Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Committee Chairperson

Tia Malkin-Fontecchio, PhD

Committee Member

Jonathan Friedman, PhD

Committee Member

Linda Stevenson, PhD


In the early 1980s the government of Guatemala waged a large scale campaign of violence against leftist guerrillas in the nation’s countryside. Traditional research of the events surrounding this campaign overgeneralizes the goals of the Guatemalan government, military, and paramilitary forces, addressing the extent to which the Mayans of Guatemala as an aggregate were targeted for their ethnicity or because they were the unfortunate collateral damage between two opposing forces. In this project I examine the extent to which the Ixil Mayans in particular were affected, and more importantly to what extent they themselves were the intended targets of a more myopic genocidal focus on the part of the state. This project makes use of Spanish- and English-written secondary narratives of modern Guatemalan history, as well as countless primary source documents in both languages from the Guatemalan government, and survivor testimony. The result is the construction of a narrative of synthesized perspectives. I incorporate both “top-down” sources from the upper echelons of government, and phenomenological sources – those from survivor testimony and first-hand research. I find that the government of Guatemala harbored significant measurable prejudice toward the Ixil community’s inherent ethnic composition compared to other Mayan sub-groups, and that the government’s conflation of the Ixil with aspects of guerrilla activity resulted in a state-sponsored counterinsurgency campaign responsible for quantitatively more damage to the Ixil community and social organization.