In recent years, historians of Guatemala have begun to formulate a new agenda for the study of power relationships between the government, socioeconomic elites, and the indigenous majority in this central American state. Thus a collection of essays by leading U.S. experts on Guatemalan history, published in 1992 and covering the period from the conquest to the 1980s, attempts nothing less than to “constitute the first real social history of Guatemala.”1 According to the volume’s editor, Carol Smith, the collection differs from earlier studies, which essentially took a sociological approach to Indian-state relations in the country, in “the way in which it brings a cultural perspective to questions of power (and vice versa) and by doing so helps dispel many of the myths concerning the unchanging nature of Guatemalan Indian communities and their relation to the state.”2

An important consequence of this novel approach is that historians are now beginning to emphasize the country’s regional and ethnic diversity and its significance for the study of social relations. In the case of Guatemala, David McCreery has noted, “it would be more accurate to speak of civil societies in the plural, for there were and are great differences between even adjacent communities, as well as within and between language and cultural groups.”3 Because “Indians recognize themselves as members of specific communities, which usually, but not always, correspond to the smallest administrative division, the municipio,” it is at the community level that the actual workings of power relationships in Guatemala must be examined.4

Despite this new agenda, the literature still lacks studies that trace the development over time of the relationship between government, landowners, and Indian workers in specific localities. This is especially true for the period of “liberal” reform governments, beginning with the presidency of Justo Rufino Barrios in 1870 and ending with Jorge Ubico’s fall in 1944.5 Therefore little is known, so far, about the impact of the period’s major economic and political transformations — the expansion of cash crop production for export, the corresponding movement of ladino and European landholders into remote Indian provinces of the country, the intensification of state interference in local affairs — on specific Indian communities.6

This essay, which focuses on the Pokom’chi community of San Cristóbal in the Alta Verapaz region, represents a first attempt to trace the transformations in Guatemalan social relations between 1870 and 1940 at the local level. The Alta Verapaz is of particular interest for several reasons. A remote province with an almost exclusively Indian population and few ties to the national and international economy in the 1870s, it became one of the country’s major export-oriented coffee-growing areas during the following decades. In addition, the period studied here coincides with the presence of German planters in the area, who began to immigrate to the Verapaz in the 1870s and played an important socioeconomic role in the region until their expulsion from the country in 1944.7 The German presence not only provides historically useful material in the form of autobiographies and travelers’ reports, but also makes possible a comparative analysis of the behavior of ladino and European members of the local elite.8 Finally, the Alta Verapaz, and the community of San Cristóbal in particular, was selected because of the quality and completeness of its legal and vital records.

Two developments during this period deserve particular attention. The first is the redistribution of land that began in the 1870s. This activity was closely tied to the expansion of coffee production in the Verapaz and the movement of ladino and European planters into the region. The second is the impact of the coffee economy on Indian living and working conditions.9 The first part of this essay attempts, therefore, to outline the development of land ownership in San Cristóbal and the resulting formation of a local socioeconomic elite of ladino and German planters and entrepreneurs. It pays particular attention to social status, economic and political influence, and the establishment of networks of family and kinship relations. In the second part, the consequences of cash crop production for some central aspects of Indian life —demographic behavior, work rhythms, modes of production, and festival culture—will be analyzed. In the course of the analysis, this essay tries to show which aspects of Indian culture were transformed by the dual advancement of state authority and a non-Indian economic elite, and which remained largely immune to outside interference. It attempts to gauge the Indians’ potential to resist these transformations, and to discover what forms that resistance assumed.

The sources on which this study is based are the records of the jefatura política, the highest administrative agency of the departamento; the land titles for San Cristóbal contained in the AGCA’s Sección de Tierras; and legal and church records. While changes in land distribution and occupation between the 1870s and the 1940s can be traced through the land titles, a detailed reconstruction of Indians’ living and working conditions in the 1930s is possible through the jefatura documents, which are reasonably complete for the Alta Verapaz in that decade. With the administrative reforms of the regime of Jorge Ubico, who came to power in 1931, the jefaturas handled a greatly increased amount of paperwork, including reports about occurrences in individual communities and statistics on production, crime, births, and mortality.10 Indeed, the sheer volume of the jefatura records (the material covering the period 1930-40 consists of no fewer than 130 bundles of papers, which are neither indexed, sorted in any systematic way, nor paginated) forces the researcher to concentrate on a relatively short timespan.

The Local Elite

The small community of San Cristóbal is situated about ten miles southwest of Cobán, the capital of the department. Like the city of Cobán, the community was founded by Dominicans in the sixteenth century.11 Connections with the outside world are maintained by a westward road that, after crossing the Río Chixoy, leads to Uspantán in the Department of Quiché; a road northeast via Santa Cruz to Cobán; and a road southeast leading to Tactic and beyond to Guatemala City, the nation’s capital.

Up to the third quarter of the nineteenth century, these roads remained in very bad condition and of minimal importance to the local Indians, who left their home communities only to trade with neighboring towns. After 1880, however, these roads took on a new, twofold significance for the Indians: they brought increasing contact with nonindigenous people, mainly ladinos, entering Indian land; and they imposed the burden of expanding and maintaining the transportation system by which the region’s new export crop, coffee, found its way to outside markets.12 The example of the road system thus reflects the two major changes that affected Indian living and working conditions after the 1870s: the growing influence of the state apparatus, and the redistribution of land as the productive base of the export economy, which fostered a new local elite.13

The Europeans and ladinos who wanted to take up land in the area reported so-called wasteland (tierras baldíos) to the authorities and laid claim to occupy it (denuncio). After a certain number of days, if no one else could prove a legal title to the land in question, it was transferred to the claimant against payment of the survey costs and a small fee. Once the land was surveyed its value rose considerably, and it became unaffordable for a large portion of the local population.14 In addition, Indian landowners usually failed to substantiate their claims; they lacked the necessary reading and writing skills, and they were unfamiliar with the title system, especially the concept of desamortization. Their disinvolvement also reflects fundamental differences between European-ladino and Indian attitudes toward the land. While for Indians land occupation traditionally had strong spiritual connotations — representing a gift from God, a link between the present occupant and his ancestors, and an inalienable possession —Europeans and ladinos viewed land as a capital investment, the value of which could be raised by producing cash crops for export.15

The first denuncios in San Cristóbal were filed in 1884, but only around 1910 were the boundaries between land titles clearly delineated and individual property rights securely established.16 In comparison with other communities in the Alta Verapaz, the process of land distribution was completed rather late in this municipio.17 By 1910, 43 ladinos and 4 Germans had claimed land in the community, while Indians had filed denuncios for six land titles.18 In the Indians’ case, several families laid joint claims to the same land parcel, reflecting the high value the Indians placed on communal property but possibly also the desire to share the high survey costs. Two groups of Indians, who claimed plots of land in San Cristóbal in 1882 and 1885, respectively, argued that they had been farming the land for a number of years and that their families depended on the products of the land for subsistence.19 Like the other Pokom’chi communities of the Alta Verapaz— Santa Cruz, Tactic, Tamahú, Tucurú—San Cristóbal at the beginning of the twentieth century was thus characterized by a relatively large presence of Indian landowners and a preponderance of ladino landholders over both Europeans and Indians. The Kekchi communities in the more remote areas of the Verapaz—San Pedro Carchá, Lanquín, or Senahú, for example —differ from those in the Pokom’chi area in that individual holdings were larger and a higher proportion of the land was in German hands.20

European planters entered San Cristóbal mainly after 1910. In the 1930s, out of 40 land titles in the community, 5 were in German, 2 in French hands.21 Two were still in the possession of indigenous families. Chisiram, with its annex, Pantocan, belonged to the Diego Mus Coy family, and San Isidro las Pacayas to Florentín Caal. Significantly, both were among the families who had claimed their land early in the period.22

