Maya Resurgence in Guatemala: Q’eqchi’ Experiences (1999)

by Richard Wilson (Author)

Across Guatemala, Mayan peoples are struggling to recover from decades of cataclysmic upheaval–religious conversions, civil war, displacement, military repression. Richard Wilson carried out long-term research with Q’eqchi’-speaking Mayas in the province of Alta Verapaz to ascertain how these events affected social organization and identity. He finds that their rituals of fertility and healing–abandoned in the 1970s during Catholic and Protestant evangelizations–have been reinvented by an ethnic revivalist movement led by Catholic lay activists, who seek to renovate the earth cult in order to create a new pan-Q’eqchi’ ethnic identity.

Enclosed: Conservation, Cattle, and Commerce Among the Q’eqchi’ Maya Lowlanders (2012)



This impassioned and rigorous analysis of the territorial plight of the Q’eqchi Maya of Guatemala highlights an urgent problem for indigenous communities around the world – repeated displacement from their lands. Liza Grandia uses the tools of ethnography, history, cartography, and ecology to explore the recurring enclosures of Guatemala’s second largest indigenous group, who number a million strong. Having lost most of their highland territory to foreign coffee planters at the end of the 19th century, Q’eqchi’ people began migrating into the lowland forests of northern Guatemala and southern Belize. Then, pushed deeper into the frontier by cattle ranchers, lowland Q’eqchi’ found themselves in conflict with biodiversity conservationists who established protected areas across this region during the 1990s.

The lowland, maize-growing Q’eqchi’ of the 21st century face even more problems as they are swept into global markets through the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) and the Puebla to Panama Plan (PPP). The waves of dispossession imposed upon them, driven by encroaching coffee plantations, cattle ranches, and protected areas, have unsettled these agrarian people. Enclosed describes how they have faced and survived their challenges and, in doing so, helps to explain what is happening in other contemporary enclosures of public “common” space.

Q’eqchi’ Maya Reproductive Ethnomedicine (2014)



The Q’eqchi’ Maya of Belize have an extensive pharmacopoeia of medicinal plants used traditionally for reproductive health and fertility, utilizing more than 60 plant species for these health treatments. Ten species were selected for investigation of their estrogenic activity using a reporter gene assay. Nine of the species were estrogenic, four of the species were also antiestrogenic, and two of the extracts were cytotoxic to the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line. Women’s healing traditions are being lost in the Q’eqchi’ communities of Belize at an accelerated rate, due to a combination of factors including: migration from Guatemala disrupting traditional lines of knowledge transmission; perceived disapproval by biomedical authorities; women’s limited mobility due to domestic obligations; and lack of confidence stemming from the devaluation of women’s knowledge. Q’eqchi’ medicinal plant knowledge is highly gendered with women and men using different species in traditional health treatments. Revitalizing women’s healing practices is vital for maintaining the traditional knowledge needed to provide comprehensive healthcare for Belize’s indigenous communities.

Q’eqchi’ Mayan Thematic Dictionary: Tusna’leb’il Molob’aal Aatin Q’eqchi’ ~ Inkles (2015)