The Amnesia of a Defeated Country

Translated  by Marvin Najarro

Without going any farther, there is the defeated country, which if we take into account all the things that happened during the dictatorship, at this point in time, instead of neoliberalism and forgetfulness, society should have opted for the rebuilding of its social fabric, imprisoning those who committed crimes against humanity, and the rebuilding of its infrastructure.   

But instead, it is an emaciated country. The same vulturelike society has dedicated itself to deny the genocide; to denigrate the relatives of the victims of the Internal Armed Conflict; and to see with apathy how the state is dismantled and all its resources looted by those who have taken control of the ballot box, the will of the people and their collective indolence. Because there is nothing better for a criminal clique than a sociedad chambona. 

The testimonies of the survivors of the Internal Armed Conflict are countless. The American nun, Dianna Ortiz survived the tortures of the Guatemalan government during the dictatorship. She was abducted by paramilitaries and taken to a torture center, where she was raped for 24 hours; 110 cigarette burns were counted on her body. The rest of what she lived there cannot be put in written form, it is impossible to repeat it, even imagine it. And she fought all her life denouncing, and recounting the horror that she and the native peoples lived. And like she, there are the complaints of the Ixil women who testified in the genocide trial against Ríos Montt. But society left them alone, pointed an accusing finger at them, judged them, and victimized them again. In this way they evinced the worst of ingratitude because these women experienced these abuses as children. 

There are the hundreds of images captured by journalists showing the tortured bodies of thousands of people, even so society continues to deny the genocide. They even dare to blatantly state that these people themselves sought that kind of violence; who asked them to get into big trouble, they say. Among those killed there are mestizos and indigenous people, but the dictatorship brutality was directed against the native peoples, they wanted to disappear them. That’s the Guatemala that has always believed herself to be European, although the reflection in the mirror tells it otherwise. That’s why they burned their houses, massacred entire villages — those who managed to escape took refuge on the Mexican side of the border while others went further, towards the United States. The stolen lands were given to oligarchic thieves who today are the country’s big landowners. The idea of the return of these communities looks increasingly distant, since many have died in exile.  

 In the Guatemalan capital, when you walk through the streets, it is common to find posters on the walls with photographs of the disappeared, people pass by without noticing them, because they were not related to them. All the evidence of those tragic times has been erased from the educational system, and it is unusually for teachers to talk about this subject with their students, it is very likely that if they do so another colleague will denounce them and lose their job accused of being communists. In universities classrooms the teachers’ effrontery exceeds all limits, they do not speak about the genocide, but when they do it is in favor of dictators. Except for the few who dare to say otherwise, but then they will be regarded as undesirable and the object of suspicion by the other teachers. The students do not ask either, because they are focused on getting a degree, even if they have to pay for it. 

 And of course, there are those who know the history and use it for personal gain. Among them there are notable feminists who wear indigenous clothing when lecturing abroad about the rights of indigenous women; and who are given recognitions, and get all expense paid trips, but who within the country are so racists with these women like the same old fascists. Editors, publishers, communication spaces are all closed to the voices of indigenous women, because for these feminists, indigenous women do not have their own voice or the ability to speak about themselves, or about the problems they face in their communities; only they, the mestizas feminists with college degrees, have the knowledge and the ability to talk about the others. 

Like the feminists — the great left-wing humanists — there are also some former guerrillas who raise funds at international conferences talking about historical memory, money that never goes to indigenous peoples or to the families of the disappeared, it is money that is lost in limbo. Because they live off it, they don’t work; they live off the blood of the fallen. Among them, there are those who say that they deserve a good position in the government, and bend over to the neoliberal governments; there you see them licking the boots of the puppets of the moment. There are the great intellectuals who are unable to write a text if there is no money involved, let alone approach an indigenous community if there are no photos and social networks where the visit of the great thinker is showed. It is one thing to talk about the indigenous people (and make oneself known for the misfortune they suffered) and another to show modesty to go where they live.  

 And there is also the army of progressives, and democratic ones, who are neither from the left nor from the right, those who fight from the comfort of a social network, but when the native peoples come out to demonstrate they hide underneath their beds ashamed of how tiny they are before the dignity of those who under all circumstances are always in the front line. 

We have all been cretins with the relatives of the survivors; we have failed the memory of all those who fought and whose lives were taken for daring to dream of an egalitarian country. Among those people are those of the generation of deliberate amnesia, who were born in those times and have never tried to investigate, or inform themselves about the country’s true history; of its people. We go where the wind blows and the oligarchic mafias handle it with an enormous disinformation machine. Here we all throw stones and hide our hands. 

All this mixed bag of despicable  people  are the ones who have destroyed Guatemala, perhaps the scum of all this contamination is the government, which is what floats up to the surface. And the oligarchies that know that with a makeup we fix everything, in a shabby way, and that we won’t move forward, have everything in their favor. But in the end the rot is all of us, who don’t lift a finger to make things change. Of course, the native peoples are something else; they are the ancient dignity of the country that was once a land of many trees. 

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Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado

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