Although ladinos had originally received 43 land titles, by the 1930s these had been consolidated in the hands of 14 ladino families. These families dominated the social and economic life of the community. Probably the most prominent member of this group was Humberto F. Soria, who, in addition to the fincas Venecin and San José Chituzul, owned an ore mine and a coffee beneficio (processing plant), to which many small local producers brought their crops for processing.23 He also occupied several public offices in the community; in 1931, for example, he served as justice of the peace.24 Soria’s economic influence was matched only by that of José Azurdia, owner of the finca La Primavera, another ore mine, and the only sugar ingenio in the Verapaz.25 By running these processing plants, men like Soria and Azurdia wielded considerable economic power over small producers who depended on the facilities to market their crops.26

It was customary for members of the local ladino elite to select marriage partners, godparents, or witnesses at wedding ceremonies from their own ranks. When Oscar Leal Peña, son of Francisco Leal and Nicolosa Peña, married Josefina, the daughter of Carlos Gómez and Servanda Asencio, in August 1925, one of the witnesses was Sanson García, owner of the finca Valparaiso.27 In May 1927, Oscar Leal Peña himself served as witness for Edmundo, son of Eduardo Soria and Elena Gómez, and María Ofelia, daughter of Federico García and Vicenta Reyes —all members of prominent local ladino families.28 The children of Miguel Gómez and Humberto Soria married in December 1927 with Rodolfo Narcisco and the French citizen Arturo Pierri as witnesses.29 Marriages among cousins were not unusual.30

Even though many planters were hard hit by the worldwide depression of the 1930s, and a number of ladino planters experienced severe financial difficulties, the combined support of family, kin, and state programs often helped these men to maintain their socioeconomic position in the community. The Leal Peña family again is a good example. Oscar Leal Peña owned the finca Santo Domingo, which employed 37 mozos.31 In 1930 he probably was mayor of San Cristóbal.32 His brother Francisco became mayor in 1934; he owned the finca Navidad, which had one ladino employee and 35 mozos.33

When Oscar Leal Peña found himself in financial straits in the late 1930s, he tried to profit from the Ubico government’s Decree 1986, which ostensibly established a program to distribute fallow communal lands to poor members of the community. The land had to be settled and cultivated within one year after the grant was issued. After ten years of cultivation, the settler would have been entitled to ownership.34 The land could not be sold, transferred, or divided within the ten-year span.35 The first fallow plots were distributed in San Cristóbal in 1935.36 A list of 20 “notoriously poor persons” filed by the municipality of San Cristóbal in 1939 reveals how the decree was interpreted at the local level. With one exception, all the “poor” applicants for land to be distributed were ladinos —men such as Oscar Leal Peña; Rafael Narcisco Gómez, owner of the finca El Refugio, with 24 mozos; and Ricardo González C., owner of the finca Concepción Pacaya, where 11 mozos worked for him.37

Another example of how the network of local ladino families supported its financially troubled members during the depression is that of Wenceslao Soria, a brother of Humberto Soria. In 1932, Soria’s finca, San Joaquín, was burdened with two mortgages, one amounting to 5,000 gold pesos, the other to 2,900. These mortgages had been assumed by the German immigrant Rudolf Hesse. When Soria could not repay his debts, Hesse took over the finca as well. Soria tried unsuccessfully to prevent the transfer of the property by dubious means —at one point, two fires broke out on the finca under mysterious circumstances.38 As early as 1936, however, he appears in the records as the owner of another plantation. His new finca, San Lucas Chicar, employed 110 non-Spanish-speaking persons in 1939.39 It is inconceivable that Wenceslao Soria could make this quick comeback without strong support from his influential kin.

The economic elite of San Cristóbal was complemented by a number of German immigrants, who either came to the country with substantial capital or started out as highly qualified estate managers and moved into the ranks of finca owners. Virtually all the Germans in the Verapaz were engaged in the production and marketing of coffee.40 In San Cristóbal, the most successful members of the small German community during the 1930s were Edith Hesse (widow of Rudolf), owner of the finca San Joaquín and an ore mine; Waldemar Thiemer, owner of the finca La Providencia and shops in San Cristóbal and San Pedro Carchá; and Alfons Herring, who ran a shoe factory. All three also operated their own coffee beneficios and exported their produce themselves. Thiemer and Herring had a branch firm in Hamburg.41 Thiemer also exported coffee to New Orleans via the Guatemalan Atlantic port of Puerto Barrios.42

The careers of Thiemer, Herring, and Rudolf Hesse illustrate the possibilities for upward social mobility for German immigrants in the Verapaz. Thiemer came to Guatemala in 1899 as estate manager for the German finquero Richard Sapper, later opened a shop in San Cristóbal, and finally was able to buy the finca La Providencia.43 He also became co-owner of the export firm Schlubach, Thiemer and Company and held shares in the Empresa Eléctrica, a power plant in Guatemala’s capital.44 In the 1930s, Thiemer employed German immigrants himself; his estate managers at La Providencia were Georg Steiger and Paul Fink.45 August Kuckling, who had come to Guatemala in 1913 with a contract from the German entrepreneur Erwin Paul Dieseldorff, later worked for Thiemer.46 So did the technician Herbert John.47

Alfons Herring, a tanner by profession, came to Guatemala in 1909 and, like Thiemer, worked for Richard Sapper before founding his shoe factory in San Cristóbal. He also became a shareholder in the Empresa Eléctrica.48 In the 1930s he employed the brothers Hermann and Eugen Walch in his factory; they also were tanners by profession, and had come to Guatemala in 1928 and 1931, respectively. Hermann Walch soon moved on to work for Thiemer before following his employers’ path, acquiring the finca Pantup and founding his own tannery.49 In 1932, Herring recruited another German tanner, Heinrich Rühl, for his expanding enterprise. Bernhard Burmester, who had worked as bookkeeper on another German planter’s estate since 1907, later became Herring’s estate manager.50 He was one of the very few Germans in the Verapaz who became naturalized Guatemalan citizens.51

Rudolf Hesse took up residence in the Verapaz in 1928 and eventually took over the finca San Joaquín. After his death his widow, Edith, continued his enterprises.52 Her estate manager, Johann Pape, had come to the country through a work contract with Dieseldorff. In 1935 Pape acquired the finca Helvetia.53

As the examples of Pape, Thiemer, Herring, and Walch show, the formation of the German local elite depended on the recruitment of skilled personnel from the home country and on these employees’ potential for upward mobility. Professional skills, ties to the German finqueros already established in the region, and high salaries gave these men a fair chance to move into the ranks of the finqueros themselves. A German employee on one of his compatriots’ estates usually earned a monthly salary of 100 German marks the first year, 125 marks the second, and 150 marks the third, in addition to free room, board, and medical care. He thus might save between 1,200 and 1,800 marks per year that he could invest in real estate.54 Competicion among the finqueros for such skilled personnel, moreover, kept their earnings high.

Besides the mode of recruitment, two further differences are notable between ladino and German members of the local elite. While the ladinos usually resided in the towns and visited the fincas only sporadically, the German finqueros and estate managers lived on the estates. In addition, whereas ladino finqueros virtually never entered into lasting personal relationships with Indian women, such concubinages were quite common between Germans and Indian women in the Verapaz. Young, unmarried men were particularly inclined toward such relationships.55 Four out of five children of German fathers in the Verapaz were of mixed blood: 155 German planters of the first generation fathered no fewer than 359 children with Indian women.56

The offspring of these relationships usually selected their marriage partners or companions from the German, German-Indian, or ladino segments of the local population. One example from San Cristóbal may illustrate the point. Johann Pape, Edith Hesses estate manager, had sexual relationships with three Indian women and one woman of German-Indian descent, Francisca Spiegeler Choc, illegitimate daughter of the Sapper family’s German estate manager, Wilhelm Spiegeler. The son of Pape and Spiegeler Choc, Enrique, had relationships with an Indian, María Caal, and a German, Alicia Düring.57 A significant number of these illegitimate children married into the local elite. A prominent example is María Luisa Klug Macz, who became the wife of Fidel Torres, jefe político of the Alta Verapaz in the 1940s.58 While these relationships thus constituted a channel of upward social mobility for a fraction of the local Indian population, the vast majority felt the impact of a non-Indian elite on their communities in a very different way.

