Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Anthropology

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 329 pages) : color illustrations, color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Walter E Little

Committee Members

Jennifer Burrell, James Collins, Lee Bickmore


Coffee Production, Ethnohistory, Guatemala, Mayan languages, Mesoamerica, Q'eqchi' Maya, Coffee, Quechua Indians

Subject Categories

History | Labor Relations | Latin American Studies


This dissertation examines various aspects of economic and social consequences associated with the history of coffee production in the rural municipality of Senahú, a province located in the central Guatemalan province of Alta Verapaz that is home to one of the four major Mayan language groups in Guatemala; the Q'eqchi' Maya. In particular, the investigation is concerned with how German and other Anglo-European entrepreneurs initiated large-scale coffee production in the late 19th century and the social and economic disparities that arose with the early successes of large-scale coffee production. This examination also presents how the collective society in Senahú became dangerously dependent on coffee production and the long-term consequences and economic calamity that ensued during and after the global coffee crisis of the late 1990s and early 2000s decimated a large portion of the municipality's production efforts. This includes analysis of how the coffee crisis contributed to an increase in social deterioration among Q'eqchi' Maya laborers in Senahú and their individual and collective responses employed by Q'eqchi' Maya laborers who were displaced from their homes on large-scale coffee-plantations. Even though coffee values rebounded in the mid-2000s and are now at an all-time high (2012) the result of the coffee crisis proved too large an obstacle to overcome for a number of large-scale coffee plantations and even more small-scale coffee cooperatives throughout the municipality. At present, mountains and gullies that were scattered with thousands of coffee trees lay desolate and bare and the Q'eqchi' populace that relied on the yearly crops in large number were forced to leave their lands as they adapt to their current hardships and hope for a new day of economic and social stability in the days ahead.