2009-06. From Memory to Resistance: 10th Anniversary of HIJOS
July 3rd, 2009
June 30th, 2009.
Issues: Impunity / Postwar / Historic MemoryFor the second consecutive year, the armed forces did not parade through the historic center of the Guatemalan capital on a June 30th – officially celebrated as Armed Forces Day. Since last year, the HIJOS collective achieved one of its original goals set during their beginnings in 1999: to permanently bring to a halt the military parade.HIJOS means “children” in Spanish and it is also an acronym for: Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice, against Forgetfulness and Silence. For more information, please view and read the following photo-essays: The March for Remembrance Halts the Military Parade (June 30, 2007) and Never Again a Military Parade (June 30, 2008).Hundreds of demonstrators from diverse social sectors joined in a protest march that formed part of the From Memory to Resistance campaign. The event completely replaced the long-running military parade. The march began in Jocotenango Park (formerly Morazan Park in Zone 2) and finished in the Central Park of Zone 1. After the march, an urban art and historic memory festival was held.Living-legend Alfonso Bauer Paiz joined the march for the fourth year running.
The following stop, deemed “Heroes and Martyrs”, took place in front of the offices of the Association for the Advancement for the Social Sciences in Guatemala (AVANCSO). This organization was co-founded in 1986 by Myrna Mack Chang (left in photograph), a Guatemalan anthropologist murdered on September 11th, 1990, as she left the former headquarters of AVANCSO. Mack Chang was the target of a special intelligence operation carried out by members of the Estado Mayor Presidencial (a secret service equivalent).
It was “in the garage of San Sebastian Church’s parochial house where Monsignor Juan Jose Gerardi Conodera, former Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Guatemala, was brutally murdered on April 26, 1998. Two days earlier, Monsignor Gerardi had presented the Recuperation of Historic Memory (REMHI) report: Guatemala Never Again. A compilation of testimonies and other documents, the REMHI report relates the atrocities carried out mostly against indigenous poor civilians during the 36-year internal conflict which left over 200,000 mortal victims.” (1)
For more information on the Gerardi case, please view and read the photo-essay: Monsignor Gerardi, 10 years of Martyrdom.
Next stop was named “Martyr Students” and it took place along 6th Avenue, in Zone 1, on the site where Oliverio Castañeda de León was murdered on October 20th, 1978. Castañeda de León, former University of San Carlos student body president, was brutally shot down by undercover police agents during an event commemorating the anniversary of the Revolution of 1944.
“They can massacre the leaders, but while the People remain, there will be revolution” – famous last words from Castañeda de Leon’s speech given at the Central Park just moments before he was shot to death.
Within the From Memory to Resistance campaign, the HIJOS collective painted a new mural in Zone 1. An image of this mural (provided to HIJOS by MiMundo.org) served as the background for the campaign’s poster used to publicize the events carried out in June 2009. Furthermore, the collective issued the following communiqué:
According to our interpretation of the HISTORY and the MEMORY of the resistance of the People, we understand JUSTICE as a historical demand of the grassroots struggle for dignity, sovereignty and self-determination. This is a struggle that is unknown to, or manipulated and repressed by, the groups that today battle for the power of a State at the service of the interests of the national bourgeoisie and transnational capital.
Military personnel, oligarchs, demagogues, and opportunists have passed through all branches of government no matter the party in office. All, without exception, have resorted to the international economic agenda of imposing a neoliberal project, supported by a realignment of national and international military forces. To them, it is essential to “give back to the troops” an “honor” that they have never deserved, in addition to providing them with all kinds of military and symbolic weapons to confront “emerging threats” that form part the discourse.
The impunity in which the crimes against humanity and genocide remain, guarantee the return of the methods and practices of State Terrorism. Examples are the extrajudicial execution of Mario Caal Bolom, the illegal capture and political imprisonment of Ramiro Choc, in addition to dozens of peasant leaders throughout the country.
Such agenda can also be seen through the forced disappearances of Héctor Reyes and Oscar Duarte, as well as in the dozens of brutal land evictions that have resulted in deaths, forced disappearances, human displacements and political prisoners throughout the country. Such evictions have occurred in the landholdings or communities of Nueva Linda, El Corozo, Alta Verapaz, El Estor, Laguna del Tigre, Coatepeque, and Livingston, among others.
Following this pattern, we have been witnesses to transnational imposition and territorial reoccupation carried out by the Guatemalan Army. This has happened through the imposition of several orders of Martial Law, the creation of the “Combined Forces” (joint Police and Military forces that have not resulted in the diminution of daily violence), the budgeting of 150 million Quetzales to the Ministry of Defense and the opening of new military bases such as those in San Marcos, Ixcan, the Ixil Region, Rabinal, and Transversal Northern Corridor, among others.
