The people of Santa María Tzejá are seeking justice
for what happened during the war. In 2001, families of victims
of the 1982 massacre -- including Edwin Canil's family -- brought
charges of genocide against army generals at Playa Grande. It
was a daring, precedent-setting move, but not without its consequences.
Ten days after formal charges were brought forward, the village's
cooperative building was burned to the ground. That day also happened
to be the anniversary of the refugees' return from Mexico.
I wondered if Beatriz Manz's book, Paradise in Ashes,
with all its painful testimonies and observations about the
war, wouldn't be more divisive than healing for the people of
Santa María Tzejá, who are struggling to get on
with their lives. Manz said she'd asked a man in the village
what he thought about that. After reading the book in English,
he summed up his response, she said, with one word: "Parejo,"
which means "equal" or "fair." Another person returning from
Saturday mass likened it to "the Bible" of Santa María
But Manz isn't the only foreigner helping to recover the historical memory of this community. An American Randall Shea has been working to rebuild the community since reunification in 1994 and helped stage this play for local children.