Synopses & Reviews
In The Mayan in the Mall
, J. T. Way traces the creation of modern Guatemala from the 1920s to the present through a series of national and international development projects. Way shows that, far from being chronically underdeveloped, this nation of stark contrastsandmdash;where shopping malls and multinational corporate headquarters coexist with some of the Western Hemisphere's poorest and most violent slumsandmdash;is the embodiment of globalized capitalism.
Using a wide array of historical and contemporary sources, Way explores the multiple intersections of development and individual life, focusing on the construction of social space through successive waves of land reform, urban planning, and economic policy. His explorations move from Guatemala City's poorest neighborhoods and informal economies (run predominantly by women) to a countryside still recovering from civil war and anti-Mayan genocide, and they encompass such artifacts of development as the modernist Pan-American Highway and the postmodern Grand Tikal Futura, a Mayan-themed shopping mall ringed by gated communities and shantytowns. Capitalist development, Way concludes, has dramatically reshaped the country's physical and social landscapesandmdash;engendering poverty, ethnic regionalism, and genocidal violenceandmdash;and positioned Guatemala as a harbinger of globalization's future.
andquot;Finally, a history of Guatemala City, a place that most scholars flee from despite its centrality to Guatemala's history. J. T. Way has unearthed a wealth of material from archival, literary, and oral sources. In striking and vibrant detail, he skillfully traces the history of neighborhoods and individuals from the first half of the twentieth century to today and he uses this history to open up a remarkable and original discussion of the play of ethnicity and modernity in the making of a cultural texture and urban political economy that uses the 'Mayan' in the absence of Mayas, or worse, in the presence of their oppression. The Mayan in the Mall brings to life the city's residents in this 'society of vendors' and simultaneously delivers a devastating and brilliant critique of development.andquot;andmdash;Deborah T. Levenson, coeditor of The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics
andldquo;The quirky mind of J. T. Way reveals a Guatemala not even seasoned hands are likely to recognize, one deformed by development in myriad modernist guise, a curse to most of its citizens, the blessing of a venal few.andrdquo;andmdash;W. George Lovell, Queenandrsquo;s University, Canada
andldquo;This is an excellent book, in part because it is a thoroughly researched consideration of the relationship between poverty, development, the trajectory of politics in Guatemala, and real life. But its excellence is also rooted in the authorand#39;s success in writing a study infusing observations born of scholarly research with a heartfelt and sharply phrased c ritique that moves beyond a clichandeacute;d academic celebration of radical politics. . . . Highlyand#160;recommended. All academic levels/libraries.andldquo;
andldquo;Both scholarly and highly personal, J. T. Wayandrsquo;s book is too rich in original insights, skillfully developed examples, and provocative arguments to do it full justice in so short a space. It is enough to state that it should be required reading for anyone interested in Guatemalaandrsquo;s recent history. Also, it is highly recommended to all students of development and modernization in general.andrdquo;
“…[A] fascinating narrative that complicates both sequence and chronology by weaving the hitherto hidden logic of everyday survival and resistance with the ‘rational’ logic of a demythologized and demystified ‘modernity.’” Stephen Webre - Hispanic American Historical Review
andldquo;The shift away from the highlands indigenous communities that have generally attracted North American scholarly attention opens a novel perspective on the making of what Way calls the andlsquo;manmade ruinandrsquo; of Guatemalaandrsquo;s contemporary social and physical landscape.andrdquo;
“Overall, Way’s book constitutes a solid critique of capitalism and national development ideology as it has been articulated in Guatemala. …[I]t has commendable strengths as a critical analytic exercise.” - Luis Fernando Angosto Ferrández, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research
andldquo;The Mayan in the Mall is a complex and admirable work that explores how the violent world inhabited by Guatemalaand#39;s poor majority came into beingandhellip;. Wayand#39;s combination of empathy and hard-bitten realism gives an incomparable view of how people live their lives when choices are few and opportunity is infinitesimal.andrdquo;
andldquo;The strength of The Mayan in the Mall resonates from the authorand#39;s use of personal stories to illustrate broader themes, his attention to metaphor, and his dialectical contemplationandhellip;. [T]his book will certainly appeal to scholars of Guatemala as the first English-language history of its capital city in addition to general readers of urban studies.andrdquo;
“I suggest that The Mayan in the Mall should be placed at the top of the reading list of all visitors to Guatemala—professionals and, in particular, us 'Maya specialists' and tourists alike.” Michael D. Kirkpatrick - Canadian Journal of History
andldquo;Scholars interested in urban history, gender history, and the history of development will find Wayandrsquo;s book enlightening and at times evocative in its treatment of Guatemalaandrsquo;s turbulent history. They will discover a well-researched work that sketches the interrelationships between urban growth, state formation, and capitalism.andrdquo;
andldquo;The Mayan in the Mall, provides a welcome history of the making of modern Guatemala since the 1920s that innovatively melds historical research with analysis of contemporary cultural trends and ethnography. The author seamlessly narrates Guatemalaandrsquo;s conflicted past and fraught present through the stories of its diverse protagonists, whether using historical records, oral histories, or contemporary interviews and observations. The book deftly shows how larger structures and politics (from regional to national to transnational) impinged on everyday lives as everyday people like butchers, social workers, vendors, and activists also actively shaped the unfolding of history and the particular geography of Guatemala.andrdquo;and#160;
andldquo;andhellip;[A] fascinating narrative that complicates both sequence and chronology by weaving the hitherto hidden logic of everyday survival and resistance with the andlsquo;rationalandrsquo; logic of a demythologized and demystified andlsquo;modernity.andrsquo;andrdquo;
andldquo;I suggest that The Mayan in the Mall should be placed at the top of the reading list of all visitors to Guatemalaandmdash;professionals and, in particular, us and#39;Maya specialistsand#39; and tourists alike.andrdquo;
Analyzes power, violence and development in modern Guatemala to demonstrate that what is seemingly "anti-modern" about Guatemalan landscape, society, and economy was developed as a part of modernity.
This twentieth-century history of Guatemala begins with an analysis of the Grand Tikal Futura, a postmodern shopping mall with a faux-Mayan facade that is surrounded by a landscape of gated subdivisions, evangelical churches, motels, Kaqchikel-speaking villages, and some of the most poverty-stricken ghettos in the hemisphere.
About the Author
J. T. Way is a History Professor and Director at CIRMA (Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica/Mesoamerican Research Center) in Antigua, Guatemala; Faculty Affiliate at the University of Arizona; and Founder and President of The John T. Way Global Education Foundation, Inc.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction. Grand Tikal Futura: andquot;Put1. andquot;Like Sturdy Little Animalsandquot;: Making the Modern Anti-Modern, 1920sand#8211;1944ting the Mayan in the Mallandquot; 1
1. andquot;Like Sturdy Little Animalsandquot;: Making the Modern Anti-Modern, 1920sand#8211;1944 13
2. Chaos and Rationality: The Dialectic of the Guatemalan Ghetto 41
3. Oficios de su Sexo: Gender, the Informal Economy, and Anticommunist Development 67
4. Making the Immoral Metropolis: Infrastructure, Economics, and War 94
5. Executing Capital: Green Revolution, Genocide, and the Transition to Neoliberalism 124
6. A Society of Vendors: Contradictions and Everyday Life in the Guatemalan Market 152
7. Cuatro Gramos Norte: Fragmentation and Concentration in the Wake of Victory 181
Appendix. A Grass-roots List of Transnationals in Guatemala, circa 1978 210