On Wednesday October 5th, CCT interrupted our schedule of weekly general meetings to welcome Alejandra Castillo of Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH). During her time with us, Castillo presented CALDH’s view on the future of Guatemalan political activism.
The period between 1960 and 1996 is generally referred to in Guatemala as the “Civil War.” Political activist Alejandra Castillo has devoted herself to challenging this narrative and healing the wounds of what was by all definitions, the genocide of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.
During Castillo’s presentation, she spoke of the importance of “recovering memory” a concept which describes the act of challenging the current Guatemalan national narrative which tries to mask the genocide as simply a period war. According the revisionists, calling the conflict a “Civil War” distracts from the fact that unarmed civilians were targeted murdered in mass by military force. Additionally Castillo, acknowledged how many Guatemalan migrants in the United States fled the genocide, and today, are important contributors to the recovery of this memory. Along with the topic of recovering memory, Castillo offered tips to those whose family members were disappeared by the military during the genocide; suggesting that the CCT community contact the Foundation for Forensic Anthropology of Guatemala (Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala, FAFG) which holds DNA records of victims exhumed from mass graves.
According to Castillo, the struggles which led to the genocide continue to this day, with the Guatemalan government pushing for “mega-developments” which will compromise the ecosystems on which indigenous peoples live and rely. “In the past, the issues were around land use and control of our territory, today the issues are land use, and protection of our territory” Castillo stated. According to the information shared by Castillo, the main difference between the pre and post- war periods is that today indigenous communities are severely crippled, while the government is stronger than ever, with money flowing in from foreign investment.
Indeed, the effects of Guatemalan Civil War and genocide are still being felt, and CCT is proud to participate in trans-national efforts for justice and peace.