Indigenous Women at War: Discourses on Revolutionary Combat


  • Arturo Arias University of Texas at Austin


Civil War, Indigenous Women, Guerrillas, Combatants


Nothing had been published on women indigenous combatants until Ligia Peláez edited in Guatemala Memorias rebeldes contra el olvido: Paasantzila Txumb’al Ti’ Sortzeb’al K’u’l, portraying the voices of Maya Ixil and K’iche’ women. During the war they fought with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor. When the war ended in 1996, they returned to their hometown. About 600 of them founded the Kumool Association in 1999.

Even for Marxist revolutionary cadres, the coded elements imposed by the coloniality of power, and displayed by abyssal thinking, implied that indigenous discursivity was a space where their world was violently displaced. It is my contention that Ladino revolutionaries and analysts have, as a result, refused systematically to account for the compatibility of Ladino and Maya cultural forms, i.e., of accepting the reality of other conceptual systems within the nation-state. In my understanding, this accounts for the lack of sources documenting indigenous accounts on the war. In this paper, I intend to bring to light indigenous discursivity about the war, focusing on women ex-combatant testimonials to shed light on its meaning and implications.

Peláez’s text functions as a space for memory and for dialogue, offering a necessary space for personal remembrance. Ultimately, with the example of women combatants we are presented with a new framework within the geopolitics of knowledge, one demanding respect for pluralizations of subaltern difference anchored in gender and ethnic difference. This framework produces a place-based epistemology that offers a new theoretical and political logic. It confirms that heightening social conflict, new citizens’ protagonism, and abandonment of traditional political party practices can lead to ontological-political de-centering of modern politics, in the words of Marisol de la Cadena (2007), conjoining what Arturo Escobar calls an alternative modernization, with a decolonial project, where what is at stake is the end of coloniality.

Author Biography

Arturo Arias, University of Texas at Austin

Arturo Arias is Professor of Latin American Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. He has published Taking their Word: Literature and the Signs of Central America (2007), The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy (2000), The Identity of the Word: Guatemalan Literature in Light of the New Century (1998), and Ceremonial Gestures: Central American Fiction 1960-1990 (1998), as well as a critical edition of Miguel Angel Asturias’s Mulata (2000). 2001-2003 President of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), professor Arias co-wrote the film El Norte (1984), and has published six novels in Spanish, two of which have been translated to English (After the Bombs, 1990, and Rattlesnake, 2003). Twice winner of the Casa de las Americas Award, and winner of the Ana Seghers Award for fiction in Germany for his 1989 novel Jaguar en llamas (Flaming Jaguar), he was given the Miguel Angel Asturias National Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature in 2008 in his native Guatemala.



How to Cite

Arias, A. (2013). Indigenous Women at War: Discourses on Revolutionary Combat. A Contracorriente: Una Revista De Estudios Latinoamericanos, 10(3), 108–140. Retrieved from



Dossier on Indigenismo