"I am Maya, not Guatemalan, nor Hispanic"—the Belongingness of Mayas in Southern Florida

  • Patrick T. Hiller Nova Southeastern University
  • J. P. Linstroth Nova Southeastern University
  • Paloma Ayala Vela Nova Southeastern University
Keywords: Mayas, Guatemalans, ethnicity, Hispanics, belonging, home, immigration, immigrants, identity, biography

Abstract

This article explores the personal meanings and public expressions of home, ethnicity and belonging among Maya/Guatemalan immigrants living in South Florida, specifically from the viewpoints of seven biographies of first and second-generation Maya immigrants. Our examination of their narratives suggests why these immigrants actively resist a public mis-categorization of being part of the Hispanic community by emphasizing their indigenous heritage. As such, this study provides a new type of research regarding Maya immigrants and their "positioning" or their "self-localization" as indigenous peoples seeking refuge in the United States. These are narratives of Maya lives, most of them child survivors, who fled the genocide in Guatemala with their families and who have faced discrimination while living in the United States. What is unique about our study is its emphasis upon biography for portraying particular facets of ethnicity and indigeneity and the difficult processes of transnational migration faced by Maya peoples now living in Florida. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0903106

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Author Biographies

Patrick T. Hiller, Nova Southeastern University
Patrick T. HILLER holds an M.A. in Human Geography from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany. Patrick currently is a Doctoral Candidate at the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Nova Southeastern University. In his dissertation he explores the processes of identity formation of nonviolent peace activists in the United States. He is a co-investigator of an ongoing international study on ethnicity and sense of belonging among refugee and immigrant populations in the United States and Germany. Following an interdisciplinary approach, his work and research interests encompass conflict resolution, peace studies, ethnicity, human rights, nationalism, social justice, Mexico, Latin America, social/peace movements, identity formation, culture and conflict and migration. He has experience working with NGOs that promote social justice in Mexico.
J. P. Linstroth, Nova Southeastern University
J.P. LINSTROTH obtained his D.Phil. in social anthropology from the University of Oxford. Most of his research is concerned with understanding ethnic-minority groups, whether Spanish-Basques, Cuban, Haitian, or Guatemalan-Maya immigrants in the US, or urban Amerindians in Brazil. Dr. LINSTROTH was co-awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Grant (2005-2007) to study immigrant identity in South Florida and has recently been awarded a Fulbright Foreign Scholar Grant (2008-2009) as a visiting professor at the Universidade Federal do Amazonas (UFAM) and for fieldwork amongst urban Amerindians in Manaus, Brazil. LINSTROTH has published several scholarly articles and has two forthcoming books, titled respectively: Marching Against Gender Practice: political imaginings in the Basqueland; and, Violence and Peace Re-Imagined: a new interdisciplinary theory for cognitive anthropology. Currently, he is Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution and Anthropology at Nova Southeastern University.
Paloma Ayala Vela, Nova Southeastern University
Paloma Ayala VELA obtained her Masters degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, Florida. She has been an active member with the organization Colectivo Gandhiano "Pensar en Voz Alta" SERPAJ-Mexico (Service Peace & Justice) since 1997. She is involved with peace work and education in indigenous communities in Mexico. Currently she also studies issues regarding nonviolence and social justice in different global contexts (e.g. Mexico, India and the United States). She is a co-investigator of an ongoing international study on ethnicity and sense of belonging among refugee and immigrant populations in the United States and Germany.
Published
2009-09-29
How to Cite
Hiller, P. T., Linstroth, J. P., & Vela, P. A. (2009). "I am Maya, not Guatemalan, nor Hispanic"—the Belongingness of Mayas in Southern Florida. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-10.3.1361