by Sandra Xinico Batz
El artículo original en español está disponible aquí: Racismo de revista
Translators’s Note: The term ladino/a is utilized in various parts of Central America, in particular Guatemala, to denote a person who is a mestizo/a and speaks primarily Spanish.
Guatemala, this is your racism. A portion of reality turned into an image. Racism kills our communities and our cultures. It expropriates, displaces, and impoverishes. What is happening with indigenous textiles in part of the this problem, but that is not the entire problem. Racism does not consist solely of discriminatory practices, but principally, it is an ideology provoked by a culture that feels superior to others and can can bring this ideology to the plane of reality through its actions.
I grew up listening to my family and people from my community and other communities, listening to experiences from generations older than mine, about how they were obligated to work for free for ladinos. In public schools, indigenous girls were made to care for the children of teachers while at the same time having to defend themselves from the physical aggressions of ladina girls.
Things are no longer like this. But just because things aren’t like they were does not mean that racism has disappeared, diminished, or that even an attempt made to challenge it. What has changed are some expressions, but other have not, they have remained in place.
Last week on a radio news program, the person in charge of the Commission on Antiquities for AgexPort stated that sales of indigenous textiles generated more than $60 million in revenue every year, provoking a 5% increase in Guatemala’s GDP, with the United States and Europe as its principal clients.
To profit from the identity and culture of indigenous people is a lucrative business. That is to say, as they dissolve our cultures through racism-driven poverty, they appropriate our textiles. Through a discourse of entrepreneurship and innovation they want to justify cultural theft as “artisanal fashion.”
We, as indigenous women, are treated just as was seen on the cover of the July issue of LOOK Magazine. We are the “muchachas,” the “marías,” the “inditas,” the “marchantías.” Who weaves your textile fashion? What would your textile fashion be without indigenous textiles? How do you think the textiles in your fashion have survived in this context of racism? Or do you continue to believe that they’re just “traditional clothing” and colonial uniforms? Until when will this racism persist?
To practice racism or to be racist is not about “making a mistake.” To eliminate racism and change our actions, it is necessary to recognize that we are racist and that we live in a society and country built upon racism.
LOOK Magazine ended up changing its cover and apologize for what they defined as an “error.” On the new cover is Francesca Kennedy, who wears part of what is defined as “artisanal fashion,” but all it does is to convert a güipil (q’anjob’al from Soloma) into a dress, and a faja (kaqchikel from Patzún) into a belt, demonstrating clearly the appropriation of our attire while [the magazine] awards itself an authorship that is not theirs. A racism that robs and exploits the labor of indigenous communities.
LOOK Magazine must recognize its racism and rectify it.
About the author
Sandra Xinico Batz
Sandra is Kaqchikel, originally from Patzún, Chimaltenago. She was born on 1 Kab’an 10 Yaxk’in. She is a primary school teacher, anthropologist, and opinion columnist. At the Universidad de San Carlos of Guatemala, she was a student representative and advocate of university reform. In 2014, she received recognition as a proponent for Juventud Nacional (National Youth), awarded the Premio Guisella Paz y Paz y Jorge Rosal, granted by the Red por la Paz y Desarrollo de Guatemala (Network for Peace and Development of Guatemala). She is presently a member of the Red de Educación para el Desarrollo Sostenible RCE-Guatemala (Education Network for Sustainable Development – Guatemala).
Translation to English by Víctor Interiano