State Intrusion and Indian Responses

During the 1930s, the 40 fincas of San Cristóbal had a non-Spanish-speaking population of 2,760.59 Most of this number represented women and children; the adult male Indians could usually understand and speak some Spanish and therefore were not included in the count. Despite some irregularities in the statistics, it is clear that the indígenas constituted the vast majority of San Cristóbal’s inhabitants. With the introduction of coffee and the expansion of ladino land ownership, the living conditions of this native majority changed dramatically.

After the Dominicans lost control of the region in 1829, the Verapaz experienced little outside economic and administrative interference for almost half a century.60 From the 1870s on, however, the Guatemalan state reasserted its control over the region in order to create an administrative framework for the introduction of export-oriented agriculture. Of particular importance in this context is the desamortization law of 1878. Communal land that could only be rented before was now transferred to private ownership.61

An essential requirement for the transition to cash crop production in the Verapaz was an adequate labor pool. Government policies therefore were designed “to provide the Indian labor force for the new plantation elite.”62 The Indians, for their part, were given the right to remain on their ancestral land and were allotted small tracts of land for subsistence agriculture. Government legislation thereby transformed the socioeconomic position of the region’s Indians from one of landowners and subsistence farmers to one of dependent agricultural laborers.63

State intrusion into the lives of Indian families is particularly visible in two areas: vagrancy legislation and road construction. In 1878, the government had passed a law against vagrancy, which sought to keep the Indians on their plots of land.64 In combination with debt peonage, which in Guatemala remained a legal means of keeping Indian laborers dependent on their patrons, the vagrancy legislation became an important vehicle for ensuring the labor supply for the fincas.65 By the early twentieth century, however, the landowning elite had found the existing legislation inadequate, and began to pressure the government to do more. Peticions and reports filed by influential landowners frequently reiterated the complaint that labor was too scarce in the region. A report from the community of San Pedro Carchá in May 1923, for example, called for legislation that was “in accordance with the nature of the Indian workers” —that is, that improved the elite’s ability to recruit the Indian labor force.66

The 1934 Ley Contra la Vagancia (Decree 1995) followed the example of the 1878 law in that it used the vagrancy issue to meet the planters’ labor demands. While the 1878 law did not apply to subsistence farmers, however, its 1934 successor went one step further by requiring all adult males to prove that they had regular employment. Only those who owned a certain minimum acreage of land were exempt from this requirement.67 While the finqueros met this criterion, the subsistence plots of the native population usually were too small for their owners to qualify. If an Indian was arrested because of suspected vagrancy, he had to produce a valid labor contract or, as in the case of Juan Jom Cal of San Cristóbal in 1936, certification from the community that he owned enough land to be free of labor obligations.68

The jefatura records show how finqueros in San Cristóbal used the Ley Contra la Vagancia to enforce labor contracts. In 1934 the manager of the finca La Primavera, Carlos Enrique Azurdia y Valenzuela, reported five indios who had disappeared from the plantation and had not yet returned. Azurdia asked the jefe político to punish the “vagrants” with three months of forced roadwork before sending them back to him.69 In 1939, the indio Manuel Ac Pop, arrested under the vagrancy law, argued that he had absconded from the finca where he worked only because he could not feed his family there. He received a fairly light punishment for not having fulfilled a two-week labor contract.70 In September 1938, 13 men from San Cristóbal were tried as a group for violation of the vagancia law; 9 were acquitted, and the 4 others were sentenced to one month in jail or a fine of ten centavos per day.71 Considering that in 1933 the daily wage of an Indian laborer was about four centavos plus provisions, these men would have had to work 75 days to pay their fine.72 Imprisonment of the male head of household, on the other hand, could mean a heavy economic burden for his family, particularly if it coincided with the planting or harvest periods of the agricultural year.

The expansion of the export economy in the Verapaz increased the need for transportation and communication routes in the area.73 Since the 1870s, the extent and speed of road construction in the region had been dictated largely by the needs and requirements of the finqueros. The road workers (zapadores) were recruited from the local Indian population. In 1887, all of the 1,412 road workers from San Cristóbal had Indian names.74 Lists of zapadores drawn up during the 1930s also consist exclusively of Indians.75 Because the indios were needed in the agricultural economy during the harvest season, however, construction virtually stopped during the harvest period; in San Cristóbal, for example, during the coffee harvest, which lasted from November to February.76Finqueros also sought the release of their mozos from roadwork for urgent work on the estates.77 They tried to prevent the mozos’ employment at altitudes and in climatic zones they were unused to.78 Small estates in particular could hardly do without their laborers for extended periods. Thus José Gómez Prado, owner of a small finca in San Cristóbal, Peticioned the jefatura to release four mozos from the vialidad in 1936 because they represented a significant part of his labor force, which consisted of only 14 men.79 The preservation of the agricultural labor pool always had top priority.

In 1933, the Ley de Vialidad (Decree 1474) required every adult male between 18 and 65 years of age to work two weeks per year on road construction without pay. Persons who could pay a tax of one quetzal per week of vialidad were exempt.80 The jefaturas organized the work units and recruited and supervised the zapadores.81 During the first half of 1937, the law applied to 27,701 men in the Verapaz. Of these, 25,843 were agricultural laborers, 598 laborers in other sectors of the economy, and 799 finqueros — who usually paid the exemption tax.82 Because the zapadores were required to provision themselves, roadwork meant an additional burden not only for adult male Indians but for their families. The Indians’ workload during the vialidad, moreover, greatly exceeded that of the normal agricultural season. The Indians usually had to transport the construction materials on their backs, while the women had to prepare greater amounts of food and take over such typically male tasks as gathering firewood.83

The intensified state interference in the living and working conditions of Indian farmhands in the 1930s, epitomized in the vagancia and vialidad legislation, was accompanied by a decline in real wages. While in 1935 a jornalero received ten centavos and a mozo eight centavos per day, for example, these wages dropped in 1936 to eight and four centavos, respectively.84 Indian laborers were divided into two categories: day laborers (braceros voluntarios or jornaleros) and permanently employed laborers (mozos colonos). Though jornaleros earned twice as much as mozos colonos, they were probably worse off, for the latter were given plots of land for subsistence, free firewood, and provisions. Even day laborers sometimes received part of their pay in the form of foodstuffs. Indians’ monetary income was hardly adequate, however, if they had to buy food. In 1934, one quintal of rice in the Verapaz cost 5.50 quetzales, one quintal of beans 2.50 quetzales, one quintal of corn 1.25 quetzales, and one liter of milk 8 centavos.85 In terms of the 1935 wages, a jornalero had to work 25 days for a quintal of beans and 12.5 days for a quintal of com, while a mozo had to labor 50 days for the same amount of beans and 25 days for the com. The allocation of plots for subsistence agriculture thus was a means for the finquero to provide workers with an adequate diet at very low cost. For the Indians, subsistence farming at least represented a continuation of an important aspect of their traditional way of life.

In addition to the demands of finca labor and state-enforced road construction, ecological change also contributed to the Indian family’s increasing workload between 1880 and 1940. The expansion of coffee production led to large-scale deforestation in the Verapaz. In the San Cristóbal area, the original vegetation of oak and pinewoods was largely replaced by coffee trees and shade-giving banana plants.86 For the Indians, this environmental change meant a depletion of local firewood and construction material. The wood they needed for building, cooking, and heating they had to fetch from ever more remote places—with increasing requirements of time and labor.

