Peace and Development in a Tumultuous Guatemala

Program News | Posted Nov 6, 2009

“Tejiendo los lienzos del desarrollo: Peace and Development in a Tumultuous Guatemala” is a faculty-student collaborative exhibition out of the Tufts University Anthropology Department and the student-let program, BUILD out of the Institute for Global Leadership.

Thirteen years since the signing of the Peace Accords, Guatemala and her people continue to face unfathomable obstacles in becoming a peaceful, progressing nation. Although the internal conflict officially lasted 36 years (1960-1996), the socioeconomic issues magnified during the conflict were in no way resolved at its end. The families and friends of hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, mostly indigenous, who were killed during this time, strove to find ways to survive and progress. The rise, fall, and restructuring of the tourist industry from the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s brought international attention to the issue. Both overseas and domestic groups began to study and collaborate with affected individuals, a process which in turn begun to create a sense of international solidarity.

            In contrast to much of the verbiage coming from anthropological works that discuss this post-conflict era as a time to “reweave” the social fabric, we must begin to view development as an opportunity to weave something entirely new, appropriate to the current context of the Guatemalan people. In a country where true national peace has not existed within recorded history, it is improper to concentrate on reestablishing pre-conflict circumstances, when those were so far from the ideal. Much like the lienzos (cloth panels) woven to make huipiles (Guatemalan blouses unique to each region), development must occur piece by piece using available local resources to meet the needs of each individual community.

            “Tejiendo los Lienzos del desarrollo” (Weaving the Fabric of Development) displays two separate yet cohesive narratives, highlighting past and present projects that promote sustainable development in Guatemala. Dr. Jennifer Burtner shares her doctoral fieldwork as she explores the reaction of different sectors within the tourism industry during the critical period of post-conflict reconstruction (1988-2004).

            Dr. Burtner’s narrative transitions into the current work of BUILD (Building Understanding through International Learning and Development), a student-led initiative of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University founded in 2002. BUILD seeks to educate and immerse students in the theory and practice of sustainable development by partnering with rural communities in the developing world to research and implement sustainable initiatives for human, social, and economic development.


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