The RENAP national registry was set up in 2007 to create and disseminate the new national identification card, called the DPI. The transition to a more sophisticated ID card, complete with an embedded data chip, is meant to guarantee citizens’ rights to identification, and the government services and protections that accompany that right. But, with corruption scandals and an audit by the Organization of the American States (OAS), which led to the required correction of over 2.9 million ID cards, RENAP earned a reputation for incompetence.
But Tulane University Professor Judith Maxwell fears RENAP's inability to support the proper spelling of Mayan names goes beyond government inefficiency.
“Mayan names usually contain a symbol in them, which is not found in the standard Spanish alphabet,” says Dr. Maxwell, who has worked as a linguist, teaching and preserving indigenous languages in Guatemala, since 1973. “But it’s basically just an apostrophe … you can’t tell me those symbols aren’t on a computer.”
Maxwell worked with a team of linguists to standardize the Mayan alphabet after Guatemala’s civil war ended in 1996.
“One of the principles we used is they’ve got to be all symbols that are readily available on a standard keyboard,” says Maxwell. “I believe the government is inefficient, but I think that this is systematic discrimination.”