2007-06. Offensive for Remembrance: Where are the Disappeared?
June 22nd, 2007
Guatemala City, Guatemala.
June 21, 2007.
Issue: Impunity / Post-War / Historic Memory
Text: H.I.J.O.S. Guatemala
Photography, Translation and Captions: MiMundo.org
New Guatemala of the Resistance, June 2007
Entrenched in the month of June, we take the streets to demand justice, to shout for the abolition of this impunity which tarnishes our interactions within Guatemalan society to the levels of wrongly mistaken it for a cultural trait.
Entrenched in our legitimate historic right to know where we come from, to know who these great men and women who preceded us are, to find out why they were forcibly disappeared from the face of the earth, who did it, why they did it, and why they unleashed their rage against those children, those older folk, those men and women who, for a while now, have been calling us with echoes of dignity and justice.
Entrenched in our shout for memory, truth and justice, we come out in this new month of June, with the hope that within and through our struggle, they will never die. We come out once again in an Offensive for Remembrance and invite you to join us in this shout for those forcibly disappeared.
Who were they? Why were they disappeared? Who disappeared them? What was their disappearance worth? For whom? These and many other similar questions are the ones we, as H.I.J.O.S. [the sons and daughters of the forcibly disappeared], ask ourselves every day, every time we walk into our office and see their photographs, when we visit our living parents and the pain of absence still strikes us from their stares… or when there are no fathers or mothers to visit because everything is absence. Whose absence? When we paint and draw in sheets, when we attend a march, when in a moment of distraction we find ourselves in the streets surrounded by inequality and misery, we ask ourselves, where are the disappeared?
And you esteemed colleague… Do you wonder about them? Do you also refuse to forget? Do you also wonder why?
The time has come for us to find our shared history together, to answer the questions which we have in common, to shout the names of our loved ones, to recall their absence and to give hope a face.
Let us not allow our history or any of them die without first giving their silenced voice a chance to be heard.
We Don’t Forget.
We Don’t Forgive.
We Don’t Reconcile.
“The State, through the application of its National Security Doctrine (DSN), considered the labor union movement as part of the insurgency.” (1)
“On June 21st and August 24th 1980, Guatemalan federal agents belonging to police and military forces, captured and forcibly disappeared 43 labor union leaders and members of the University of San Carlos’ (USAC) School for Labor Union Orientation, in direct violation of their civil liberty rights, and ultimately, their right to life.” (2)
Particularly as of June 21st, 1980, violence escalated. Guatemalan society lived under a state of terror and workers were afraid to congregate freely.” (3) It was on that day when federal agents forcibly detained and ultimately disappeared the 27 directors of the National Workers Central (CNT), considered “the nucleus of labor union activity and the organization with the most members during the 1970’s.” (4)
27 years after that tragic June 21st, which undoubtedly changed the course of Guatemalan society in an irreversible manner, the National Day Against Forced Disappearances is commemorated.
It is estimated that roughly 45,000 people were forcibly detained-disappeared by Guatemalan state forces during the internal conflict.
Several social organizations, particularly those whose members are made up of family of those detained-disappeared, displayed a number of photographs and offerings to their loved ones in the Capital City’s Central Park. The Presidential Palace can be seen in the background.
During the evening, the organization H.I.J.O.S., an acronym meaning Sons which stands for Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice and against Forgetfulness and Silence, carried out an open forum focused on forced disappearances at the famed Bodeguita del Centro. Guest speakers and participants alike valiantly shared their personal stories which associate them to this day. Nevertheless, despite the poignant intensity felt inside the room, sentiments of strength and inspiration prevailed.
The legendary Alfonso Bauer Paiz, true essence of living history who served as Minister of Economy during the government of Juan José Arévalo, as Director of the Agrarian National Bank during the government of Jacobo Arbenz, and also miraculously survived two assassination attempts in 1970, recals: “They wanted me dead because I denounced the harmful and ominous nickel mining license which was granted to [the Canadian company] EXMIBAL [in El Estor, Izabal]… This cost the lives of fellow lawyers Julio Camey Herrera and Adolfo Mijandros.”
Nearly forty years after, the same mine continues to stir severe social conflicts within Guatemala. For more information regarding this issue, click here.
Wendy Méndez (left), founding member of H.I.J.O.S., shared her shockingly moving personal story. At the age of 9, federal agents forced her to watch as they tortured her mother and ultimately detained-disappeared her. “One of the things which affect me the most is not having a place to take her flowers. I don’t know what her final destination has been. It’s a story without an end. Like a badly made film without an end. It’s not that we did not like the ending. It did not end! Until we find the disappeared, they will remain in their hands. The crime continues. She is still being forcibly disappeared today. My last image of her remains her detention. And this is so because there hasn’t been any justice. Those responsible are still at large, free, enjoying their families, and grandchildren. That is something they took from me.”
“The best way to remember and commemorate them is to continue the struggle. The struggle they set in motion is a just and dignified one which is relevant to the present we are living in, and it is our duty to make sure all that terror and genocide carried out against our people was not in vain” concludes Wendy. The Flag reads: Prohibited to Forget
“…We scream with urban leaflets the names of our loved ones so as to exterminate the amnesia of the genocidal and betraying army. Because we do not forget, we exist and are proud to be the children of the rebels, the condemned poets, the insurgent painters, and the sculptors of political transformations. We are the clandestine children of this damned system, the sons and daughters of the disappeared.” (5)
(Photograph taken on the corner of 10th avenue and 10th street, Zone 1; October 2004.)
Versión en Español aquí.
In Japanese: 日本語で。
1 Report from the Historic Clarification Commission (CEH), Annex I: Illustrative Cases, Volume I. Illustrative Case No. 51: The forced disappearance of members of the National Workers Central (CNT) in Guatemala City and in the ranch “Emaús Medio Monte”. P. 184
2 Ibid. P. 189.
4 Ibid. P. 186. The CEH indicates ther number of exact victims is in doubt. The CEH, however, has identified 27 victims.
5 Text from H.I.J.O.S. which appears on the cover of the program handed out during the Forum on the Forcibly Disappeared titled: Offensive for the Remembrance: Where are the Disappeared?