Against the backdrop of ethnic political mobilisation in Latin America, this article examines how, as Quetzaltenango's first Mayan mayor, Rigoberto Quemé Chay transformed two interrelated dimensions of citizenship: political culture and the politics of belonging. It analyses the way in which citizenship is constituted at three levels. The first is within Xel-jú as an indigenous political organisation whose practices contrast with ladino ways of doing politics. The second is in relation to internal divisions between the militant indigenous line and the intercultural group. The third is within Xel-jú as a city-centred, middle-class-oriented indigenous organisation rather than a rural, indigenous community organisation. This article argues that transformations in citizenship are limited by the political, economic and ethnic context, and that overlapping systems of repression still prevent the participation of marginalised groups in Quetzaltenango.