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Trade, Improvement and Survival: An Indigenous Approach to the Current Immigration “Crisis”

October 11, 2019 - 12:30pm to 1:20pm
Bolivar House, 582 Alvarado Row, Stanford, CA


In this presentation, Prof. Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj intends to address the theme of migration from an indigenous perspective within a larger context of racial oppression. Her argument stems from a recognition of the need to reflect on issues of migration, race and indigenous peoples simultaneously.  This approach turns out to be a complex task, since these are topics that the media, everyday life, institutions and even in academia addressed separately.

 In addition, she views migration not only as an analytical category, or a recent process that is exclusively negative or criminalized, because for the indigenous peoples of north, center or South America, migrating was not always a means of survival, as it is now due to the pressure of the world economic system. Historically for many indigenous groups, migrating stems from a process of trade, as well as cultural and intellectual exchange, present since pre-Hispanic times and that despite the current political pressure, tries to maintain its continuity.

Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj is a Maya-K’iche’ journalist, activist, and a Brown University visiting professor from Guatemala. Dr. Nimatuj is an international spokeswoman for Indigenous communities in Central America and was the first Maya-K’iche’ woman to earn a doctorate in social anthropology in Guatemala. Dr. Velásquez Nimatuj was also instrumental in making racial discrimination illegal in Guatemala and is featured in 500 Years, a documentary about Indigenous resistance movements, for her role as an activist and expert witness in war crime trials. Dr. Nimatuj writes a weekly newspaper column for El Periódico de Guatemala and has served on UN Women as a representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. This fall, she joined the Watson Institute at Brown, where she teaches courses about Central and Latin American history and culture. She is part of a long line of struggle and resistence in her community since the Spanish invasion in 1524. She is the author of the books: La pequeña Burguesía Comercial de Guatemala: Desigualdades de clase, raza y género (2003), Pueblos indígenas, Estado y lucha por tierra en Guatemala: Estrategias de sobrevivencia y negociación ante la desigualdad globalizada (2008) y Lunas y Calendarios, colección poesía guatemalteca (2018)

She will be teaching the course LATINAM 264VP: Indigenous Resistance & Contradictions in Latin America during the Autumn 2019 quarter.



Event Sponsor: 
Center for Latin American Studies
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