The demands of labor on the large estate on the one hand and subsistence farming on the other occasionally surpassed the Indian family’s resources. The division of labor in Indian families traditionally follows strict gender lines. While fieldwork is regarded exclusively as a male domain, women are responsible for childrearing, household chores, and raising small livestock. For this reason, widowed women frequently Peticioned the authorities to release their sons from work on the finca for certain periods — usually 10 to 20 days—so they could cultivate the family’s subsistence plots.87 In the coffee economy, however, the traditional division of labor in the Indian family broke down: women as well as men now worked as field hands on the plantation.

The Indian population did not merely accept these changes passively. They adjusted to some and developed various forms of resistance against others. An adjustment process is clearly evident in the Indians’ attitude toward the region’s new export crop, coffee. While coffee had played no role in their subsistence economy before, they engaged in small-scale coffee production on their own plots fairly soon after the plant was introduced. Coffee production by indígenas is documented for the Verapaz as early as the 1880s.88 In 1943 the beneficio of C. Vidal Reyes M. received coffee from 350 small producers in quantities ranging from 0.25 to 7 quintales. Reyes paid the suppliers 1.35 quetzales for a quintal of coffee pergamino (unprocessed).89

This transition to cash crop cultivation is all the more remarkable because coffee requires a substantial initial input of labor and capital. It usually takes five years for a coffee tree to bear its first fruit. The Indians’ production and marketing of coffee on a small scale thus confirms some scholars’ observation of a high degree of acceptance of capitalistic forms of production and trade among Guatemala’s indigenous population.90 While they originally produced coffee exclusively for sale, moreover, the Indians started to become consumers of coffee themselves during the 1930s.91

One form of indigenous resistance, on the other hand, was flight from the land. Indians who were unwilling to work for their new masters migrated to remote areas of the Verapaz, where they cleared the forest and planted their milpas92 Removal to the backcountry, however, turned out to be at best a temporary way to escape the system. By introducing subsistence agriculture to hitherto uncultivated frontier regions, these Indians virtually paved the way for the advancement of export agriculture and the large fincas as well. Ladinos or Europeans intending to take up land grants and establish coffee fincas there found the land already cleared and a potential labor force in place. The creation of new municipalities in the Verapaz in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries testifies to this process of expansion.93

Indian resistance to dispossession and intrusion into community and family structures also took more active forms. In the case of Mexico, it has been noted that “breaches of traditional practice by landowners or public officials at a time of intensified search for subsistence could well produce a shock that drove a sedentary community to rebel.”94 While no rebellions erupted in the Verapaz during the period under study, two peaceful forms of Indian resistance were widely practiced: Peticions to state authorities and lawsuits against finqueros over property matters.

The frequency of Indian Peticions to state authorities-during the 1930s demonstrates that the native population continued to view the government bureaucracy, at least occasionally, as a potential ally against the finqueros’ demands. Thus a Peticion from Indians of the Verapaz community of San Pedro Carchá in 1931 refers to the Ubico regime’s proclaimed principles of justicia and honradez to underscore its expectations of the government.95 Some Ubico measures, such as the legal abolition of debt peonage in 1934, may have contributed to the perception of government favor. Many of the Peticions concerned payment of outstanding wages. In 1933, for example, the mozos of the finca San Rafael in Santa Cruz protested to the jefatura that the owner had not paid them their daily wages of four centavos for a period of one-and-a-half years. When they had demanded payment from the finquero, Gabriel Gómez of San Cristóbal, he had injured one of the mozos by hitting him on the head. The Indians obtained a settlement that obliged the insolvent finquero to pay the outstanding wages in foodstuffs.96 In a remarkable Petición filed in 1934, 40 mozos on the finca La Primavera—with the help of a knowledgeable scribe (tinterillo) — justified their demand for payment of outstanding wages with the principles of the French Revolution, which were believed to have led to the abolition of slavery everywhere in the world except Guatemala.97

It is significant that such Peticions show up in the jefatura records only until 1937. Their complete absence after that date may indicate the growing conservatism of the Ubico regime and the Indians’ later perception that the government’s policies did not cater to their interests.98

In lawsuits between Indians and finqueros about property titles, Indians usually took a defensive position. They resisted attempts by the landowning elite to lay claim to their property, especially in cases of land sale or inheritance.99 In 1934, several Indian families who had inherited the plot Cumbre de Panbom o Pansijmaj applied for a new survey, but the overseer of the finca La Primavera, Carlos Enrique Azurdia y Valenzuela, claimed that he had a right to the land and that the Indian applicants were his mozos. The Indians, however, were able to prove a legal title dating from 1910. They also tried to prove that they had obtained the land from Doña Francisca Aparicio, widow of former president General Justo Rufino Barrios, who had previously owned the finca.100

Shortly thereafter, one of the heirs, Sebastián Chen Sis, became involved in another legal dispute about land with a member of San Cristóbal’s ladino elite, Francisco Leal Peña, who for a time was the community’s alcalde mayor.101 Leal tried to incorporate the Indian’s plot, which bordered his finca, into his own property by extending his cultivation onto it. When Chen Sis protested to the jefatura, Leal first attempted, in vain, to get the Indian imprisoned, then claimed him as his mozo enganchado and demanded that he be made a zapador in punishment for his misdemeanor. Chen Sis, however, proved that Leal’s accusations were false and obtained his release. Much later, Leal Peña managed to produce a work contract, which led once again to the recruitment of Chen Sis as a zapador—this time on the road between Tamahú and Pancajché. This site was a potential health hazard for the Indian, for it lay at a much lower altitude than his native community.102

In the neighboring Kekchi community of San Juan Chamelco, a similar legal dispute dragged on for more than 40 years. The 25 indio families who attempted to defend their right to a tract of land even addressed a Peticion to President Ubico in 1939, but ultimately lost their case. Even so, it is remarkable how long the authorities delayed settling the case decisively—an indication that the indios’ claims were not without foundation.103

Several areas of Indian life fostered neither complete adjustment nor total resistance to the processes of socioeconomic transformation, but a combination of the two. One of those areas was the cycle of agrarian production, which continued largely unaltered in the Indians’ small subsistence fields. In San Cristóbal the agricultural cycle started with potato planting in January and continued with the planting of beans in February, corn from March to May, and rice in May and June. Rice and potatoes were harvested in April and May, beans in May and June, and corn in September. Corn was the Indians’ most important crop; the first and second plantings of corn (tunamil) had central significance in the rhythm of the agricultural year.104 The introduction of coffee production to the region extended the agricultural cycle, because the coffee harvest took place from November to February. Still, the labor required for coffee cultivation basically did not interfere with the traditional agricultural cycle.

