Understanding the Paradoxical Experiences of Indigeneity In Izalco, El Salvador

Title: Understanding the Paradoxical Experiences of Indigeneity In Izalco, El Salvador
Authors: Melara Pineda, Juan Gualberto
Date: 2017
Abstract: The town of Izalco in El Salvador has recently become the site of indigenous revival. This development is occurring in the midst of numerous narratives at the national and local levels which assert that the indigenous Náhuat-Pipil people have disappeared from El Salvador. The causal assumption is that indigenous people were massacred during a peasant uprising in 1932 and since then, the remaining few assimilated into the dominant mestizo culture through the adoption of ladino language, dress and traditions. The purpose of this dissertation is therefore to analyze this apparent paradox, where indigeneity oscillates between presence and absence. Using an interpretivist political ethnographic framework, this dissertation deepens our understanding of indigeneity by identifying hidden practices and discourses, across everyday social contexts in Izalco, which give meaning to indigeneity. Rather than beginning with set ‘ethnic’ criteria aimed at examining how a pre-established group of indigenous people experience indigeneity, I focus my analysis on four areas where indigeneity surfaced: as part of cultural celebrations (during Día de la Cruz), in stories and storytelling practices, through visual representations of ‘Indians’, and within the context of the global tourism industry. My research therefore moves beyond the tendencies of negating an indigenous presence because of the perceived absence of essentialist ethnic identifiers in El Salvador. In approaching the study of indigeneity in such a manner, I demonstrate the pervasiveness of hegemonic colonial representations through which people give meaning to indigeneity. Across the sites of analysis presented in this dissertation, expressions of indigeneity (that is, when people speak, in images, spaces, religious rituals, and social interactions) consistently reproduce colonial power relations, in which the Indian is positioned as inferior in relation to mestizos. Such a characterization also suggests that it is indigeneity, rather than simply indigenous people, which has been subject to coloniality.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/36104
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -