In 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission concluded that the Guatemalan military had perpetrated "acts of genocide" against the country's indigenous populations.
The New York Times: “Guatemalan Army Waged ‘Genocide,’ New Report Finds
In 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission concluded that Guatemala’s military had perpetrated “acts of genocide” with the aid of the U.S. government in terms of arms, funding, and CIA training. A link to the English language version of the commission’s report can be found on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
BBC: “Timeline of Guatemalan History”
The BBC provides a concise overview of Guatemala’s history from 1523 to the present. It focuses on the country’s turbulent political past through coups, military dictatorships, rebellion insurgencies, and the progression of the protracted and bloody civil war.
Map showing the places Clark Boyd visited while in Guatemala and surrounding countries.
Benetech.org provides information on a variety of projects currently underway at the Palo Alto, California, nonprofit, as well as opportunities for donation. Company president, Jim Fruchterman maintains a regular blog called “Beneblog,” where he shares the company’s challenges and opportunities in the nonprofit world. His reports include updates on the archival project of La Violencia, the term often used to describe the human rights abuses against the country’s Mayan population during the civil war.
Guatemala Human Rights Commission
Founded in 1982, during a particularly torturous period of the war, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission monitors and exposes human rights abuse in Guatemala, and advocates for survivors of the civil war.
Justice Without Borders
General José Efraín Ríos Montt
Under General Montt’s brief presidency in 1982 and 1983, the Guatemalan government exacted its most brutal campaign against the country’s indigenous populations. Since 2006, Montt has faced extradition to Spain on charges under international law of genocide and war crimes as head of the Guatemalan military during that bloody period. As yet the Guatemalan government has refused to extradite the former dictator who remains a powerful figure in Guatemalan politics. He won back his Congressional seat in the November 2007 elections, which grants him parliamentary immunity from prosecution. This Justice Without Borders video describes the reign of Montt and Amnesty International’s efforts to bring him to trial.
Mayan Indian Rigoberta Menchu (pictured center) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her human rights work on behalf of victims of Guatemala's civil war.
The Nobel Foundation Biography of Rigoberta Menchu
In 1992, Mayan Indian Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Committee of the Peasant Union in resisting the abuses and violence of Guatemala’s civil war. Menchu’s award brought press and public attention to La Violencia. Before that, Menchu narrated the award-winning 1983 documentary, When the Mountains Tremble, in which she describes the loss of family members and comrades in her home region of Quiche to torture and murder at the hands of the Guatemalan military.
Books, Video Reports, and Poetry
Buried Secrets by Victoria Sanford
An anthropologist with a focus on Guatemala and Colombia, Victoria Sanford wrote one of the most detailed books on Guatemala’s civil war. In Buried Secrets, Sanford includes detailed forensic records, and more than 400 testimonials and oral interviews with Mayan survivors of the massacres that were taking place systematically throughout the Guatemalan countryside. Sanford sets out to investigate how the civil war became a perpetrator of genocide, and the important role of these testimonials in the years after the conflict.
Paradise to Ashes by Beatriz Manz
UC Berkeley anthropologist Beatriz Manz studied the remote rainforests of Guatemala for two decades before she wrote this intensely intimate account of Guatemala’s La Violencia. Manz focuses on the village of Santa María Tzejá, near the border with Mexico and writes eloquently about Guatemala's tortured history. The story of this one village -- its birth, destruction, and rebirth -- embodies the forces and conflicts that define the country today.
Anthropologist Beatriz Manz in the Guatemalan village of Santa María Tzejá in 2004.
Guatemala: Toward Justice
The work of Beatriz Manz is also the subject of this moving 2004 FRONTLINE/World Fellows report by U.C. Berkeley graduate Brent McDonald. McDonald follows Manz back to the village of Santa Maria Tzeja in northern Guatemala to recall the vivid memories of villagers and a massacre that took place there at the height of the civil war. In a series of intimate videos, he reveals how the army systematically burned villages and families were divided -- some siding with the guerrilla rebels, and some drafted into the government’s paramilitary groups. Thousands more fled the rampaging violence into refugee camps at the Mexican border. Santa Maria today maintains peace with its own kind of rough justice and healing processes. McDonald’s story concludes at an emotional gathering in the capital where then-president Oscar Berger issues the first public apology by a premier for the atrocities committed by the army during the war.
In 2004, Guatemalan President Oscar Berger issues the first public apology by a premier for the atrocities committed by the Guatemalan army during the war.
Bitter Fruit by Stephen Schlesinger, Stephen Kinzer and John Coatsworth
A 1982 academic classic, Bitter Fruit traces the relationship between the American owned United Fruit Company, the CIA, and the military junta that ruled Guatemala for decades following the 1954 military coup. The book takes on America’s role in Guatemala’s tumultuous civil war, and is written mainly through the aid of declassified government documents and CIA interviews from the era.
After the Bombs, by Arturo Arias
In his novel, After the Bombs, Arturo Arias fictionalizes the early years of Guatemala’s three decades of civil war. Arias traces the life of a young man, Max, after the bombing of Guatemala City in 1954, and the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Jacobo Árbenz. Max grows into adulthood in a country ravaged by terror and instability, and is forced to find a place for himself within the conflict.
Let's Go, by Otto Rene Castillo
Otto Rene Castillo is one of Guatemala's best-known poets. Born in 1936, he became a political activist and poet in the 1950s. With the overthrow of democratically elected President Arbenz in 1954, he went into exile in El Salvador and East Germany, but repeatedly returned to Guatemala to support the resistance movement. In a final return to his homeland in 1967, he joined the Rebel Armed Forces, where he ran the group’s propaganda and education unit. He was soon captured by government forces, and tortured and burned alive with a his comrades. His work was published in English in the volumes Let's Go and Tomorrow Triumphant. Literary critic Margaret Randall wrote of Castillo's work: “His language is simple, direct, but never ordinary. He asks not metaphorical involvement from his reader, but action." Several of his poems are published online [In Spanish].
Guatemala and Mexico: Coffee Country
In this FRONTLINE/World broadcast story from 2003, Reporter Sam Quinones follows a group of gourmet coffee importers who advocate "fair trade" prices as one solution to a glut of cheap coffee flooding the world market. Large-scale coffee growers entering the market from Brazil and Vietnam are threatening the traditional family run farms in the Guatemalan highlands. Many are going out of business because they can no longer compete.
-- Zoe Woodcraft and Jackie Bennion