The projects that the IIN helped to establish were an important part of the nationalistic social reforms of the revolutionary governments, attempting to draw Guatemala’s diverse population into an understanding of citizenship that would elicit increased participation in national politics and the economy. The IIN studied rural credit, Mayan languages, and textile industries in order to advise policymakers on agricultural credit programs, literacy campaigns, and the protection of local industry. IIN staff did not complete research in urban office buildings; rather, they spent months conducting ethnographic fieldwork in rural Maya communities to learn firsthand about local conditions. As a result of these interactions, IIN staff recommended practical projects such as potable water, latrine construction, and road building. Rethinking Guatemalan indigenismo within a transnational context allows for an examination of the networks and politics at play in the projects that indigenistas projected as humanitarian and capable of improving the lives of some of Guatemala’s most marginalized citizens.
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