The rhythm of agricultural production coincided with marked seasonal variations in the birth rate among Indian women in San Cristóbal. Although the municipality registered a monthly average of 52 births during the decade 1930-40, that average increased to 64 for the months of August to October. Thus, while the introduction of colfee ended the three-month rest period in the agricultural year, the months from November to February remained a period of increased reproductive activity. This continuity in reproductive behavior despite changing labor requirements might be explained by noting that the Indian males were generally freed from roadwork during the months of the coffee harvest, which therefore may have been viewed as the comparatively least labor-intensive period of the year.105

Another area in which the indígenas sought to guard traditional values and practices was their festival culture. As in other agrarian societies, festivals were closely tied to the rhythms of seed and harvest periods. Corn planting or the local saint’s day were celebrated with fireworks, marimba music, dance, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, and heightened sexual activity. The Indians usually drank alcohol only at specific religious festivals, but then in large quantities. According to travelers who attended such celebrations, a state of drunken ecstasy allegedly allowed the Indians to enter into spiritual communion with their ancestors. It also contained an element of worship of the ancient Maya gods who coexisted with the Christian saints in the Indian imagination.106

Viewed against this background, the Ubico regime’s prohibition of the production and sale of spirits under the Ley Contra la Vagancia can be seen as an attempt to assert state control over one of the areas of Indian life that was traditionally most resistant to outside interference.107 The Verapaz legal records reveal, however, that the Indians continued to violate the law. In San Cristóbal, Jose Ac Jul was jailed in 1940 when a bottle of chicha was found near his house. Although Ac Jul declared that the bottle did not belong to him, he was sentenced to two months in jail and a fine of 66 quetzales, 66 centavos. But because the indio proved unable to pay, the fine was converted to one additional day in prison for every 2 quetzales.108

In another case, three men from the San Cristóbal area were arrested in 1938 because they allegedly had been found intoxicated. It turned out that one of the men, without the knowledge of the other two, had produced about five liters of chicha for the celebration of the planting season.109 The offense was more problematic because the work contracts of the three men with the finca La Primavera contained an express prohibition against making and selling spirits.110 The offender was sentenced to one month in jail and a fine of one hundred quetzales, which could also be converted to 50 days in prison.111

The heavy sentences seem out of proportion to the offenses committed, especially in Ac Jul’s case. They underscore the authorities’ determination to enforce measures against an integral part of Indian cultural tradition. Like the vagrancy legislation of which it was a part, the prohibition of alcohol was intended to discipline the Indian rural labor force, implement the moral project of the Ubico regime, and advance the process of ladinization!112


After a long period in which the Indians of the Verapaz were left largely to themselves, the Guatemalan state reasserted its control over the indigenous population in the 1870s by taking the first steps toward integrating the region into the national and international cash crop economy. The local finquero elite that established itself in the region served as a mediator in this process. It essentially took over the function of exercising control over the native population that the church had fulfilled during the colonial period.113

From the 1870s on, this group of ladino and German planters appropriated most of the arable land in the San Cristóbal area. While the ladino finqueros were bound by strong kinship ties, the German planters continued to recruit new personnel from the home country. The German presence opened two channels of upward social mobility in the community: one allowed skilled German estate managers to move into the ranks of the finqueros, and the other permitted a small number of Indians to advance socially through concubinage.

Government policies were designed to meet the finquero oligarchy’s need for a readily available labor force. The Indians were thereby transformed into a dependent rural laboring class. Fieldwork on the large estates, heavy labor on the roads that were constructed to abet the export economy, and the need for self-provisioning combined to increase the workload for the Indian family. Meanwhile, labor requirements, vagrancy legislation, and low living standards undercut the Indian family’s autonomy.

Some areas of Indian life and cultural identity survived largely intact despite these processes of transformation. The requirement that Indian laborers feed their families themselves ensured the preservation of small-scale subsistence agriculture, with its traditional division of labor, side by side with the export economy In addition, the Pokom’chi of San Cristóbal preserved their language and their religious festivals, which continue today. Nor did San Cristóbal’s Indians yield passively to the pressures of economic and political modernization. Up to the mid-1930s, at least, they attempted to use bureaucratic channels to assert their rights to land and wages through Peticions and lawsuits. The disappearance of these forms of resistance in the mid-1930s, which coincided with an increased number of trials of Indians who violated the vagancia legislation, might reflect the growing understanding among San Cristóbal’s indios of the thrust of Guatemalan government policies by that time: to transform social relations in the countryside for the sole benefit of the landed elite.

I wish to thank my friends Franz Binder, José Chaclán Díaz, and Padre Ricardo Terga for their help in finding my way through the Guatemalan archival jungle; and my husband, Dr. Mark Haberlein, for his scholarly and personal support, critical comments, and help in producing an English-language manuscript.

Citations refer to the following archives: Archivo General de Centro América, Guatemala, Sectión de Tierras Alta Verapaz, 1878-1944, and Jefatura Política Alta Verapaz (AGCA, STAV and JPAV); Archivo Paroquial de San Cristóbal Alta Verapaz, Guatemala (APSC); Bundesarchiv Abteilung Militärarchiv, Freiburg (BAMF); Stadtarchiv, Ravensburg (SR); Siemens Archiv, Munich (SAM).


Carol A. Smith, ed., Guatemalan Indians and the State, 1540-1988 (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1992).


Idem, Introduction to Guatemalan Indians, 2. For earlier approaches to the topic, see Alain Y. Dessaint, “Effects of the Hacienda and Plantation Systems on Guatemala’s Indians,” America Indígene 22 (1962), 322-54; Ralph Lee Woodward, Privilegio de classe y desarrollo económico, Guatemala 1793 a 1871 [translation of Class Privilege and Economic Development: The Consulado de Comercio of Guatemala, 1793-1871] (San José, Costa Rica: Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana, 1981); and the following, all by David McCreery: “Coffee and Class: The Structure of Development in Liberal Guatemala,” HAHR 56:3 (Aug. 1976), 438-60; “Debt Servitude in Rural Guatemala, 1876-1936, HAHR 63:4 (Nov. 1983), 735-59; Desarrollo económico y político nacional: el Ministerio de Fomento de Guatemala, 1871-1885, trans. Stephen Webre (Guatemala City: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica, 1981); ‘“An Odious Feudalism’: Mandamiento Labor and Commercial Agriculture in Guatemala, 1858-1920,” Latin American Perspectives 13 (1986), 99-117.


David McCreery, “Hegemony and Repression in Rural Guatemala, 1871-1940,” Peasant Studies 17 (1990), 158.


Smith, Introduction, 3.


The period of Ubico’s rule (1931-44) is not even dealt with in Smith, Guatemalan Indians.


There is a large literature on the meanings of the terms indio and ladino (the latter comprises all non-Indian Spanish-speaking inhabitants of Guatemala) and their implications for Guatemalan history and society. See, e.g., Smith, Guatemalan Indians; Arturo Tarracena Arriola, “Contributión al estudio del vocablo ladino en Guatemala (siglos XVI-XIX),” in Historia y antropología de Guatemala. Ensayos en honor de J. Daniel Contreras R., ed. Jorge Luján Muñoz (Ciudad Universitaria, Guatemala: Facultad de Humanidades, Univ. de San Carlos, 1982), 89-104.


For an overview, see Regina Wagner, Los alemanes en Guatemala, 1828-1944 (Guatemala City: IDEA, 1991).


Of particular importance are Karl Sapper, Mittelamerikanische Reisen und Studien aus den Jahren 1888-1900 (Braunschweig: F. Wieweg, 1902); Caecilie Seler-Sachs, Auf alten Wegen in Mexiko und Guatemala, 2d ed. (Stuttgart: Stecker und Schröder, 1925); Adrian Rösch, Allerlei aus der Alta Verapaz. Bilder aus dem deutschen Leben (Stuttgart: Ausland und Heimat, 1934).


A large literature addresses the impact of coffee production on social and economic relations in various Latin American countries. See Marco Palacios, Coffee in Colombia, 1850-1970: An Economic, Social, and Political History (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980); Laird W. Bergad, Coffee and the Growth of Agrarian Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1983); Mauricio A. Font, Coffee, Contention, and Change in the Making of Modern Brazil (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1990); William Roseberry, Coffee and Capitalism in the Venezuelan Andes (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1983); Verena Stolcke, Coffee, Planters, Workers, and Wives: Class Conflicts and Gender Relations on São Paulo Plantations, 1850-1980 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988). In the case of Guatemala, the socioeconomic consequences of the coffee economy have been treated on the macro level from a Marxist perspective in Julio C. Cambranes, Coffee and Peasants: The Origins of the Modern Plantation Economy in Guatemala, 1853-1897 (Stockholm: Institute of Latin American Studies, 1985). For a critical assessment of Cambranes’ work, see W. George Lovell, “Voces desde la oscuridad: escritos recientes sobre Guatemala,” Mesoamérica 14 (1987), 555-64. For a comparative perspective on Latin American coffee economies, see Verena Stolcke, “The Labours of Coffee in Latin America: The Hidden Charm of Family Labor and Self-provisioning,” in Nord und Süd in Amerika: Gemeinsamkeiten, Gegensätze, europäischer Hintergrund, ed. Wolfgang Reinhard and Peter Waldmann (Freiburg: Rombach, 1992), 408-21.


