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This article focuses on the importance, complexity and ambiguity of the symbolic terrain both in everyday life and in social struggle. Taking Mayan women’s traditional dress or traje as a text, the author reflects upon the multiple and contested meanings this evokes, and argues that Mayan women are playing a role which has not received sufficient analysis or recognition within the Mayan movement’s struggle for indigenous identity and rights. Opening with a brief theoretical overview, the article goes on to analyse the different meanings in dispute and how these are related to wider issues, and concludes with a reflection concerning the challenges facing inter-ethnic relations and the recognition of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.

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