chapter  6
20 Pages

DIALOGUE WITH GUATEMALAN INDIAN WOMEN: CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON CONSTRUCTING COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH

B E T W E E N 1 9 7 9 and 1983 50,000 to 100,000 Guatemalans were killed, thousands more were disappeared, over 400 rural villages were destroyed and between 100,000 and 200,000 Guatemalan children were orphaned [1,2 . A l - though I have seen these figures many times since 1983 and listened read many personal testimonies of survivors o f the military's violent terinsurgency program in January o f 1983 I knew very little either abo Guatemalan people's most recent struggle to redress gross economic, po and cultural repression or o f the military's strategies for combatting the sistance. A t the time I was completing the data collection stage o f a stu

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alternative conceptualizations o f the self [3, 4]. I was interviewing women in the Uni ted States who had been working in community-or work-based projects for social change i n an effort to better understand the ways in which their notions of themselves as women were related to these activities. I was also working wi th a number of community-based women's projects for social change, and in the Latin American solidarity network. Through this work I traveled to Central America where I met several Guatemalans who spoke o f their experiences, the need to flee their country, and their desire to develop stronger solidarity ties wi th women in the Uni ted States. A t their initiative I agreed to j o i n two friends to work on developing a national U.S. tour through which Guatemalan women could share their stories wi th mainstream women's groups. We networked with groups already working in the U S . and designed a tour to both educate a new sector o f the U.S. public about the situation of women and children in Guatemala and to raise funds to support refugees in Guatemala and in Mexico . Although my involvement in planning this tour grew out of political work in the feminist and Latin American struggles, because o f my training and research interests I was also eager to learn more about how the Guatemalan women who came to the Uni ted States un - derstood their experiences, about how they thought about and talked about their struggles and about how they understood themselves as Indian women. I was able initially to explore this last concern in a conversation wi th Juanita, one of the women on the tour.