By Kevin Lewis O'Neill
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They divided into four groups and then caravanned to Guatemala City’s four cardinal points. Synchronizing their efforts via cell phones, those in the north, south, east, and west clamored for Guatemala for over an hour, dirtying their pants by kneeling in the streets. They stomped for salvation and raised their arms to the heavens. Most spoke in tongues, but the ones who did not focused their prayers toward very concrete problems, such as urban violence, the national economy, and divorce. They prayed.
Questions about citizenship have generated a very conspicuous debate among a plethora of people in Guatemala. A ladino/a concern with Maya identity politics is the subject of Diane Nelson’s Finger in the Wound (1999) as well as Charles R. Hale’s Más que un Indio (2006). The title of Nelson’s study speaks directly to the discomfort that ladinos feel when addressing the history and future of indigenous people in Guatemala. “A finger in the wound” is a metaphor that Guatemalans use to refer to Maya cultural rights activism; it is an issue, Nelson explains, that prods and pokes at an open and wounded body politic that is busy healing but far from being completely whole.
The question, although asked many times before, was unavoidable: Why aren’t you eating today? Growing more distracted by the food shuttling past us—the smell of chicken, tortillas, and beans teasing him—Julio regained focus. Passion won out over low blood sugar. Julio explained, sitting up in his chair, that he was undergoing another fast for the very same reason he prayed in tongues nightly, anointed strangers 1 ONeill_Intro 7/27/09 1:50 PM Page 2 with oil on crowded city buses (often without their knowledge and consent), and constantly turned inward to monitor his own feelings and attitudes.
City of God: Christian Citizenship in Postwar Guatemala by Kevin Lewis O'Neill