Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Since 2014, the migration of youth from Guatemala has been positioned by US actors within narratives of “crisis,” garnering significant attention from media outlets, politicians and transnational aid organizations. Addressing this “crisis” of migration is a funding priority for state-run entities and non-governmental organizations alike, and many NGO and governmental organizations are now funding education related projects as a means of reducing youth marginalization and preventing migration.
This paper, derived from 9 months of ethnographic field work conducted with youth and youth-serving community organizations in the department of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, analyzes indigenous Guatemalan youth decision-making around education and migration. For my interlocutors, continuing forward with their education is not a singular decision, but a processual and often asynchronous one, filled with gaps, moments of indeterminacy, and doubt. I argue that educational decision making in this context is enmeshed in multi-generational histories of trauma, racism, and family migration as well as the persistent optimism for an alternative future in Guatemala. Continuing ones education, either supported by family member remittances or through scholarship programs, becomes a type of “impasse” as theorized by Berlant (2011) where schooling is a “holding pattern,” one that allows young people to not migrate, at least not yet, with the optimistic belief that after significant educational striving, along with emotional and economic sacrifice, they might be able to find a way to stay in Guatemala despite significant evidence to the contrary.