We were in Guatemala’s capital for a design project and we came across an fair amount of these bills posted along the capital’s central corridor, mostly in Zona 1. These pertain to the 40,000 “disappeared” persons from their civil war which ended in 1996 and started in 1960.
It’s currently understood that during that time, there were state sanctioned death squads enacted to terrify any opposition movement— violent or non-violent. Unfortunately for the conscious of Americans, and those who enjoy Chiquita Brands or United Fruit Company’s other products, we initiated the steps to this 40 year long conflict beginning with the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état, which toppled democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán. Although, we did remove military funding and training from the country during Carter, reinstated it during Reagan, and nearly removed it completely again with H.W. Bush, it was only after we effectively trained the military in counter insurgency techniques, some of which were being employed simultaneously in Vietnam. The treaty in 1996 supposedly granted amnesty to all those involved and there has yet to be any human rights violations actually brought to trial. One can’t help but hope that a sense of justice will someday bring relief to Guatemaltecos/Chapines.
Aside from this historical calamity, we’re very excited to be working with some new friends two countries south of us in Guatemala City. While I’d imagine it would be easy for Guatemalans to be overshadowed by their last century, it became obvious to us that many people we met were eager to move beyond the past by shaping a new future… More to come later.