Select Page

Más Que un Indio (More Than an Indian)

Racial Ambivalence and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in Guatemala

Charles R. Hale

Más que un indio: “More than an Indian.” Two decades ago, the phrase expressed a common-sense prescription for upward mobility in a racist society: to better themselves, Indians had to abandon their culture and identity. Ironically, today it captures the predicament of ladinos, members of Guatemala’s dominant culture. In the 1990s, Maya people organized in diverse ways to challenge racism and achieve basic rights. They achieved a broad recognition of their cultural rights during the same time that neoliberal economic reforms carried the day.The resulting “neoliberal multiculturalism” has opened important spaces for indigenous empowerment while recreating Guatemala’s racial hierarchy. The author examines this paradox through the eyes of provincial ladinos, who show growing respect for indigenous culture and support for equality while harboring deep anxieties about the prospect of Maya ascendancy. Their racial ambivalence embodies a desire to be free of racism without ceasing to benefit from ingrained racial privilege, epitomized by the belief that ladinos are “más que un indio.” This deeply researched and sensitively rendered study raises troubling questions about the contradictions of anti-racist politics and the limits of multiculturalism in Guatemala and, by implication, other countries in the midst of similar reform projects.

2006. 304 pp., 21 black-and-white illustrations, glossary, notes, references, index, 7 x 10

Download an excerpt.

“Hale’s accounts both of the racism experienced by Mayan guerrillas and, more generally, of the relationship between the revolutionary left and the developing Maya movement during and after civil war in Guatemala are thought provoking, as is his analysis of competing narratives about Maya participation in the conflict. . . . Hale’s analysis of why complaints about Maya reverse racism appear so frequently is superb, as are his discussions of structural racism, racist liberalism, and ethnicity theory. . . . Hale’s book is superbly written, at times even gripping.”
—Jean E. Jackson, MIT, Latin American Research Review 44, no. 3 (2009)


“Charles Hale sets out to explain the unanticipated transformation–if by no means transcendance–of Guatemala’s racial order by putting traditional anthropological tools to a less than traditional use. Rather than studying the indigenous victims of European colonialism who loom so large in Western anthropology, he turned his attention to their ladino overlords.”
—Andrew Schrank, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 114, No. 5

  1. The Maya Movement in Guatemala through Ladino Eyes
  2. Provincial Ladinos, the Guatemalan State, and the Crooked Path to Neoliberal Multiculturalism
  3. Reclaiming the Future of Chimaltenango’s Past: Contentious Memories of Indigenous Politics during the Revolutionary Years, 1976–1982
  4. Ladino Racial Ambivalence and the Discourse of Reverse Racism
  5. Exorcising the Insurrectionary Indian: Maya Ascendancy and the Ladino Political Imaginary
  6. Racial Healing? The Limits of Ladino Solidarity and the Oblique Promise of Mestizaje from Below
  7. Racial Ambivalence in Transnational Perspective

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.