UCSB Latin American and Iberian Studies Program

Notes on Giovanni Batz’ Tertulia: “Historical Maya Displacements and the Invasion of Extractive Industries in Guatemala”

In our second Tertulia of the year, on Friday December 1st, we welcomed Dr. Giovanni Batz an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicana/o Studies at UCSB, specializing in extractivist industries, Maya social movement and resistance, and the migration and forced displacement of Central Americans. He obtained his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, and his M.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Dr. Batz gave a personal and enlightening presentation on the historical displacement of Maya peoples caused by the invasion of their lands by extractivist industries, which have taken hold of indigenous ancestral territories. He specifically looked at the construction of the Palo Viejo hydroelectric plant in Cotzal, which was heavily disputed and rejected by the indigenous communities. Drawing on his extensive work on the region, he analyzed this encroachment through the concept of the “four invasions”, allowing for a deeper understanding of the historical and political background. He argued that there is a connection between the communities that extensively suffered during the 1980s armed conflict in Guatemala and those currently impacted by extractivist industries. He further explored the resistance of indigenous communities to these violations, and the subsequent state-sponsored violence and militarization that ensued. As a Los Angeles-raised Mayan himself, there was a very personal touch to the presentation and his work. This was emphasized by his explanation of the need and desire to publish his research in Spanish, so as to be able to reach the impacted communities that he researched and lived with. He aims to honor and represent their struggles, successes, and their hope that their communities will persevere. 

The talk was followed by a lively Q and A.