Reproducing Ladino Dominance: An Anthropological Study of a Guatemalan Ladino Town

Kaur, Kuldip. 2019. Reproducing Ladino Dominance: An Anthropological Study of a Guatemalan Ladino Town. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis provides an ethnography of the non-indigenous, provincial middle class of Salamá, the capital of Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. It questions the prevalence of the ladino and Indian dichotomy that has characterised Guatemala’s ethnic relations for more than a hundred years. It explores the meaning of identity labels among members of three identity groups that constitute Salamá’s dominant social and economic sector – los pueblo/mestizos, ladinos puros, and a local elite, and discusses their identities. Firstly, it addresses Salamateco narratives about who they are in terms of origins and trajectory, exploring what the ethnic category of “ladino” meant to them. Second, it correlates their narratives with historical data to examine why specific events, processes and/or persons are invoked to the detriment of others. Third, it explores how their relationship with indigeneity, both with indigenous peoples around them as well as indigeneity within them, informs practice in relation to marriage, kinship and relatedness and interactions with domestic workers. A focus on narrative, history and practice not only allows for an appreciation of dichotomy – that is, on ladino/Indian relations – but also hierarchy and heterogeneity – namely relations between Salamateco ladinos themselves. This research seeks to contribute to a revitalised anthropological study of dominant groups and to a growing literature on Guatemala’s ladinos and on mestizaje in Latin America. The thesis contains six ethnographic chapters. Chapter two provides a historical account on the different economic trajectories of Salamá’s contemporary middle class and discusses their political affinities over the twentieth century. Chapters three and four attend to pueblos/mestizos, chapter five to los puros, chapter six to the town’s historical planter class, and relations of fluidity that characterise relations between “illegitimate” children and their legitimate kin. The final ethnographic chapter discusses relations between my informants and domestic workers.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Guatemala, Ladino, Central America, Latin America, Mestizaje, whiteness, domestic workers, ethnography

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 May 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2019 10:50

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 19:14


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