An Introduction

“The analysis of biopolitics cannot be limited to those without legal rights…but must encompass all those who are confronted with the social processes of exclusions.” 

-Thomas Lemke, Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction (60-61)

Guatemala, a small Central American country situated south of Mexico, has a history riddled with violence, corruption, and war. Contrast those negatives with the booming tourism, incredible natural beauty, and rich, vibrant culture, and you are left with a complex amalgam of issues and problems facing the nation today.

From the years 1960 until 1996, Guatemala was in a bloody and gruesome 36 year long civilian armed conflict. The conflict began shortly after a democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, was ousted from power through a military coup. The military, as well as the United States which assisted with the coup, claimed that Arbenz was far too leftist and could be a communist threat to the nation after he proposed an agrarian reform in the country. After Arbenz, the leaders who were to follow would be strict, military men who would later reek havoc on the nation. The left wing guerillas of Guatemala fought back during this time, and while both sides committed human rights abuses, the right wing military power killed, tortured, and disappeared thousands upon thousands of people during the war.

War is far from the only issue that facing Guatemala today. Many Guatemalan women live under a patriarchal society, where machismo culture and oppression is rampant. Guatemalan women are often subjected to domestic and sexual violence. Most lack the power and resources to become independent from their abusers. While there are grassroots movements slowly emerging to bring awareness to women’s rights, there is still a long uphill battle to fight for the women of the nation. The idea that men are to be the head of the household and dominant is still very much part of the culture, and with this mindset, women can easily be deprived of basic decision making, even within their own lives.

This website showcases four interviews with women who have lived or are living in Guatemala, and they take place in either Antigua or a small town in Jutiapa, a department near the border of El Salvador. However, all four of the women have either migrated out of Guatemala or, at the time of the interview, were currently planning to leave. 

The project focuses on the motivations and experiences of women, in an attempt to counterbalance and act as a talking point with the male-gaze and focus that permeates most discussions of migration.  

In another step to avoid a focus on research that is, at its best already well-documented and at its worst a common over-generalization, these women do not all have stories of undocumented immigration. Furthermore, the United States is also not always the destination country for these women.