Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Yucatan’s Maya identity has long presented a challenge to anthropological analysis. While anthropologists have proposed numerous ways of articulating Maya and indigenous identity in the region, the conversation surrounding the topic continues. Following Juan Castillo Cocom’s argument that the Maya category of identity is an oppressive colonial framework, this paper proposes to consider a decolonizing approach in conceptualizing Yucatan’s Maya identity. Franz Fanon conceptualizes life in colonial societies as an ontological question: people in colonized societies live in Zones of Being (recognized as fully human) and Zones of non-Being (not recognized as fully human). In Spanish, this has been translated as zonas de ser y no-ser. However, Spanish also contains another form of the verb “to be”: estar. This paper explores the possibility of a zona del estarto understand Maya identity. Estar, the conditional form of the verb “to be,” contains a different temporality than the permanent form ser. Zona del Estaris characterized by a temporality of constant present, allowing for the coexistence of multiple ways of being-in-the world. Subjects can enter and exist this temporality, though not always at will. As a concept, it can explain the shifting nature of maya identity without minimizing the reality of colonial violence or erasing indigenous bodies or culture. It is an anti-essentialize, anti-homogenizing theoretical tool. As my work on mental health in a Yucatecan psychiatric hospital demonstrates, madness and indigeneity both products of the Colonial Matrix of Power, exist in la Zona del Estar.