Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Latin American Studies Program


Ben W. Fallaw


The Guatemalan Civil War is largely understood as a war against the Maya. When unable to defeat the insurgency, the government adopted increasingly harsh counterinsurgency tactics like state terror and violence against women in an effort to suppress potential guerilla supporters. This paper finds that counterinsurgency did not set out to specifically target women, but that was its effect. Through testimonios, human rights documents, and other primary sources we are able understand how counterinsurgency violence targeted women differently than men. Historical gendered violence explains why the Guatemalan government resorted to extreme brutality against Maya women in order to defeat the insurgency. Historical scripts of violence against women, centuries of counterinsurgency warfare, and the extreme militarization can help explain why the Guatemalan government turned to violence against women. Testimonios show that Ladino male dominance persisted through centuries and came to characterize how the state fought the Civil War. Mayan women became strategic targets of the government, and were victims of especially brutal and gender-specific forms of violence, rape, and torture. This paper traces the violence against women in the Civil War back to the colonization of Guatemala.


Full-text download restricted to Colby College campus only.


Guatemala, Maya, Mayan women, Civil War, gendered violence, violence