In Search of Providence: Transnational Mayan Identities

In Search of Providence: Transnational Mayan Identities

Paperback

By (author) Patricia Foxen

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  • Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 376 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 229mm x 29mm | 658g
  • Publication date: 15 March 2008
  • Publication City/Country: Tennessee
  • ISBN 10: 0826515800
  • ISBN 13: 9780826515803
  • Illustrations note: references, index, glossary

Product description

Traveling back and forth between the Guatemalan highlands and Providence, Rhode Island, the author followed the migration paths of a community of K'iche' Indians, often acting as a courier to bring news and photographs to families. As several said to the author, "Now you have lived with your own skin what we have gone through, only you can leave at any time." This ethnography juxtaposes the context of post-war reconstruction at home, shaped by a fragile institutional peace process and emerging pan-Maya movement, with the hidden, marginal lives of mostly undocumented K'iche' transmigrants in New England, and describes the continuous movement of people, money, symbols, and ideas between the two locations. Transnational migration creates tension between material success and K'iche' traditional suspicion of standing out and displaying that success. Showing off or losing touch with one's responsibilities at home can invite envidias (envy), chismes (malicious gossip), and even brujeria (witchcraft). Some of the perpetrators of violence in Guatemala have re-created their positions of dominance in Providence. One K'iche' recounts, "He used a notebook, like the one you have, and each time I took even a glass of water he would write it down. He charged me $300 just for arriving, those $300 were like a tip for him. He told me he would not help me find work, and he would drink a lot and would say, 'You thought it would be easy here, you thought it is just picking up dollars here - well, you are screwed.'" For students, the book provides rich accounts of the difficulties of entering the field and maintaining trust among people in divided and changing communities.

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Author information

Patricia Foxen is a Research Associate at the Toronto General Hospital, Women's Health Program. She was previously a Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, and has worked as an anthropologist for the Transcultural Psychiatry Division of Montreal Children's Hospital.

Review quote

Patricia Foxen has written an impressively thorough, sensitive, insightful, stereotype-and-complacency shattering, and thus also courageous, portrait of one of the most complex and tragic immigrant communities in the United States: the Guatemalan highland Maya of Providence, Rhode Island, for whom coming to the U.S. hardly means leaving Guatemala's horror or cultural pathologies behind. (How appropriate that this takes place in the city of HP Lovecraft!) I learned a great deal from this astonishing, beautifully written, brilliant and heartbreaking book.--Francisco Goldman