Degree Name

MA in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations

First Advisor

Janaki Natarajan


The domination of Western educational systems and the capitalist market over indigenous social economic structures has been detrimental to communities all over the world. The search for foreign investment and development opportunities, along with local government’s educational structuring has spread these systems to communities in Central America. This research explores first-hand accounts surrounding these influences through the perspectives of two Nahua indigenous communities in Rivas, Nicaragua. First, a history of indigenous struggles in Nicaragua along with U.S. economic influence on land rights, tourism and educational systems are explored. Then, the indigenous communities’ perspectives are presented to understand the effects of foreign development, education in the community, and their struggle for communal land rights. Five individual interviews representing both communities were conducted in addition to a group discussion with one community. Interviews revealed that Western educational structures and U.S. dominated tourism have altered the indigenous communities’ culture, suppressed native language, threatened land rights and shaped education. A qualitative analysis of the indigenous perspectives showed the alternative that they are fighting for directly opposes what the U.S. capitalist model represents. Overall, participants expressed the need for a new educational and ideological model; one that supports their rights as indigenous people, preserves their native culture, respects their ancestors’ traditions and embraces their connectedness to the environment in which they live. Community members also expressed their openness to work with people who are in solidarity with the indigenous struggle for land and culture preservation.


Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Social Policy | Social Welfare


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