Why No Mayan Party? Indigenous Movements and National Politics in Guatemala



Unlike indigenous social movements in several other Latin American countries, Mayan movements in Guatemala have not formed a viable indigenous-based political party. Despite the prominence of the Mayan social movement and a relatively open institutional environment conducive to party formation, indigenous groups have foregone a national political party in favor of a more dispersed pattern of political mobilization at the local level. This article argues that the availability of avenues for political representation at the municipal level, through both traditional political parties and civic committees, and the effects of political repression and violence have reinforced the fragmentation and localism of indigenous social movements in Guatemala and prevented the emergence of a viable Mayan political party. The result has been a pattern of uneven political representation, with indigenous Guatemalans gaining representation in local government while national political institutions remain exclusionary.