La Patria del Criollo: An Interpretation of Colonial Guatemala

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Duke University Press, Apr 24, 2009 - History - 382 pages
This translation of Severo Martínez Peláez’s La Patria del Criollo, first published in Guatemala in 1970, makes a classic, controversial work of Latin American history available to English-language readers. Martínez Peláez was one of Guatemala’s foremost historians and a political activist committed to revolutionary social change. La Patria del Criollo is his scathing assessment of Guatemala’s colonial legacy. Martínez Peláez argues that Guatemala remains a colonial society because the conditions that arose centuries ago when imperial Spain held sway have endured. He maintains that economic circumstances that assure prosperity for a few and deprivation for the majority were altered neither by independence in 1821 nor by liberal reform following 1871. The few in question are an elite group of criollos, people of Spanish descent born in Guatemala; the majority are predominantly Maya Indians, whose impoverishment is shared by many mixed-race Guatemalans.

Martínez Peláez asserts that “the coffee dictatorships were the full and radical realization of criollo notions of the patria.” This patria, or homeland, was one that criollos had wrested from Spaniards in the name of independence and taken control of based on claims of liberal reform. He contends that since labor is needed to make land productive, the exploitation of labor, particularly Indian labor, was a necessary complement to criollo appropriation. His depiction of colonial reality is bleak, and his portrayal of Spanish and criollo behavior toward Indians unrelenting in its emphasis on cruelty and oppression. Martínez Peláez felt that the grim past he documented surfaces each day in an equally grim present, and that confronting the past is a necessary step in any effort to improve Guatemala’s woes. An extensive introduction situates La Patria del Criollo in historical context and relates it to contemporary issues and debates.


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User Review  - MissTrudy -

This fascinating book deals with the harmful tentacles of Colonial dominance and the way it shapes--more like the ways it "warps" a nation even centuries after the conquest. It presents a strong ... Read full review


Chronology of Events
1 Criollos
2 Two Spains 1
3 Two Spains 2
4 Land of Miracles
6 Race Mixture and the Middle Strata
7 Class Dynamics and the Middle Strata
8 Life in Indian Towns
9 The Colonial Legacy

5 Indians

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About the author (2009)

Severo Martínez Peláez (1925–1998) is recognized as one of Central America’s most distinguished men of letters. The Association of Guatemalan Journalists awarded him the Quetzal de Oro for La Patria del Criollo. Susan M. Neve, a translator specializing in Spanish language and literature, teaches at City University and the University of Westminster in London. W. George Lovell is Professor of Geography at Queen’s University in Canada, and Visiting Lecturer in Latin American History at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Spain. Christopher H. Lutz is cofounder of Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica in Antigua, Guatemala, and of the Maya Educational Foundation in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. He is Managing Director of Plumsock Mesoamerican Studies, also based in Wellfleet.

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