Anthropology Faculty Publications and Presentations

Marketing Systems and Insurgency in Western Guatemala

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Guatemala is a nation with a history of severe political and socioeconomic problems. These crises contributed to the growth and durability of insurgent movements, which from 1961 to 1996 were endemic in certain regions of the nation, particularly western Guatemala. This paper examines insurgent activity in the four marketing subsystems described by Smith1 found in western Guatemala: dendritic, primate, top-heavy and interlocking. Peasants are said to be severely disadvantaged in the dendritic marketing systems, disadvantaged in primate markets, and relatively capable of making a decent living in top-heavy and interlocking systems. If this is so, support for system changing revolutionary movements should predictably be highest in dendritic systems, significant in primate systems, and only marginal in top-heavy and interlocking systems. An examination of the political-military situation in western Guatemala from 1976 to 1996 supports this thesis.


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Small Wars & Insurgencies