Guatemala Book Fair declared annual event

This August article from Criticas announces the organizers’ intentions of making the Guatemala book fair an annual event. Unger writes:

Guatemala suffers from the reputation of being “El país de no lectores” (“the country without readers”), so FILGUA set as its objective “Vamos por un país de lectores” (“Let’s become a country of readers”). Still reeling from 36 years of civil war, with the by-product of ensuing gang warfare, violent crime, and femicide, Guatemala is not an easy place to build readership. FILGUA, however, has provoked understanding of the need to address issues of literacy, the promotion of reading, and the paucity of public libraries in the country, while at the same time raising the importance of eliminating value-added taxes on books.

At an event held in the National Palace of Culture, honoring the more than 80 attending writers, host Jerónimo Lancerio, the Minister of Culture and Sports and a Sakapultec Maya, was presented with a petition signed by 154, mostly rural, library directors urging increased government spending and the creation of new libraries. Immediately after the fair, a bill addressing the promotion of reading was introduced in the Guatemalan Congress. Indeed, there was a sense during FILGUA that after years of neglect, the Guatemalan government would begin addressing literacy issues, this in a country ranking second to last in spending for education in Latin America.

Good signs for the future of reading and libraries in Guatemala.

The future of publishing in Guatemala

The interview in this month’s Criticas with Raul Figueroa moved me. It outlines why he started F & G Editores, one of the few publishers in Guatemala, and the struggles the publishing industry and reading culture face in his country. Here’s a note from the article:

This is a country where books and independent thinking were once considered crimes by the ruling military. Guatemalans are beginning to lose their fear of reading and having access to books.

Also featured in this month’s Criticas is a review of Linaje y racismo, which tells the history of the elite families that control Guatemala. A quote from the review:

Casaús shows that a fundamental aspect of the thinking and activities of these families was a racism that was used to justify suppression of the country’s indigenous majority population.

Guatemala is dear to my heart as I lived there for a short time. Salutaciones, compadres.

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