For the reforms, see Rafael Arévalo Martínez, Ubico (Guatemala City: Tipografía National, 1984); Piero Gleijeses, “La aldea de Ubico, 1931-1944,” Mesoamérica 17 (1989), 25-60; Kenneth J. Grieb, Guatemalan Caudillo: The Regime of Jorge Ubico (Athens: Ohio Univ. Press, 1979); Stefan Karlen, “Paz, Progreso, Justicia, y Honradez”: Das Ubico-Regime in Guatemala, 1931-1944 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1991); Joseph A. Pitty, Jorge Ubico and Guatemalan Politics in the 1920s (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1975).


On the Verapaz in the colonial period, see esp. Michel Bertrand, Terre et société colonial: les communautés Maya-Quiché de la région de Rabinal du XVIe au XIXe siècle (Mexico City: Centre d’Etudes Mexicaines et Centroamericaines, 1987); idem, “La tierray los hombres: la sociedad rural en Baja Verapaz durante los siglos XVI al XIX,” in La sociedad. colonial en Guatemala: estudios regionales y locales, ed. Stephen Webre, trans. Margarita Cruz de Drake et al. (Antigua, Guatemala/South Woodstock: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica/Plumsock Mesoamerícan Studies, 1989), 141-87; André Saint-Lu, La Vera Paz, ésprit évangélique et colonisation (Paris: Centre de Recherches Hispaniques, Institut des Etudes Hispaniques, 1968); Karl Sapper, “Die Dominikanerprovinz Vera Paz in Guatemala als Vorbild der Südamerikanischen Missionsstaaten,” Ibero-Amerikanisches Archiv 13 (1939), 217-44.


See Cambranes, Coffee and Peasants, 47.


David McCreery, “State Power, Indigenous Communities, and Land in Nineteenth-Century Guatemala, 1820-1920,” in Smith, Guatemalan Indians, 96-115.


Karl Sapper, “Mittelamerika,” Auslandswegweiser 5 (1921), 105.


For the Indian view, see John D. Early, The Demographic Structure and Evolution of a Peasant System: The Guatemalan Population (Boca Raton: Univ. Presses of Florida, 1982), 74. For the European version, see Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Las closes sociales en las sociedades agrarias, 16th ed. (Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1986), 279.


AGCA, STAV. Land titles for the Alta Verapaz are scattered over four different repositories. One part is in AGCA, ST; a second, comprising mostly records of the post-1940 period, in the Archivo de Propiedad Inmeuble; a third in the notary archives of the Corte Supremo; and a fourth, documents concerning land formerly owned by German planters, in the Instituto de Transformatión Agraria (INTA). Because the Corte Supremo records are filed by notary and not indexed, they are extremely difficult to use. This section is based mainly on the material in the AGCA.


Karl Sapper, “Die Alta Verapaz,” Mitteilungen der geographischen Gesellschaft in Hamburg 17 (1901), 78-223, esp. 215-18.


The Germans were Hans Tafel, paq. 22, exp. 6; Peter Günther, paq. 92, exp. 3. Cf. paq. 69, exp. 10, and paq. 72, Jorge Klee, paq. 3, exp. 5 and 8, Sociedad Plantaciones Verapaz “Primavera,” Cobán. AGCA, STAV.


Domingo Mo y Compañeros Chiatal, paq. 13, exp. 11; José Velásquez, Juan Mus, Pedro Quej “Chisiram,” paq. 14, exp. 9, AGCA, STAV.


See Karl Sapper, Karte der Alta Verapaz (Guatemala) zur Veranschaulichung der Besitzverteilung, Mitteilungen der geographischen Gesellschaft 17 (1901), n.p.; also in Wagner, Los alemanes, 205.


Lists of fincas of the Alta Verapaz, AGCA, JPAV 1940. Thejefatura itself speaks of 52 titles, but this number seems too high; it probably includes the fincas of Santa Cruz, which were partly administered from San Cristóbal. A plan of the community drawn in 1939, on the other hand, shows only 30 fincas. Carta de San Cristóbal Verapaz; Respuesta de circulario nr. 570, Dec. 21, 1938, from San Cristóbal, Feb. 8, 1939; and Santa Cruz, Jan. 31, 1939; all AGCA, JPAV 1939.


Land title paq. 14, exp. 9, and paq. 13, exp. 3, AGCA, STAV


Informe San Cristóbal a Jefatura Politica, AGCA, JPAV 1940.


Secretaría de Gobemación y Justicia, Guatemala, Dec. 21, 1931, AGCA, sign. B, leg. 30271.


Auditorio y Sectión de Contabilidad y Estadístico, Jan. 1933, AGCA, Agricultura y Caminos 1932-33, Nominas de fincas de azúcar, 1931-32.


Rösch, Allerlei, 46, 50; Informe San Cristóbal a Jefatura Política, AGCA, JPAV 1940; Carta de Jefatura Política Cobán a Ministerio de Gobernación y Justicia, Jan. 16, 1932, AGCA, sign. B., leg. 30271; Estadísticas de Café, June 12, 1944, AGCA, Oficina de Café, 1944.


APSC, Libro de Matrimonios, vol. 7, fol. 126r.


Ibid., fol. 135v.


Ibid., fol. 140r.


An example is the marriage of Victoriano Narcisco Chavarría and María Tereza Gómez Ascencio in November 1932. APSC, Libro de Matrimonios, vol. 7, fol. 181v.


Marriage of Oscar Leal Peña and Josefina de Jesús Goméz Ascencio, August 1925, APSC, Libro de Matrimonios, vol. 7, fol. 126r, San Cristóbal; Informes a Jefe Político de Intendente Municipal San Cristóbal, AGCA, JPAV 1936, 1938, 1940; Nomina de Ios propietarios, Santa Cruz Verapaz, Feb. 24, 1931, AGCA, JPAV 1930.


Informes al Jefe Político de Intendente Municipal de San Cristóbal, AGCA, JPAV 1936; Aug. 17, 1939, JPAV 1938; Feb. 8, 1938, JPAV 1939; Listas de los fincas productores de café del Depto. Alta Verapaz, JPAV 1940; Petición de Waldemar Thiemer a Señor Jefe Político, San Cristóbal, Mar. 27, 1930, JPAV 1930.


Informes a Jefe Político de Intendente Municipal, AGCA, JPAV 1936; Aug. 7, 1938 JPAV 1938.


“Decreto no. 1986,” Diario de Centro América, sectión oficial, May 28, 1934.


“Parcelimiento de los terrenos communales para fincas agrícolas de las mismas comunidades a solicitud,” El Liberal Progresista, May 16, 1934; “Dictamen de la Asamblea National Legislativa sobre la memoria de los trabajadores de la Secretaría de Agriculture y Caminos,” Revista Agrícola 1 (1936), 3-19, esp. 7.


Secretaría de Gobemación y Justicia, acuerdo no. 17,1935, AGCA, sign. B, leg. 30932.


Informe no. 498 de Intendente Municipal de San Cristóbal, AGCA, JPAV 1939; Informe al Jefe Político de Intendente Municipal de San Cristóbal, Aug. 16, 1939, JPAV 1938.


Secretaría de Gobemación y Justicia, no. 2, 1932-33, AGCA, sign. B, leg. 30654; Juzgado Penal de Cobán, AGCA, leg. 35, pieza 23.


