Dr. Robin Werner
Guatemala: Not Ready to Finish this Chapter About 150 miles northwest of Guatemala City is the pre-Columbian village of Santa María Nebaj, in the department of Quiche (see Appendix A). This historic site is the cradle of the indigenous Ixil community that was victim of repression and near extermination in 1982 and 1983. During this tense period, the military government had come face to face with many indigenous groups that were seeking equality and justice. After numerous protests, however, the government began a counterinsurgency, scorched earth1 operation that targeted the millions of defenseless people that inhabited these rural areas, with the purpose of silencing them once and for all. Thirty years later, the country and these groups continue to face injustice while the government attempts to erase this part of history. In addition, those responsible for these atrocities enjoy freedom and the efforts to bring them to justice repeatedly fail. Nevertheless, organizations such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other groups with mental healthcare programs in Guatemala have made positive advancements to prosecute the perpetrators and reinstate peace amongst the indigenous communities; but one thing is for sure, no matter how much progress occurs, these events are the basis of today’s Guatemala and must not be forgotten.
The occupants of Nebaj, who are of Mayan descent, have occupied these lands since long before the Spanish conquistadors came to the New World. Ever since the conquest, Mayans and their descendants have lived a life of extreme poverty after being exploited. The Ixil are just one of the twenty-three indigenous ethnicities that are settled in the Central American country (The People of Guatemala). Most of them live in small, unresisting households made of corrugated metal sheets or adobe, an inexpensive material similar to clay. Some have small plots of land to harvest crops as beans and corn, but many go day by day without much food, water, or any of their basic necessities. The High Commissioner, the leader of OHCHR, points out and laments in her most recent report about the status of Human Rights in Guatemala how politicians seem to be very progressionist, but to exclude indigenous communities and leave them unattended (ONU 2), further delaying the country’s progress. During this troubled period in the Civil War, with 150,000 people massacred, 50,000 disappeared, and more than 200,000 children orphaned, towns like Nebaj were left in despair (Beristain 3). The conflict between the military and the peasantry (who later formed a guerrilla) arose when many poor families were thrown out of their lands since they had no paperwork to prove that it belonged to them (Mountains). They usually traveled to the city and protested, but the government often ignored or attacked them violently and when the guerrilla formed, the Guatemalan government with the help and consent of the United States (Parry) devised a plan to slaughter, silence and disappear them. Violence against families includes 21% of victims who lost their spouse, 22% who lost their parents, 12% who lost children and 21% who lost other members, leaving a 24% of families completely wiped out. There were more men that were murdered; with 90% of the victims, however 62% of the killing sprees involved women who were raped and killed (Beristain 1). After the massacres, the victims were buried in mass graves, many of which have, most likely, not been found yet. These statistics were acquired via the exhumation of the graves and the testimony of many present during the massacres (Roberts 1). Even though the murders were occurring on a daily basis, many members of the military had no idea what they were fighting for, they were just told to follow orders (When). Even today (especially during election periods), political parties and the government takes advantage of these…