Indigenous Identity, Discrimination by Skin Color, and Whitening in Guatemala

Cristian L. Paredes, University of Texas at Austin
Nestor P. Rodriguez, University of Texas at Austin

Literature on ethnic relations in Guatemala has commonly emphasized the relevance of culture, and disregarded the importance of phenotype in determining the distinction between Mayas and Ladinos. Using data from a nationally-representative sample of Guatemalans, we analyze in this study whether phenotype is significant or not with respect to ethno-racial self-identification, to discrimination, and to whitening. We found evidence to suggest that skin color is a significant predictor of indigenous self-identification. The significance of phenotype is also reflected in the perception of skin color discrimination by those who have darker skin colors, who self-identify as indigenous, and who speak indigenous languages. Moreover, we found evidence to suggest that those who speak indigenous languages have greater odds of desiring a whiter skin color. While individuals can be recognized as indigenous based on their cultural characteristics, they also can be predisposed to self-identify differently.

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Presented in Session 112: Measuring Race and Ethnicity