Informes a Jefe Político de Intendente Municipal, AGCA, JPAV 1936; Aug. 17, 1938, JPAV 1938; Listas de las fincas del Depto. Alta Verapaz, JPAV 1940; Respuesta de circular no. 570, Dec. 21, 1938, San Cristóbal, Feb. 8, 1939, JPAV 1939.


See the vice consular list for Cobán, 1879-1937, printed in Deutschtum in der Alta Verapaz 1888-1938, ed. Deutscher Verein Cobán (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1938); Wagner, Los alemanes, 410-20.


Various statistics, AGCA, Exportatión de Café, Agriculture y Caminos 1937-38.


AGCA, Exportatión de Cafe, Puerto Barrios, Agriculture y Caminos 1937-38.


Archivo de la Secretaría de Gobemación y Justicia, Feb. 1930, AGCA, sign. B, leg. 30267; Rösch, Allerlei, 50; Ricardo Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas: un estudio de la insertión alemana en las Verapaces y consequente relatión entre los alemanes y los k’ekchies (Cobán, Guatemala: Imprenta “El Norte,” 1991), 362-63.


SAM, 17/Ld 929; BAMF, RM/3657, fol. 12r.


Paq. 111, exp. 1, AGCA, STAV.


For the Dieseldorff family see Guillermo Náñez Falcón, “Erwin Dieseldorff: German Entrepreneur in the Alta Verapaz of Guatemala, 1889-1937” (Ph.D. diss., Tulane Univ., 1970).


Nomina de los extranjeros de San Cristóbal, Aug, 26, 1939, AGCA, JPAV 1939; Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas, 360-61.


Secretaría de Gobemación y Justicia, Guatemala, Aug. 31, 1927, AGCA, sign. B, leg. 30506; Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas, 359-60.


Nomina de los extranjeros de San Cristóbal, Aug. 26, 1939, AGCA, JPAV 1939; Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas, 364.


Nomina de los extranjeros de San Cristóbal, Aug. 26, 1939; AGCA, B 99-34-2, leg. 6803; Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas, 95, 215, 217.


Detalle que demuestra la manera como estan distribuidas las 270 naturalisaciones . . . de 1900 hasta el 30 de octubre de 1934, AGCA, B 99-31-3, leg. 6733. Of the 53 Germans naturalized in Guatemala, only two resided in the Verapaz.


Secretaría de Gobernación y Justicia, acuerdo no. 2, 1932-33, AGCA, sign. B, leg. 30654; Juzgado Penal de Cobán, AGCA, leg. 35, pieza 23; Juzgado Penal de Cobán, leg. 35, pieza 24; Secretaría de Gobernación y Justicia, Cobán, Apr. 16,1936, AGCA, sign. B, leg. 31081; Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas, 358-59.


Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas, 164; Juzgado Penal de Cobán, AGCA, leg. 35 D, pieza 23, fols. 6v-7v.


See Wagner, Los alemanes, 312.


German-Indian relationships are occasionally mentioned in the older German literature on the Verapaz. See, e.g., Rösch, Allerlei, 85; Karl Sapper, Die Tropen: Naturund Mensch zwischen den Wendekreisen (Stuttgart: Stecker und Schröder, 1923), 116; Seler-Sachs, Auf alten Wegen, 92.


This estimate is based on a number of sources, including AGCA, Extranjería B 99-34-2, leg. 6803, Jefatura Política 1929-40, STAV, Ministerio de Agricultura y Caminos 1933-44, and Oficina de Café, 1931-40; APSC, Libro de Matrimonios de San Cristóbal, vol. 7; SR, ZR III 5,5, ZR V 78, X 201, Genealogie Spohn, Genealogie Sterkel; Deutscher Verein Cobán, Deutschtum; Nicolas Leysbeth, Histoire de la colonisation belge à Santo Tomás, Guatemala (Brussels: Nouvelle Editions, 1938); Náñez Falcón, Erwin Dieseldorff; Rösch, Allerlei; Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas.


Terga Cintrón, Almas gemelas, 164.


Ibid., 134-35, 137.


Respuestas de circular no. 570, Dec. 21,1938, San Cristóbal, Feb. 8, 1939, Santa Cruz, Jan. 31, 1939, AGCA, JPAV 1939.


Bertrand, Terre et société, 238-39.


Cambranes, Coffee and Peasants, 84-85.


Smith, Introduction, 16. See also McCreery, “State Power,” 96-115.


Rösch, Allerlei, 35; Sapper, Die Tropen, 116.


McCreery, “Debt Servitude,” 742.


On debt peonage in Guatemala, see McCreery, “Debt Servitude,” 742; Alfred Figueroa Navarro, “Ladinisation, structure agraire, et classes sociales au Guatemala,” Civilisations (Brussels) 18 (1978), 169-70; Cambranes, Coffee and Peasants, 55, 101; Chester Lloyd Jones, Guatemala, Past and Present (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1940), 139, 152-53; McCreery, “Odious Feudalism,” 99-100; idem, “Hegemony and Repression,” 167; Ralph Lee Woodward, Central America: A Nation Divided, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 174.


AGCA, Agricultura y Caminos 1922-23, legajado copiador 81, fol. 320.


Diario de Centro América 56 (May 12, 1934), 345-47. For the vagancia legislation of the Ubico period, see Gleijeses, “La aldea de Ubico”; Grieb, Guatemalan Caudillo, 38; McCreery, “Debt Servitude” and “Hegemony and Repression.”


Intendente Municipal de San Cristóbal, June 28, 1936, AGCA, JPAV 1936.


C. E. Azurdia y V. a Señor Don Alejandro Juárez, Secretario de la Jefatura Politica Departamental, San Cristóbal, Dec. 2,1934, AGCA, JPAV 1934. Cf. Petición de Carlos Enrique Azurdia a Señor Jefe Político, Cobán, Dec. 3, 1934, JPAV 1934; Aviso de Ingeniero C. Enrique Azurdia y V. a Jefe Político y Comandante de Armas, San Cristóbal, Dec. 6, 1934, JPAV 1934.


Juzgado Penal de Cobán, Mar, 17, 1939, AGCA, leg. 40, pieza 7, fol. 2r-2v.


Juzgado Penal de Cobán, Sept. 10,1938, AGCA, leg. 39, pieza 29. For more examples see ibid., leg. 38, pieza 28, leg. 39B, pieza 18, 53, leg. 39 C, pieza 17.


The wage figure appears in a Peticion, Jacinto Caal, Serapio Caal, Mateo Tzuram C., et al. a Señor Jefe Político Cobari, May 29, 1933, in Legajado Orden, 38 copias de oficios dirigidos a la Secretaría de la Presidencia, Cobán, Feb. 12, 1936, AGCA, JPAV 1936.


McCreery, “State Power,” 96-115.


Padrón de Contribuyentes al fondo u caminos del Pueblo de San Cristóbal Verapaz, 1887, AGCA, B 84.3, leg. 3972, exp. 88403.


AGCA, JPAV 1931-1944.


AGCA, Agriculture y Caminos 1934-1944, Planillas de Bolletos “B.”


“Pero la situatión actual de los fincas queros debida al mal precio de Café nos imposibilta hacer desembolsos tan grandes, me permitió solicitar a Ud.: se me conceda pagar en efectivo por el 40 por ciento de mis mozos de dicha finca, y usar el 60 por ciento restante para reparar el caminos.” Petición del Señor Hempstead al Señor Jefe Político, AGCA, JPAV 1933.


Vgl. Petitión de Jorge Koester a Don Miguel Castro Monzón, Seamay, Apr. 7, 1936, AGCA, JPAV 1936, fol. 1r-1v.


Petitión de José Gómez Prado at Señor Jefe Político Alta Verapaz, Feb. 11, 1936, AGCA, JPAV 1936. Cf. Petición de Vecinos de Cahabon al Señor Jefe Político, Cahabón, Apr. 21, 1932, JPAV 1932.


