Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj

Social anthropologist and activist Guatemala

Country of focus: Guatemala
Based in Quetzaltenango

Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj is a Maya-K’iche’ social anthropologist, journalist  and international activist from Guatemala for Indigenous communities in Central America. Dr. Nimatuj was instrumental in making racial discrimination illegal in Guatemala and is the lead protagonist featured in 500 Years, a Skylight documentary about Indigenous resistance movements. She serves on Skylight’s Board of Directors.

She was an expert witness in court on behalf of 35 Mayan Achi women survivors of sexual violence in their decades-long legal fight for justice against former Guatemalan paramilitaries.  Five former paramilitaries were sentenced in January, 2022, to 30 years each for crimes against humanity in the 1980s during the civil war that ended in 1996.

She was a  Tinker Visiting Professor at Stanford’s Center for Latin American Studies 2019-2021 and in the fall of 2021 joined the University of Oregon anthropology department as a visiting professor,  teaching a course about Indigenous women and territories in Latin America. .

Dr. Nimatuj writes a weekly newspaper column for El Periódico de Guatemala and has served on UN Women as a representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.  She was the first Maya-K’iche’ woman to earn a doctorate in social anthropology in Guatemala. She was a visiting professor at the Watson Institute at Brown in 2018-2019, where she taught courses about Central and Latin American history and culture. She is part of a long line of struggle and resistance in her community since the Spanish invasion in 1524.

She is the author of the books:  La pequeña Burguesia Comercial de Guatemala: Desigualdades de clasa, raza y género (2003),  Pueblos indígenas, Estado y lucha por tierra en Guatemala: Estrategias de sobrevivencia y negociación ante la desigualdad globalizada (2008) and Lunas y Calendarios, colección poesía guatemalteca (2018).