The idea of a natural link between people and places has been dominant in the politics of refugee repatriation. Repatriation is conceived as the natural and logical solution to refugee displacement, a restoration of order in the relationship between people, culture and place. The case of the Guatemalan returnees discussed in this article reveals that such notions have little to do with what return means to them. Not only have they changed during exile, but so have also the communities and the people they left behind. A return to the places they came from was unattractive to most of them. The notion of home, for most, is not associated with their place of origin, but with the opportunities for change and improvement. The article explores the process of identity formation as related to historical processes of social change. Migration, exile and the return to Guatemala have brought these Guatemalan peasants into contact with a variety of new people and places, inspiring new perceptions and classifications of themselves and others as well as new forms of group formation. We will see that most of the new arenas are no longer constituted on the basis of ethnicity and, even though ethnicity is still important, its meaning has changed.