Preserving the Voices of the Genocide in Guatemala

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The Shoah Foundation, created by movie director and producer Steven Spielberg, is now conducting a project to record the oral testimonies of those Mayans who survived the massacres and genocidal policies of the Guatemalan government during Guatemala’s civil war (1960-1996). One of the longest civil wars in history, it is estimated that 250,000 people were slaughtered by either the Guatemalan military, paramilitaries or leftist guerrillas during this period (mostly by the Guatemalan military). The testimonies of those Mayan Indians who survived has been deemed necessary to prevent such a thing from ever happening again in Guatemala, and to preserve for all time the testimony of those for future Guatemalan generations. The testimonies being preserved may also be used in the outside chance that those responsible may someday be prosecuted for their crimes (this seems highly unlikely given the fact that the most infamous of the Guatemalan dictators, Efrain Rios Montt, will never stand trial because he has been declared too old and too infirm to stand trial).

These testimonies should forever be preserved simply because those who had survived may die from old age and natural conditions. The civil war has now been over for 20 years, and many of those who were young at the time are now middle age or old. Sadly, the Guatemalan government does not have the resources to preserve the testimonies and experiences of those who survived the civil war, and so for the Shoah Foundation to do this is a major boost. Besides preserving the oral testimonies of those who survived the Holocaust, the Shoah Foundation has conducted projects to preserve the testimonies of those who survived the Turkish genocide of the Armenians (1915-1921), the Rwandan genocide (1994), and the Japanese massacre of Chinese in Nanking in 1937. This is the first time that the Shoah Foundation is trying to preserve testimonies of a genocide committed in a Latin American country. This effort should be highly commended, and hopefully this project will help Guatemala heal from this horrible nightmare that has scarred a good part of its modern history.

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