When we first heard about Denese Becker, we knew hers was a story that had to be told. Denese was a thoroughly Americanized refugee from Guatemala, living the life of an ordinary Midwestern housewife and mother — raising two children, married to a K-Mart manager, working in a beauty salon. But she also had an extraordinary story to tell as the survivor of one of hundreds of brutal massacres carried out during Guatemala’s civil war. Even in her adopted hometown in Iowa, Denese had never spoken openly of these terrible memories, and now she was ready to tell her story publicly.
As journalists who had covered the Guatemalan conflict in the early 1980s when Denese’s parents died, we knew first hand of the political violence that had claimed so many innocent lives, and still plagued Guatemala even after a peace treaty was signed in 1996. We also knew that few Americans were aware of this shameful chapter in U.S. history. It began with a 1954 CIA coup that overthrew Guatemala’s elected government, and continued with U.S. support for a series of military leaders, including those responsible for the massacres.
We hope that viewers who follow Denese’s journey in this film experience their own voyage of discovery. Some of you may learn for the first time about
the events in Guatemala. Others may be familiar with the history of U.S. intervention in Guatemala and other Latin American countries, where the United States has all too often supported repressive governments.
We hope that all of you will be led by this film to ask some difficult questions, and to begin to explore some possible answers: how could the crimes of war that left some 200,000 civilians dead have gone virtually ignored by the rest of the world? What should be our role as Americans today, when human rights violations continue in Guatemala, and those responsible go unpunished? And what is the responsibility of the international community vis-a-vis past crimes of war?
Although this is a film about Guatemala, these same questions can be asked about other conflicts around the world — from Bosnia to Ruanda to Sri Lanka. And as we think about Iraq, Americans will have to face a reality that Denese’s story so poignantly illustrates: that the wounds of war do not heal when the bombing stops. Refugees from global conflicts have resettled in communities across America; we hope that this film might encourage viewers to learn more about the stories of these new neighbors from foreign lands.
— Patricia Flynn, Producer/Director and Mary Jo McConahay, Co-Producer