Submission Date


Document Type



Modern Languages (Spanish)

Faculty Mentor

Jose Cornelio


Presented during the 19th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 21, 2017 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

This project investigates gender constructs and the complex assigned gender roles in settings of female indigenous leadership in Latin America. It examines two distinct indigenous communities, including the BriBri society in Yorkín, Costa Rica and the Maya peoples in Santa Anita, Guatemala that demonstrate the circumstantial spectrum in which women can obtain leadership roles and what actors directly influence this process. Each case study explores the fluidity of gender identities in which concepts of masculinity often guide female empowerment and liberation. With Costa Rica abolishing their military in 1948 and Guatemala experiencing a 36-year civil war (1960-1996) and a major genocide targeted at Maya peoples during the war-torn period, the governmental stability of both nations are developmentally counterparts. This research looks at the democratic success story of Costa Rica and questions what circumstances have fostered female leadership within the Yorkín community in contrast with the instable and stagnant democracy that surrounds rural Guatemalan communities like Santa Anita. Moreover, my project aims to discuss the root causes of the cases’ historical differences and reaffirm how each of their social constructions of gender impacts opportunities for women. This investigation is based on onsite interviews conducted in both communities and a series of observations that encouraged further examination of historical, cultural, and sociopolitical factors that have promoted or inhibited female empowerment and female dominated management in community development projects.

Open Access

Available to all.