Distilling Perceptions of Crime: Maya Moonshiners and the State, 1898–1944

David Carey

in Distilling the Influence of Alcohol

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780813041629
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780813043432 | DOI:
Distilling Perceptions of Crime: Maya Moonshiners and the State, 1898–1944

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During the first half of the twentieth century, the proceeds from alcohol manufacturing filled government coffers, fueled local economies, and fortified family livelihoods. Despite national rhetoric decrying excessive alcoholic production and consumption and Mayan discourse lamenting the deleterious effects of alcoholism, neither the state nor local denizens had the political will to eradicate aguardiente clandestino (moonshine). Clandestine stills and inebriated (lower class) denizens disrupted dictators’ (Manuel Estrada Cabrera [1898–1920] and General Jorge Ubico [1931–1944]) efforts to portray a powerful and modern state. Despite being formally excluded from political power and even citizenship, as producers, vendors, and consumers, women were at the center of the struggle over alcohol’s role in Guatemala’s nation-state formation. By outlawing the production and sale of moonshine, the state altered definitions of crime. By maintaining this cottage industry as a crucial contributor to local and regional economies, bootleggers challenged definitions of deviant behavior. Even while calling the state’s authority into question, moonshiners, defendants, consumers, and local citizens collaborated with officials and used the government’s tools to further their own goals.

Keywords: Women; Moonshine; Economics; Nation formation; Crime; Alcohol

Chapter.  13835 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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