The Emergence of the Ancient Kaqchikel Polity: A case of Ethnogenesis in the Guatemalan Highlands
Cojti Ren, Iyaxel Ixkan A.
This dissertation explores the Kaqchikel ethnogenesis as an expression of resistance against the K’iche during the Late Postclassic period (1200 -1524 C.E.) in the highlands of Guatemala. Ethnogenesis is understood as a dynamic model of identity formation that involves both change and continuity, rather than the emergence of new ethnonyms. Specifically, this study seeks to discuss the internal and external factors that fostered the inception of the Kaqchikel political unit and to trace the social relationships between the Kaqchikel and the K’iche’ to better understand how the former managed to go from being dependent allies and military auxiliaries for the K’iche’ elite to becoming an expansionist polity. In ancient Mesoamerica, including the Guatemalan highlands, existed two scales of ethnicity. One concerns the languages used to communicate and the other the affiliation to a city-state or polity, where territories were a pivotal element to the development of collective identities. Therefore, the Kaqchikel ethnogenesis explores the centralization process of their sociopolitical organization and the nucleation of their settlements until the foundation of their first civic center or tinamit named Chi Awär. Because Chi Awär was within the K'iche' area of influence, the cultural material of both groups was very similar. However, once the Kaqchikel abandoned Chi Awär and consolidated their independent polity in Chi Iximche’, they started to delimit their territorial borders that also constituted linguistic, cultural and material borders.