What War? Testimonies of Maya Survivors
“I am a survivor of the Guatemala civil war.”
In 2004, Laurie Levinger left her home in Vermont for Guatemala where she planned to teach English to Maya university students. But on the first day of class, Levinger became the student instead of the teacher when a young man named Fernando introduced himself by saying “My father was killed when I was four months old. I am a survivor of the Guatemala civil war.”
Shocked, Levinger’s first thought was “What war?”
Beginning in 1960, fighting between the Guatemalan military and guerrilla fighters raged across the country. By 1980, this violence-which began with a CIA-backed coup and efforts by the United Fruit Company to protect its financial interests-turned into the massacre of Maya people throughout Guatemala. By the time peace accords were signed in 1996, over 200,000 people had been murdered or “disappeared” and hundreds of thousands more forced into exile by their own government.
Levinger’s students had been young children when these atrocities were committed. Many lost their parents. Many had relatives who “disappeared.” All had suffered the loss of their culture, their family ties, their sense of safety, their personal identities.
As a clinical social worker, Levinger believes in the importance of bearing witness, of speaking the unspeakable out loud. After her initial trip, she returned to Guatemala, this time with a tape recorder and a mission: to record the testimonies of her students, to document their enduring love for their Maya culture, and to honor their unflagging search for truth.
In What War? Testimonies of Maya Survivors, Levinger brings us stories, told in the spare and eloquent language of truth-tellers, reminding us all that the true cost of war is borne by the survivors. And so is the hope for peace.
GHRC is featuring Laurie Levinger’s What War? to kick off our new book of the month series. We offer several titles for sale focused on different aspects of human rights in Guatemala. What War? which has been published in English and Spanish, in Guatemala and in the US, is a crucial and timely look at the importance of historical memory for the healing of Guatemala’s victims of its internal armed conflict. Your purchase of this book benefits GHRC’s work to support victims and survivors of human rights abuses in Guatemala.
Host a Speaker with GHRC this April
Do you live in Washington, Oregon or California? Are you looking for ways to support human rights in Guatemala?
Host Iduvina Hernandez, Guatemalan journalist and human rights activist to speak at your school, place of worship, or other venue, starting April 23. Iduvina will discuss Militarization and Threats to Justice in Guatemala.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
GHRC is Celebrating its 30th Anniversary!
2012 marks 30 years since Sister Alice Zachmann registered the Guatemala Human Rights Commission as a non-profit, and we’re celebrating all year. Watch for tidbits about GHRC’s history on Facebook and stay tuned for information about how you can get involved in celebrating this milestone. Mark your calendars for a special event in Washington, DC on September 27th.
Connect with GHRC
Here at GHRC, we’re always looking for new ways to educate and mobilize. There are all sorts of ways to connect with us online: Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter; and check out our new blog. Join our listserv to receive regular news and updates. Finally we’re excited to announce the imminent launch of our new website. Prefer not to use the internet? Don’t worry. GHRC will still be sending out El Quetzal and other updates by mail.
Apply For GHRC’s Voiceless Speak Fund
Since 1987, the Voiceless Speak Fund has empowered Guatemalans with personal knowledge of human rights violations in Guatemala to share their experiences and raise awareness among people in the United States. The Fund provides direct assistance to Guatemalans in the US who are in financial need and are engaged in Guatemala human rights work, or have demonstrated an ability and desire to do such work. For more information, visit our website. Applications are due June 30, 2012.