Young Woman Struggles With Life After Mexico

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

For Dominga Matias Ortiz, returning to Guatemala after 14 years as a refugee in Mexico was a "trauma," she says. "In Mexico we got in taxis, rode motorbikes, bought radios, clothes. Now we're living in the middle of a jungle - how terrible."

It has been culturally confusing, says this young woman with bright brown eyes and a captivating smile. She is wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap backward, quite a contrast from the highly decorated skirts and blouses of traditional Mayan women in Guatemala.

She holds up her arm like a body builder: "I am a descendant of the Mayan. Regardless of my dress, I am Mayan." Later she reveals her more complex feelings.

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"I'm of two countries: Mexico and Guatemala. I was 9 when I left. I identify more with Mexico. I'm Todos Santos [her childhood home in Guatemala]; I'm Mayan; I'm Mexican," she says as her eyes fill with tears.

Ms. Matias says she returned under pressure from her parents, who like many returnees believe the prospects of getting title to land are greater in Guatemala than in Mexico. Like many returned women, she is ready to fight, politically, for land rights. "We have an agreement" with the government, she says, clenching her fist. Already she is active with a political group pressing demands by former refugees. She wants to help Mayan women participate in political activities.

Still, adjusting is tough. "If I don't adapt in a year, or a few months, I'll go." Then she adds quickly, shedding light on her indecision: "I have to struggle for future [Mayan] generations."

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