In a nation that often silences them, Maya in Guatemala are increasingly expressing themselves through public murals. When teachers, artists, students, and other residents of San Juan Comalapa painted the history of their nation, town, and people, they portrayed resistance, accommodation, and collaboration. The persistence of Mayan markers throughout the images stands as a reminder that Maya-Kaqchikel are not simply reinventing a sense of nation with murals; rather, they have been reclaiming the nation at every step in its long, often harsh history. For the recent past, the images depict Guatemala's civil war (1960-96), the poverty and racism that were among its causes, and Kaqchikel responses to violence and economic injustice. Based on local Kaqchikel interpretations of history, the murals serve multiple purposes for Comalapenses: local historical representations of the past, critiques of the government and of themselves, expressions of community creativity, mobilizations of development aid funds, and a source of civic pride. This essay considers these multiple purposes: first, by culturally and historically contextualizing the murals as a distinct Comalapa tradition; and second, by placing the murals in dialogue with the state and with Comalapenses who think about the past and critique the murals themselves.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.