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Guatemala: Human Rights Defenders

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Megan Patterson

on 21 April 2010

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Transcript of Guatemala: Human Rights Defenders

GUATEMALA: The Beauty & The Beast Flying over the countryside, seeing the beauty of the capital city - I almost forget why I am here. I am taken aback by the architecture, the culture, the overwhelming newness of being in Central America. Looking at the Palacio Nacional, I see messages for paz - "peace." Hasn't this country been torn apart? Isn't the lack of peace for the victims of human rights abuses the reason we are here? 13 years of peace? Could this be true? Why, then, were there still documented abuses of human rights? Why were people being threatened daily? I am torn... and the tragedy. between the beauty Rabinal Cerro de la Cruz Catedral Nacional Antigua and Rio Negro. Palacio Nacional Pacux The country is filled with gorgeous landscapes, buildings, and attractions. tragedies But the are no longer able to be ignored. Survivors living in poverty, in homelessness, fighting for their livelihood. Internal Armed Conflict Hundreds of thousands
of people were murdered and disappeared during the Internal Armed Conflict from 1960 to 1996. The Guatemalan Army was responsible for almost 90% of the 200,000 people who died. Indigenas people were especially targeted. They rarely received the reparations promised to them by the government. The columns outside
the Caterdal Nacional have hundreds of thousands of names. Many have Spanish last names - they are indigenas people who were "adopted" as slaves by the Guatemalan Army officers. One of the worst massacres was that
of the Rio Negro community. Rio Negro was a small Mayan Achi community in the department of Baja Verapaz. From 1976 to 1983, the government of Guatemala, along with the World Bank, funded the building of the Chixoy dam, a project that forced all the community to evacuate the area. The inhabitants were promised affordable and adequate housing in the town of Rabinal, bilingual education for their children, and money for the land and crops they lost.

They never received their reparations.

On Febuary 13, 1982, soliders and civilian PAC members brought all the men of the community to a nearby town under the pretenses of signing an agreement.

Instead, they murdered them all.

Exactly a month later, on March 13, 1982, the soldiers and PAC members came back, rounded up the women and children in the community, and forced them to hike the mountain of Pak'oxom. At the top of the mountain, they raped the women and young girls. 70 women and 107 children were brutally killed. This is why
we came to Guatemala. We follow in the footsteps of the massacre victims. We hike the massacre trail to reach the site of the memorial, made with love from the survivors. The peeling paint of the white stone crosses reflects the heavy burden that the trail takes on those who wish to commemorate the victims. The solemnity at the top of the hill, at the site of the brutal massacre of 177 women and children, is overwhelming and suffocating. I take in the sense of death, suffering, and loss that this community has experienced for years. The situation can feel overwhelming. But the survivors are empowered. The community of Rio Negro built a modern house, equipped with indoor plumbing, to act as a Cultural Center for visitors who wish to learn about the tragedy that occurred 28 years ago. Their democratic society is led by a man who was a survivor of the 1982 massacre. Other Guatemalan women have joined together to create a cooperative that allow women to make and sell things like clothing, jewlery, and other crafts in order to make money. They also opened a day school, a health-care clinic, and a bakery for the local community, pro-viding themselves a means of support and their neighbors a better way of life. The survivors of the Rio Negro Massacre on Pak'oxom who currently reside in the town of Pacux are fighting for their legal rights, the reparations guaranteed to their families by the government before the massacre happened. They are the children who were enslaved by army officers, children who hid in the mountains for years after the massacre. They continue the fight that their parents and grandparents died for. Now We return with conviction with memories as allies to continue the fight to teach what we were taught to live as we learned with love as friends as an interdependent world as defenders of human rights. with knowledge with hope with faith
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