These were announced in the months of May and June, and coincide with places where community consultations and local organizing have begun resisting corporate imposition. Likewise, we are witnesses to the forced reorganization of land and people, imposed by the State and private companies, with the aim of extracting natural resources for their use in the free market system.
It is not a coincidence that the Army and National Police Force receive large donations and military advice under the Plan Merida agreement. Such accord has been amply pointed out by Latin American social organizations as a new Plan Colombia, adapted for Mexico and Central America, which will include the reactivation of paramilitary indoctrination schools.
All of these acts and alliances with reactionary sectors clearly signal the strengthening of military power in the country, a power that is reflected in the refusal by the General Defense Staff to comply with the order from the Constitutional Court to release counterinsurgent plans carried out in 1982 and 1983.
For us, the sons and daughters, the heirs and heiresses of the memories of the struggle, military impunity is a reality that must be stopped permanently. The demilitarization of the communities that defend their natural resources and territory is a struggle that requires unity, permanent mobilization and aggressive action in the urban streets and rural fields – everyone elbow to elbow.
The documents that have been found so far in the Historical Archive of the National Police, and their clear relation to the information contained in the Military Archive, prove what the military high command and reactionary governments have denied: OUR FATHERS, MOTHERS, FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS WERE ILLEGALLY DETAINED, INTERROGATED, TORTURED, FORCIBLY DISAPPEARED OR WERE EXECUTED EXTRAJUDICIALLY by the GUATEMALAN STATE, as part of a repressive policy that received support and financing from the national oligarchy and several United States administrations.
The path from Memory to Resistance has been carved by the thousands of men and women who walked and occupied the plazas while carrying the memory of loved ones on their backs. It is the result of numerous persecutions and threats, tear gas and illegal raids. It is the result of strength, certainty and hope. The result of courage to point out the responsible ones, here and in Spain, to seek them out in their military barracks, and to confront them every June 30th until their parade of impunity through the historical centre was halted once and for all.
The memory of the struggle to seek justice for the forcibly detained-disappeared, that struggle which took mothers, sisters and wives to confront the dictatorships, as well as the urgency to find our mothers and fathers, led us to reconstruct their lives and discover their unbreakable example in each year of their absence.
For this we celebrate the strength, the moral integrity, and above all the spirited example of those who refused to be subjected to slavery, of those who resisted Yankee aggression, of those who rebelled against cassocks and generals, of those who have wielded rifles and carnations. Today we harvest the hope that these men and women planted many years before.
In this manner, little by little, the official “history” crumbles. It succumbs before the truth – written in rotting and moldy documents that cry for justice and urge us to take the streets so that we strengthen the struggle for dignity. After all, the mother who we lost once walked together with the father and sister of anyone of us, handing out flyers at the Trebol, organizing a rally in Escuintla, in San Marcos, in Quiché, or in any of the other corners of this country where thousands of unforgettable campesinos, students of the University of San Carlos and workers fell.
No! Generals, No! Our dead and disappeared are not in Europe, they are not in Canada, they are not in Cuba. They are here, underneath the military barracks, the plantations, the police stations. There, where you left them in an attempt to erase them from the memory of the people. But, slowly, the revolutionary legacy of our men and women comes closer to shake us up.
Little by little, one by one, the generals will disappear from the history of the People and will drag away with them the mafias that maintain the white-gloved business-people who murder and plunder. “We don’t want to shake their hands, we don’t want them as ambassadors, nor do we want them at home in peace… we want to see them here, JUDGED” as the great enemies of the people that they are.
This June 30th we call on: all the Guatemalan People, all progressive sectors, national and international social organizations, the international solidarity community, and honorable revolutionaries, to join us so that together we can unmask and fight the ENEMY who, together with its troops of forgetfulness and generals of silence, seek to erase the memory of the struggle and the historic claims that the People have maintained as resistance against the economic interests that threaten their future.
Members of the Justice For Nueva Linda Committee came from Retalhuleu to join in the events.
For more information on the Nueva Linda Case, please click here to view previous photo-essays.
Mr. Alfonso Bauer Paiz took advantage of the stage to express his disapproval for the militarism that continues to haunt the region: “Screw those military traitors [that deposed democratically-elected President Zelaya] in Honduras! Around here we have one who calls himself a ‘Patriot’. We hope no one follows his abominable example.”
For more information:
Video “Golpe (Todos Somos Hijos)” by Chicago-based Hip-Hop group Rebel Diaz that includes footage from the June 30th event in Guatemala City.
Versión en español aquí.
1 González, Mariano. “Las muertes de Monseñor Juan Gerardi: Ensayo sobre la batalla en torno a la memoria del Obispo”. Guatemala, April 29, 2008