Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Christopher Loperena

Second Advisor

Lucia Cantero


The teen pregnancy “epidemic” in Guatemala is a focal point when international and national NGOs demand that the government protect the civil and political rights of girls. In accordance, the state created laws (legal age for marriage - Ordinance 13-2017), implemented penal codes (statutory rape - Article 173) and created Programa Vida (conditional cash transfer of Q. 1,500 - $200 every two months) to address this ‘epidemic.’ Yet, only sixty-one teen mothers were involved in the program by the first year in 2018, indicating its inaccessibility. This thesis proposes to challenge the dominant narrative on teenage pregnancies, which blames “Mayan cultural practices” for the high rate of teen pregnancies in indigenous communities, by analyzing the colonial roots of the problem and how ongoing colonial practices lead to the denial of indigenous women’s autonomy. I highlight the stories of five indigenous girls in Huehuetenango, who are survivors of sexual violence all below the age of fourteen, which resulted in them becoming mothers. The judiciary system is broken and allows sexual violence to exist and persist. On one hand, the state criminalizes young couples under the pretense that is protects the rights of girls thus allowing the state to legitimize its power to police indigenous girls’ bodies. On the other hand, the state does not acknowledge teenage pregnancies as a product of structural violence. This is problematic when teen mothers are the human face of poverty and the cycle never ends. Indigenous women and girls’ bodies have always been a battlefield, invaded, controlled and managed by the state. In addition, their bodies belongs to their father, husband, and stranger but never to themselves. Their autonomy has always been denied. Therefore, it is imperative to further understand the geopolitical status of indigenous girls and women; which determines that their bodies is el primer territorio de defensa (the first territory to defend).