Three approaches to Mayan “development”

I’m reading a chapter titled “Maya Culture and the Politics of Development” written by Mayan scholar Raxche’ in the book titled Maya Cultural Activism in Guatemala. I like his writing style – clear, persuasive, and passionate. He discusses four different approaches to development for the Maya people in such a way that you would only think that one of the models was at all ethical and feasible. in a nutshell, the three approaches he discusses are:

  1. Assimilationist: In essence, the “ladinization” of Maya people, usually with brutal methods. The process started 500 years ago, and continues today
  2. Integrationist: Similar to assimilationist, but has a different foundation. Where assimilationist recognizes Maya as integral to Guatemala, but only after they are assimilated, integrationist states that Maya are separate from the gears of Guatemalan life, and for their own good, need to be assimilated, or “ladinized”. This approach allows some use of Maya languages, but only to teach the elements of Ladino culture.
  3. Pluralist: In his words, “the pluralist approach seeks the coexsistence and mutual enrichment of culturally diverse peoles within a state and the respect of internationally recognized human and cultural rights” (Raxche’, 83). I especially like the mutual enrichment part.

As for libraries, and other depositories of material culture, these patterns of development are important to consider. Not only should materials reflect the plurality of language and culture in a community, but they should also reflect the social networks, the mechanisms of collective memory, and the “information-seeking behavior” of all groups.

Libraries can be places where human rights are preserved. Several ways this can be done:

  1. Keep and and guard public access to documents and oral histories of human rights abuses and documents of human rights.
  2. Engage the community in civic activities, including political participation, environmental stewardship, and gender and child-centered activities
  3. Provide access to information and programming/services that can improve the quality of people’s daily lives, be it agricultural, employment/vocational, cultural/linguistic, literacy, etc. A healthy sustainable community is less likely to suffer from individuals and institutions who violate human rights
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