foreword by Walter Little
Copublished with the Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, University of Albany
IMS Studies on Culture and Society series
On Being Maya and Getting By is an ethnographic study of the two Ek’Balams—a notable archaeological site and adjacent village—of the Yucatán Peninsula. When the archaeological site became a tourist destination, the village became the location of a community-based tourism development project funded by the Mexican government. Overt displays of heritage and a connection to Maya antiquity became important and profitable for the modern Maya villagers. Residents of Ek’Balam are now living in a complex ecosystem of natural and cultural resources where the notion and act of “being Maya” is deeply intertwined with economic development.
The book explores how Ek’Balam villagers negotiate and maneuver through a web of social programs, tourists, volunteers, and expectations while living their daily lives. Focusing on the active processes in which residents choose to participate, author Sarah R. Taylor provides insights into how the ideological conflicts surrounding economic development play out in the negotiations between internal community politics and external social actors. The conflicts implicit to conceptions of “community” as a target for development are made explicit through the systematic questioning of what exactly it means to be a member of a local, indigenous, or sustainable community in the process of being developed.
On Being Maya and Getting By is a rich description of how one community is actively negotiating with tourism and development and also a call for a more complex analysis of how rural villages are connected to greater urban, national, and global forces.