Intercultural Dialogue: Discourse and Realities of Indigenous and Mestizos in Ecuador and Guatemala

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Magdalena Herdoíza-Estévez Sonia Lenk


This study adds to an in-depth understanding of the approaches taken by indigenous peoples in intercultural struggles vis-à-vis governments, language-related policies and mainstream societies in Latin America, specifically in Guatemala and Ecuador. The paper traces the ways in which indigenous peoples have subverted hegemony, contesting and redefining the imagery of Latin American societies, and creating new paradigms for their role in society. It also addresses the assimilation strategies used by the dominant sectors, globally and nationally, aimed at disempowering interculturality as a means of questioning the exclusionary and discriminatory status quo. 

From a comparative perspective, Ecuador and Guatemala exemplify two different approaches to interculturality, with different emphases and outcomes. In an effort to add current voices from the field to this discussion, the study brings up-to-date contributions from scholars and social agents involved in the intercultural discussion and struggles in both countries. These contributions add an in-depth reflection about the processes emerging today in defense of individual and collective rights to difference. This analysis contributes to a broader dialogue that aims to explore models of coexistence between socially and culturally diverse peoples, while addressing the intrinsic tension present in cross-cultural relationships. 

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Author Biographies

Magdalena Herdoíza-Estévez, Indiana University Southeast

Magdalena Herdoíza-Estévez is an Associate Professor of education and international studies at Indiana University Southeast, where she directs the graduate education program and the federally funded project, “Network Capacity Building for the Success of English Language Learners.” She has a PhD in Sociology from the Université de Paris I-Sorbonne and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Florence, Italy. In addition to her academic career, she served as National Director of Education Planning in Ecuador and has contributed to Latin America’s planning and education reforms as an international consultant for ministries and international organizations. Highlights of her work are the Curriculum Reform of El Salvador (1996 AED/USAID), the Haiti National Education Plan (1993-95, UNESCO/USAID), and the External Evaluation of the Mayan Education Project (2002 UNESCO).  Sonia Lenk is an Assistant Professor in Spanish at Western Kentucky University. Her Ph.D. is in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. Her main research interests include sociolinguistics, bilingualism, and minority languages and peoples. Her most recent book is about the ethnolinguistic vitality of two Quichua speaking communities –one rural and one urban- in Imbabura, Ecuador.

Sonia Lenk, Western Kentucky University

Assistant Professor