Between 1944 and 1996, Guatemala experienced a revolution, counterrevolution, and civil war. Playing a pivotal role within these national shifts were students from Guatemala’s only public university, the University of San Carlos (USAC). USAC students served in, advised, protested, and were later persecuted by the government, all while crafting a powerful student nationalism. In no other moment in Guatemalan history has the relationship between the university and the state been so mutable, yet so mutually formative. By showing how the very notion of the middle class in Guatemala emerged from these student movements, this book places an often-marginalized region and period at the center of histories of class, protest, and youth movements and provides an entirely new way to think about the role of universities and student bodies in the formation of liberal democracy throughout Latin America.
Heather Vrana is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Florida and the editor of Anti-Colonial Texts from Central American Student Movements 1929–1983.
"The university became an important space of state formation in Guatemala throughout the twentieth century and a key battlefield during the Cold War. Yet, in a thick literature that has overwhelmingly prioritized rural and indigenous uprisings during this period, little attention has been given to urban students. Heather Vrana does just that in a fascinating and valuable work."—Jaime M. Pensado, author of Rebel Mexico: Student Unrest and Authoritarian Political Culture during the Long Sixties
"With this work, Vrana provides a new window on the making of contemporary Guatemala and goes far beyond a narrowly focused study of student politics. This is an important and intelligent book."— J.T. Way, author of The Mayan in the Mall: Globalization, Development, and the Making of Modern Guatemala
"This is a nuanced, thoughtful, and theoretically sophisticated work. Its focus on intellectual life and practice fills a large gap in understanding the history of Guatemala, and its impact will be felt widely. It illuminates the role of students, the university, nationalism, and spectacular mourning over a century of liberal republicanism, genocide, and neoliberalism. Vrana gracefully weaves the role of scholars into the production of the modern nation-state by examining philosophy, affect, and contradictions, and powerfully evokes young people’s clear-eyed strategizing and their poignant idealism in struggles for social change."—Diane M. Nelson, author of Reckoning: The Ends of War in Guatemala