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Presenting data

After I had conducted the interviews, I selected and sorted out the material for what would become Part II of this text. When I present the findings from my interviews, I sometimes make generalisations. It is important to note that these generalisations then are representative of all (or some, when noted) of my interviewees - but not all Maya in Guatemala, or in Quetzaltenango, or even in Manuel’s group.

Transcription, sorting and translation

I used a digital audio recorder for all of the interviews. In addition to assisting me during the Spanish interviews, Victor Garcia has also transcribed them. The


interviews with Martin were conducted in English and have been transcribed by me.

All interviews were transcribed in full, as I transcribed during my stay in Guatemala and had enough time between interviews to do so. For the transcription process, I would focus on readability. Therefore, I kept references to pauses, changes in speed or tone, and filler-sounds to a minimum.[1] On some occasions, I have also removed fillers like pues or entonces, meaning ‘well,’ ‘so,’ ‘right?’ and so on. Only after all the interviews had been transcribed did I read through them and select the quotes I would use.

After picking out quotes, I wrote a small description of each quote and tagged each such description with keywords.[2] I divided the quotes into four categories, corresponding to the four questions I raised in Chapter 1 above. These categories became outlines for chapters.[3] I then divided the categories into smaller parts based on the keywords I had applied earlier, and used them as outlines for sections within their corresponding chapter.

After selecting and sorting quotes from the interviews, I translated them into English myself. The translations are based on Garcias’ transcriptions and on the audio recordings of the interviews. Garcia also made notes within the transcriptions where he explained certain slang words and words that would have a special meaning in the Quetzaltenango area. These have been very useful, and I believe I have achieved more correct translations because I had help from a local person in the transcription process.

As noted earlier, all of the Spanish-speaking interviewees were able to express themselves in Spanish, but for most, Spanish is their second language. Their Spanish (like mine) does not always follow the norm. In my translations I have corrected some grammar to enhance readability and to avoid that grammatical mistakes draw the attention from the topic at hand.

On two occasions, I have also changed a word from what the interviewee used by mistake into what he or she, based on the context, obviously meant to use. This is also done to avoid that the mistake draws attention from the actual content of what the interviewee wanted to express.

In general, the interviewees spoke in a very lively fashion, with vivid imagery and lots of hand gestures to illustrate their stories. If they were talking about walking somewhere, for instance, it would not be uncommon for them to get up and actually walk a little bit or to make walking sounds by clapping their hands to emphasise the point. It is difficult to express such enthusiasm in written form, so I can only hope that the quotes are vivid enough without the “special effects"

  • [1] Cf. Hammersley and Atkinson, Ethnography: 150.
  • [2] My way of organising the material was partially inspired by the techniques of coding described in Kathy Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical GuideThrough Qualitative Analysis (London: SAGE Publications, 2006): 42-71; and Hammersley and Atkinson, Ethnography: 150-157.
  • [3] The main questions for each chapter are “Why do some people work as ajq’ijab?”for Chapter 4; “How do some people work as ajq’ijab?” for chapters 5 and 6; “Whydo some people become ajq’ijab?” for Chapter 7 and “How do some people becomeajq’ijab?” for Chapter 8.
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