The second day in Guatemala has revealed more delicious food, great architecture, wonderful people, but also a history of injustices and atrocities. Learning more about the history of Guatemala through a university professor that we met with, Profesor Victor, gave me more of a context of how conflict started and how Guatemala is among the many countries affected by capitalism and the interests of greater powers, like the US. As the professor explained, conflict did not start with the colonization of Guatemala, rather conflict was already a present between indigenous groups that fought for land. Conflict has always been present, as it is in households or any relationship between people, because of differences in ideas or thinking. But differences in ideas and thinking is something that should be encouraged because it challenges norms and inspires change, and change is a good thing. So why do situations not change? Why is there still conflict in Guatemala and why are people still being oppressed? As an activist group that we met with, H.I.J.O.S. let us know, people are still being disappeared, taken from the street and never heard from again, incarcerated. And as Profesor Victor told us, it is because of a culture that was inherited from the war; a culture of fear and silence.
Walking around Guatemala City and seeing the graffiti art that H.I.J.O.S does as a way of protest was a tangible way to connect the theories of resistance and the history. For them, the graffiti art is a way to reclaim spaces, to remember the past, and to not be afraid of speaking the truth. Both the talk with Profesor Victor and H.I.J.O.S. was empowering to me because they both gave a similar message that resistance is needed and can be done in different ways. For Profesor Victor, teaching his students the history of Guatemala, including the real facts about the war, is his way of recovering history and resisting those that say to forget and move on. For H.I.J.O.S., their graffiti art and mass protests are a peaceful way of recovering the past, reclaiming spaces, and also resisting to forget and move on. I could see how Profesor Victor and H.I.J.O.S surpassed their fear and decided to continue the struggle for equality in Guatemala while also trying to educate people about the war and inspiring others to overcome the culture of fear.
After watching the film When the Mountains Tremble, the reason a culture of fear exists was apparent. Starting with the terrible living conditions in both rural and urban areas that was supported by US industries, it was apparent why guerillas began, why the indigenous population decided to support and join them, and why rebellion became so needed in the cities. The atrocities the military did during the war, especially in the countryside, supported through US economic and military aid made me understand why H.I.J.O.S. and other activist groups are still present. Their rejection of returning to normality after the war and their resistance to forgiveness of what happened is for a reason, a reason that I could see when I saw the four walls of their office covered in portraits of people that are still missing. I know that in the coming days I will keep seeing more forms and reasons of resistance that will reflect the consequences of the war and am excited to keep being empowered by it.