Decreto 1474, Artículo 1: Reglamento del Decreto Gubemativo numero 1474 (Guatemala City: Imprenta National, Jan. 1934), 3-4. Cf. the modifications in Diario de Centro América, Decreto 1783, Feb. 10, 1936, and Decreto 3086, Dec. 21, 1943. See also McCreery, “Hegemony and Repression” and “State Power”; Piero Gleijeses, Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991); idem, “La aldea de Ubico”; Arevalo Martínez, Ubico.


“Circular girada, contenido el Reglamento de Vialidad,” Revista Agrícola 1 (1934), 25.


Resumen del censo de vialidad de la República de Guatemala, correspondiente al segundo semestre del año 1937,” and “Resumen general de caminos efectuados en la República durante el año 1937,” Revista Agrícola 1 (1938), 184-85.


AGCA, Agriculture y Caminos 1934-1940, Planillas de Boletos “B” extendidos en la Jefatura Política de Agriculture y Caminos de Alta Verapaz.


Jacinto Caal, Serapio Caal, Mateo Tzuram et al. a Señor Jefe Político, Cobán, May 29, 1933, AGCA, JPAV 1933. Cf. Legajado Orden; Hans Boesch, La tierra del quetzal: Zentralamerika heute (Bern: Kümmerly and Frey, 1952), 136. Cf. also Peter Fleer, “Der Arbeitsmarkt in Guatemala, 1927-1940” (Master’s thesis, Univ. of Bern, 1991), 119; Gleijeses, “La aldea de Ubico,” 32; Carlos Figueroa Ibarra, El proletario rural en el agro guatemalteco (Ciudad Universitaria: Editorial Universitaria de Guatemala, 1980), 93; Jones, Guatemala, Past and Present, 154–55. 166; Grieb, Guatemalan Caudillo, 142; Karlen, Paz, Progreso, 305, n. 36.


“Cuadro de cotizaciones 1934,” Revista Agrícola 6 (1934), 444; Legajado Orden.


Karl Sapper, “Die Verbreitung der Vegetationsformen in der Alta Verapaz,” Mitteilungen der geographischen Gesellschaft in Hamburg 17 (1901), map 5; idem, Mittelamerikanische Reisen, 308-9.


Petitión de Macaria Miz a Señor Jefe Político y Comandante de Armas, San Cristóbal, Apr. 12, 1931, AGCA, JPAV 1931.


Cambranes, Coffee and Peasants, 167.


Certificado de Cuota de Café, Guatemala, June 12, 1944, AGCA, Oficina de Café, leg. 1944.


Cf. Sol Tax, “The Indian in the Economy of Guatemala,” Social and Economic Studies 6 (1955), 413-24; Rösch, Allerlei, 50.


José A. Miranda, “El problema de los mozos y el salario,” Diario de Centro América, May 28, 1931, sectión informativo, 7; Michaela Schmölz-Häberlein, Die Grenzen des Caudillismo. Die Modernisierung des guatemaltekischen Staates unter Jorge Ubico, 1931-1944. Eine regionalgeschichtliche Studie am Beispiel der Alta Verapaz (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1993), 119, 131-32.


Cf. Cambranes, Coffee and Peasants, 80-82.


BAMF, RM/5402, fols. 116, 144; Rösch, Allerlei, 40; Julio C. Cambranes, Aspectos del desarrollo político y social, a la luz de fuentes históricas alemanas, 1868-1885 (Ciudad Universitaria: Institute) de Investigaeiones Económicas y Sociales de la Univ. de San Carlos, 1975), 105; idem, Coffee and Peasants, 225; McCreery, “Hegemony and Repression,” 171-74; Richard R. Wilk, Household Ecology: Economic Change and Domestic Life Among the Kekchi Maya in Belize (Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1991).


Brian R. Hamnett, Roots of Insurgency: Mexican Regions, 1750-1824 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986), 75.


Suscritos Vecinos a Señor Comandante de Armas, Cobán, Apr. 21, 1931, AGCA, JPAV 1931.


Caal, Caal, Tzuram a Jefe Político.


“Ante el Señor Jefe Político exponemos: que los Señoríos y la esclavitud se abolió lo mismo los privilegios desde la revolutión Francesa realizando igual procedimiento en los años subsiguente en los demás pueblos de orve. El indio con su trabajo que produce la vida a los habitantes de los pueblos, y creemos que no les debe deprimir, hasta el grado de combatirlos en esclavos como antiguamente ... a llevar a cabo trabajos sin renumeración de ninguna especie, pues semos obliga a trabajar gratuitamente como se hacia antiguamente por los Señores feudales.” Petitión de Juan Pérez Calel [et at], todos guatemaltecos, al Jefe Político, Oct. 25,1934, AGCA, JPAV 1934. Cf. Pablo Mo y Andrés Chiquin al Señor Jefe Político del Departamento, Cobán, Mar. 3, 1932, and Marcos Pacay, Pablo Caal, Juan Pacay, Cobán, Feb. 25, 1931, JPAV 1931. For similar Peticions, see Fleer, “Arbeitsmarkt,” 107-8.


Cf. Grieb, Guatemalan Caudillo, 35-38; Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, 35.


See, e.g., AGCA, STAV, paq. 69, exp. 10, and paq. 72, exp. 8 for theories La Primavera.


Petición de Carlos Enrique Azurdia y Valenzuela a Jefe Político, Cobán, Dec. 29, 1934. AGCA, JPAV 1934; Petición de Pablo Ical, Pablo Chen Tilón, Sebástian Chen Sis [et al.] a Jefe Político, Jan. 25, 1935, JPAV 1935.


See a number of Informes a Jefe Político de Intendente Municipal San Cristóbal, AGCA, JPAV 1936, 1938, 1939, 1940.


Carta al Señor Presidente Jorge Ubico a ruego de Sebastián Chen y Joaquín Gualim Mora, San Cristóbal, June 12,1935; Petición al Señor Jefe Político de Sebastián Chen, Tamahú, July 12, 1935, AGCA, JPAV 1935.


Petición de Maximo Quirin a Señor Jefe Político, Cobán, Mar. 31,1930, AGCA, JPAV 1931. Cf. JPAV 1936; Petición de Manuel May Cue y Pedro Beb Yc, Guatemala City, Apr. 24, 1936; Memorandum para el Señor Presidente de la República de Manuel May Cue y Pedro Beb Yc, Guatemala City, n.d., JPAV 1939.


Quadra que específica épocas de siembra y cosecha Alta Verapaz, AGCA, JPAV 1936, 1940. Cf. Ruth Bunzel, Chichicastenango: A Guatemalan Village (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1953), 51-53.


Weekly and monthly vital statistics for the community of San Cristóbal, AGCA, JPAV See also APSC, Libros de Bautismo, siglos XIX y XX.


Seler-Sachs, Auf alien Wegen, 199, 246. The German traveler Seler-Sachs, who visited the region in the 1890s, describes a religious festival in the Pokom’chi community of Tactic, about seven miles southeast of San Cristóbal. See also Bunzel, Chichicastenango, 254-59.


See Karlen, Paz, Progreso, 73, n. 7.


Juzgado Penal de Cobán, Aug. 1940, AGCA, leg. 41, pieza 4, fols. 1r, 22v.


Juzgado Penal de Cobán, June 1938, AGCA, leg. 39A, pieza 38, fol. 20.


Petición de Juan Pérez Calel a Señor Jefe Político, Oct. 25, 1934, AGCA, JPAV 1934.


Juzgado Penal de Cobán, June 1938, AGCA, leg. 39A, pieza 38, fol. 21r.


For the Ubico regime’s moral intentions see Karlen, Paz, Progreso, 72-78.


See McCreery, “State Power,” 96-115. For the colonial period, cf. Robert Wasserstrom, Class and Society in Central Chiapas (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1983); and Bertrand, Terre et société colonial.