Place: Uspantan, Guatemala
Interview and translation by Lena Dorfschmidt
Original Language: Spanish
They killed my uncle. They said everyone that was not protestant, like we that were catholic, and all those that were selling medicine, they said, would have to be careful. That they were communists. And it is said that many of those formed groups. They united. And about that… they didn’t want groups. “What we will do is, we will kill these people.” So the people said, if they kill us we have to defend ourselves. They started to prepare themselves with arms. Guerilla groups were started. There were the guerillas and the soldiers.
There were also people that started… they were told… they were sent by the government. They were told, “Go and see who are the people that are doing this, that are running around doing this.” At that time, we couldn’t talk like this anymore, three, four, five people. They didn’t like that. “Those people are guerilla fighters!” They didn’t give permission to take a lot of corn to the motor [grinder]. It had to be measured because he, who brought a lot, was supporting the guerrilla. There was a time where we couldn’t be on the street anymore. And we couldn’t have lights around 7, 8 at night, because if someone was awake that was because he was doing something.
I remember that my uncle dug a hole in the soil, like a temascal [sweat lodge], but smaller. He left, and said, that this hole served him to put his family into it. When they heard that they were coming, they [got into] this hole and looked for a stone, more or less the size of the entrance. And they were in danger. They were looking for them. Because my uncle was catechist in the church. And they were looking for them. They say that one day my uncle wasn’t careful. He wasn’t careful and when he noticed, soldiers already surrounded him. He wanted to leave, because he didn’t want to die. And they shot him here. A part of the brain was blown away. And my cousins, my aunt ran away. Because apart from that they burned the house down. It is scary. All this fear started. They killed my uncle. His son. And other uncles. Lucas Garcia was president at that time. So then this government left, and Rios Montt started. With Rios Montt they didn’t even ask anymore if someone did a mistake. They only killed. Many orphans were left behind. Many people were killed. […]
I was small. My mum said that the soldiers used to pass by our house. Because there was a cooperative close to the house. They came to see what was there. Were they selling something? Were things disappearing? One day, when my uncle had already been killed, a young girl showed up. She was selling and they took her with them. They took her and put her into a car they say. That is how it started. There was no peace anymore. The sun rose [and it turned out] they had killed here, they had threatened there. They had burned down a house… It wasn’t possible to live anymore.
We came to live in Uspantan. My mum didn’t want to, but my dad said yes, because we didn’t owe anyone. We didn’t get involved in anything.
At that crossing on the way to Macalajau, they killed many people. About fifty-four people. They say they were on their way to look for their animals. They planted corn and beans. They went to see their crop when the soldiers showed up, saying they were guerrilla fighters and that they all would die. They stabbed them with a knife. And many women were carrying babies. They cut off their breasts. They cut it off and put it on the ground. Then they put the babies on top as if they were being breast-fed. The babies were crying, were screaming on the street. Later the soldiers picked them up. They were looking for where to take them. Those babies lived but they were given away. But some, the very small ones, the soldiers just stood on them and killed them like that. It is scary. It scares us.
At that time people suffered a lot in Guatemala. Especially in the villages. Many orphans were left behind. One of my cousins, seeing that her father was killed, said, “I wont let this happen. I will get into this as much as I can.” And she became a guerilla fighter. She was fighting.
One fears that this happens again.
There are families in the village where you can notice this still. Some people only hear an alarm for example and start to cry. They say: “Oh god, what will happen?” Because they saw this. Some ex-guerillas live in the village. They tell us about the past. “We suffered this, we suffered that.”