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Indigenous Women’s Proposals to Address the Root Causes of Guatemalan Migration
Co-chaired by Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj and De Ann Pendry


June 21 – 25, 2020

Indigenous Women’s Proposals to Address the Root Causes of Guatemalan Migration: Economic Development, Social Equality, and Regional Stability

Set against the current climate of rising racism and violence against migrants and asylum seekers in the United States, this seminar will focus on indigenous women’s analyses and critiques of the root causes of migration and forced displacement in Guatemala. Indigenous women in Guatemala are vital leaders, building and sustaining economic opportunities, peaceful communities, and equitable social relations based on their peoples’ values, cultural practices, and forms of knowledge. They theorize about and transform the realities and systems they navigate daily, yet deeply rooted discrimination has prevented the gathering of their perspectives and experiences in one central place. By engaging with indigenous women’s texts, philosophies, and epistemologies, the seminar will highlight their proposals to address some of these root causes through concrete strategies and actions that enhance Guatemalan peoples’ socioeconomic and political autonomy as a way to promote the economic reactivation of communities, decrease poverty, and create dignified alternatives to migration.

The seminar intends to foster dialogue among indigenous women scholars, theorists, community activists, and professionals working in Guatemala to address the following key questions as part of a larger conversation about migration in the Americas:

  • From indigenous women’s perspectives, what are the current root causes of migration and forced displacement in Guatemala?
  • How does this knowledge inform broader understandings of the root causes of migration from other parts of Central and Latin America?
  • What historical and structural processes have created these “push factors” that force people to leave their homes?
  • How do these processes relate to larger systems of oppression against indigenous women and peoples in Guatemala?
  • What are the impacts of migration and forced displacement on indigenous women, families, and communities in Guatemala?
  • What are indigenous women’s proposals and strategies for addressing the root causes of migration and forced displacement?
  • What role do indigenous women play in helping to construct economic, social, and political stability in Guatemala, thereby reducing forced displacement and generating dignified living conditions and economic opportunities for indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups in the country?
  • How might indigenous women–led movements for economic empowerment contribute to peace-building strategies in Guatemala, given the country’s recent history of foreign intervention, armed conflict, state-sponsored human rights abuses, and genocide?

Seminar participants will generate ideas and creativity, delving into locally based solutions to the causes of Guatemalan migration based on the perspectives, talents, innovations, and priorities of indigenous women and their communities. They will learn about indigenous women’s proposals for economic development, social equity, and peace-building efforts in the region, including the establishment of an indigenous women’s cooperative in Guatemala. They will also evaluate these proposals’ potential benefits, risks, mitigation measures, and best practices. Finally, they will imagine concrete, practical strategies to implement these proposals as a path forward after the seminar.


Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj
Craig M. Cogut Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University

De Ann Pendry
Distinguished Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee in Knoxville.



Generously funded by the Vera R. Campbell Foundation