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Guatemala’s Civil War

Sepur Zarco is less than two hundred miles north of where I was born in Guatemala City (Guatemala). It was one of the many places that experienced horrific violence during the civil war.

Guatemala’s almost-forty-year civil war reached its peak in the 1980s, when I was a toddler. It has been labeled the “longest and bloodiest of Latin America’s Cold War civil wars,” as it left between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians dead (or “disappeared”). It is one of the many historical examples of the genocide against the Indigenous people of the Americas.

I was brought to the United States in 1985 and have been privileged to have a piece of paper that says I can re-enter the United States whenever I visit my family in Guatemala. I’ve known about the war, the genocide, the sexual slavery, the injustice, since before I got my driver’s license. I have had to work hard to reclaim my Indigenous heritage. I probably left it with one of the agents the first time I went through U.S. customs. I got the message early on that being Indigenous was not a “good thing” either in the United States or in Guatemala. I grew up with a void because I let it go.

The Guatemalan Peace Accords were signed in 1996—very important pieces of paper, but pieces of paper nonetheless. I still see the heaviness in people’s faces when I go back. The people who come here to “find a better life” carry it. I carry it. There needs to be healing before we can move on. For me, that has meant honoring my heritage (in big and small ways), having many moments of silence, and shedding lots of tears. It now means fighting to have relationships with other Guatemalans, talking about how good it feels to be “indigena,” and showing how proud I am to come from Guatemala. I still have a lot of work to do. I often think about how we as a people have internalized the genocide, how I have internalized it. It still haunts us through the alcoholism, the extreme violence, the misogyny and suicide. Denying the genocide denies us the space to grieve, cry, and mourn what happened and leaves us trapped in our pain. So I am infinitely grateful to the women of Sepur Zarco who are testifying, for having the tenacious courage to raise their hands to break the silence.

Ligia Marroquín
Stamford, Connecticut, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
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Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00