal argument is that indigenous communities did participate in the political construction of the nation, appropriating the political ideologies of both liberals and conservatives to forge a political space for themselves in the new republic. Rarely has this topic been explored as deeply as in this work, though the main argument does not completely fit the evidence presented.

The author posits a conflict between indigenous communities and Guatemalan elites, both liberal and conservative. According to Alda Mejías, the communities wished to maintain their corporate status and privileges, whereas the elites wanted to “civilize” the Indians by Westernizing them. The liberals attempted to do...

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