Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Guatemalan Migration in Times of Civil War and Post-War Challenges

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This article from Migration Information Source analyzes how large-scale international migration has become an external escape valve, a response to Guatemala's multiple internal problems. This pattern emerged during the most violent phase of Guatemala's 36-year civil war (1960-96), which generated significant refugee flows beginning in the late 1970s.

More recently, in the post-war era, international migration continued in response to Guatemala's severe and continuing socioeconomic problems, successive natural disasters, increasing social violence — and a weak state, lacking the vision, capacity, and resources to resolve these problems internally.

Migration to the United States has also included family reunification, although in lower numbers. What differentiates the case of Guatemala from other Central American migrant-sending countries is the high level of ethnic diversity of Guatemalan society — principally, indigenous Maya and ladino (mixed).

In Guatemala itself, Mayas constituted by far the majority of victims during the war. In addition, virtually all statistical data show that the Mayan population has experienced historical and ongoing discrimination, segregation, higher indicators of poverty, and far less access to resources and services such as land, education, and health care. Not surprisingly, then, we can distinguish two migration streams from Guatemala, Mayan and ladino, although there are no reliable or precise statistics on the breakdown.

This article traces the development of large-scale Guatemalan migration to the United States during both the long civil war and the post-war era. It focuses on the dominant factors spurring the ongoing migration and the dynamics of each period, as well as US government immigration policies affecting Guatemalans. The article also examines the impacts of migration within Guatemala, including the challenges posed by sizable deportations of migrants by the US and Mexican governments. Finally, the article locates Guatemalan migration within a regional context, with particular emphasis on Guatemala/Mexico migration dynamics.

Susanne Jonas of University of California, Santa Cruz authored the article.



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