International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chief Instructor

Kenneth MacLean, Ph.D


This qualitative case study explores artisanal painters’ views on tourism and their impacts on cultural change in San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala. They struggle with new cultural and economic identities through art. Painting is a way to overcome historical discrimination based on their identity, while they explore, develop, and communicate their cultural identities to themselves and outsiders. By selling paintings of cultural scenes that are of interest to them and to tourists, they strengthen their voices in the marketplace. Harvey’s (2002) concept of “space of hope” and Appadurai’s (2004) concept of “capacity to aspire” frame an understanding of this process of change. The painters in San Juan la Laguna create a space of hope through painting to support indigenous cultural identity and economic identity development. They use their identities to increase their unique position in the market and strengthen their capacity to aspire, that is, to engage with globalization on their own terms to shape their future. This is the “art of rent” (Harvey, 2002): the painters must artfully use their cultural and economic identity to earn rents from tourists. They must craft a space to negotiate the terms of the encounter with globalization to struggle for a better life.



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