Maya K’iche’ Families and Intergenerational Migration Within and Across Borders: An Exploratory Study*



This research explores the lived experiences of transnational migrant sending families in one Mayan village in the Southern Quiché region of Guatemala.  It is part of a transnational partnership between university-based activist scholars in the northeastern U.S. and K’iche’ Maya and ladinx in Zacualpa and its villages. Reversing a trend in the much migration research that focuses on economic advantages of remittances for sending families, this study, part of a broader participatory and action research project, deployed an exploratory sequential mixed-methods design to unpack multiple diverse and conflicting effects of transnational migration on sending families. Analyses from 10 in-depth interviews with heads of households with at least one unauthorized migrant and a community-based survey with 137 village families found that despite families’ with transnational migrants being able to build larger homes and increase their material possessions, some reported overwhelming levels of migratory debt (up to $31,000 USD) that sometimes led to loss of homes or lands. Interviewees focused on family-level decisions favoring migration despite the harsh realities of the journey and life in the U.S.  Iteratively analyzed results document one local community’s experiences of transbordering family “from the bottom up”, and suggest that these Maya perform migration as civil disobedience and decolonization.


* This paper is dedicated to the memory and legacy of the student who collaborated in the data analysis reported herein while pursuing graduate studies at College. She was killed in an accident on (date), weeks before she was to travel to Guatemala to join the participatory action research team whose work is described herein.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v6i1p52

Keywords: migration; Maya K'iche'; sending families


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