Mortal Doubt: Maras and Murder in Post-War Guatemala


Since the end of Latin America’s longest and bloodiest civil war (1960-1996), Guatemala City, like other cities in Central America’s Northern Triangle, has become a hotbed of homicidal violence. Maras (transnational gangs) have become the erstwhile emissaries of this new order. They are victims and perpetrators of spectacular violence and pivotal figures in a politics of death reigning over post-war society. This talk, deeply ethnographic, explores the evolution of both the maras’ and their social imaginary.

Anthony W. Fontes is a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Humanities, University of Wisconsin, Madison and an incoming Assistant Professor at the American University, Washington, D.C. His research in Central American cities explores the blurred boundaries between the underworld, the state, law-abiding society, legacies of civil war, and violence in all its forms. This work has been supported by grants from the OSF/SSRC Drugs, Security, and Democracy Program, the International Center for Global Conflict and Cooperation, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. His most recent article, “Extorted Life: Protection Rackets in Guatemala City”, appears in the September 2016 issue of Public Culture.