Ed 's Reviews > The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation

The Blood of Guatemala by Greg Grandin
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Jun 21, 10

bookshelves: central-america
Read in January, 2011

A reworking of Grandin's dissertation, "The Blood of Guatemala" refers to the both the national/ethnic/racial identities that defined Guatemala throughout its history and also the literal blood that flowed during the 30 year civil war in which the most repressive state in the hemisphere slaughtered two hundred thousand of its citizens.

The narrative centers on Mayan elites of the town of Quetzaltenango (a place name that will probably give trouble to any English-based spell checking program) in the western highlands of Guatemala. It tells the history of the indigenous people, the Spanish conquerors and the Ladino bourgeoisie through the centuries by highlighting several key events: a demonstration in 1784 against state monopoly of liquor production that gave three Spaniards control of much of the economic life and police power in the area, a demonstration that became a riot that almost turned into an insurrection; the 1837 cholera epidemic, part of the world-wide spread of that disease, and the way it was handled and mishandled by national government; and the rise of coffee capitalism and the creation of an export economy based on plantations in the lowlands.

Grandin does an excellent job with a complicated set of subjects that include caste, class and national identity and a changing array of ethnic classifications depending on who was in power (who was doing the classifying and who it benefited) at various times.

Recommended for those with some knowledge of the history of Guatemala. An understanding of how historians and ethnographers work and some familiarity with academic prose generally would be helpful but not essential to profit from this book
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