Yesterday, my coworkers gave a wonderful presentation on Guatemalan history to give our incoming students some much-needed context for the work that we’ll be doing. The country’s history is long and complicated, but I’ll try to summarize a bit and draw a few connections between the country’s historical past, contemporary situation, and the work that I’m doing here today.
I’ll start with the Civil War, which lasted for over 30 years – from 1960 -1996. The war was prompted by a slow-brewing guerilla resistance force, which began in pockets of the Western highlands and slowly spread around the country in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, the conflict exploded under the military government’s “Scorched Earth Campaign,” during which the government sought to brutally and forcibly eradicate all guerilla resistance and opposition. All in all, over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, and 400 communities were completely destroyed – the majority of which were indigenous Mayan communities in the ixil triangle (a trio of three towns including the town where our organization was founded, Nebaj).