Acquiring Land and Sense of Self for Campesinos in the Context of the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords


In 1996 peace accords were signed ending the 36-year long civil war in Guatemala. This brutal war caused over 200,000 deaths. According to the United Nations investigation 93% of the deaths were attributable to government military forces, many in the form of massacres of civilians in Mayan villages. One of the Peace Accords agreements mandated land redistribution in the form of loans to the poor so that they could buy land for agricultural purposes. Historically Mayan culture has looked upon the earth as being spiritual and sacred. One of the organizations that helps advise and organize landless peasants to obtain land through the Peace Accords mandate speaks in many of their organizational documents of this spiritual connection.

The purpose of this qualitative research is to explore the connection between the traditional Mayan value of the sacredness of “Mother Earth” and the movement to obtain land through the Peace Accords. Do the peasants feel better about their situation after obtaining land, for spiritual reasons, or are other factors more important? This research seeks to explore this connection, to produce ideas for further research, and to produce data relevant to those working to sustain the peace in Guatemala.

The results do tentatively indicate a spiritual connection to the level of satisfaction with owning land, but there was a stronger indication that the economic benefit of owning land was more important. A more extensive and refined study of the research questions is recommended.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Latin American Studies | Sociology of Culture

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