Guatemala, Rebuilding a country in the aftermath of violence

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The Ohio State University

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From the 1960s to 1996, Guatemala endured a violent civil war. After an indigenous group of Mayans decided to overthrow the elites that had been ruling Guatemala for over a century, the government worked with the Guatemalan military to exaggerate the threat against the country and start a brutal protest against all indigenous Guatemalans that lasted 40 years. Over these 40 years, the army forced indigenous Guatemalans to kill each other in order to save their families, murdered over 200,000 Guatemalans, and displaced another 1.5 million Guatemalans.The Guatemalan government and the indigenous Guatemalans signed a peace agreement in 1996, but true resolution still has not been reached in Guatemala. Even though scholars have studied and deemed the conflict both a civil war and genocide due to the atrocities inflicted by the Guatemalan government and army, the perpetrators of the war have not been brought to justice. This research project seeks to assess the collective memory of this violence, or how indigenous Guatemalans narrate what happened. In order to study collective memories in Guatemala today, I spent 6 weeks in the Guatemalan highlands. During this time, I engaged in numerous informal conversations as well as 9 in-depth interviews with indigenous Guatemalans. I also analyzed how individuals' experiences in and exposure to the war shape their thoughts about their country and the war in the aftermath of the conflict. I found that collective memories helped individuals learn about why the war occurred and kept Guatemalans fighting for social justice within their country by having something to believe in.



Guatemala, Collective memory, Cultural trauma, civil war, genocide