Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga 2010 Seminar Series

The most important response to the post-war period changes in Central America, to the exhaustion of testimonio and to the hybrid contradictions of representation of the subaltern subject by the Mestizo letrado, is given by Maya literature. Maya literature is a notable effort because of both its bilingualism and its representation of a uniquely different gaze on the Americas as a whole. It is also a renaissance of one of the great cultures of the Americas. To understand this, it is important to first explain the concept of indigenism in Latin America, and how it stands in opposition to indigeneity. There is also a need to historicise the role the Maya population played in the Guatemalan civil war during the 1980s, and their expectations when a peace treaty was signed in 1996. The historical transformations undergone by the Maya population, exemplified by the Nobel Peace Prize given to human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú in 1992, explain a great deal of the impact generated by an indigenous movement that emerged from the margins in the 1960s and became protagonists of one of the most critical events in the late 20th century: the Central American civil wars.

Professor Arias is the former President of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA, the largest academic association of Latin American scholars in the world). A specialist in indigenous studies (editor of The Rigoberta Menchu Controversy, Minnesota 2001, on the Editorial Board of Mayan Studies Journal), and award- winning fiction writer, Professor Arias was nominated with three co-writers for an Academy Award for Best Original Script for the film El Norte, (1986) about Mayan immigrants to the US.