Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraain Raios Montt, 1982-1983

Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraain Raios Montt, 1982-1983

Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraain Raios Montt, 1982-1983

Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraain Raios Montt, 1982-1983

Synopsis

"Waging a counterinsurgency war and justified by claims of 'an agreement between Guatemala and God,' Guatemala's Evangelical Protestant military dictator General Rios Montt incited a Mayan holocaust: over just 17 months, some 86,000 mostly Mayan civilians were murdered. Virgini Garrard-Burnett dives into the horrifying, bewildering murk of this episode, the Western hemisphere's worst twentieth-century human rights atrocity. She has delivered the most lucid historical account and analysis we yet possess of what happened and how, of the cultural complexities, personalities,and local and international politics that made this tragedy. Garrard-Burnett asks the hard questions and never flinches from the least comforting answers. Beautifully, movingly, and clearly written and argued, this is a necessary and indispensable book."-- Francisco Goldman, author of The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?"Virginia Garrard-Burnett's Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit is impressively researched and argued, providing the first full examination of the religious dimensions of la violencia - a period of extreme political repression that overwhelmed Guatemala in the 1980s. Garrard-Burnett excavates themyriad ways Christian evangelical imagery and ideals saturated political and ethical discourse that scholars usually treat as secular. This book is one of the finest contributions to our understanding of the violence of the late Cold War period, not just in Guatemala but throughout Latin America."--Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University Drawing on newly-available primary sources including guerrilla documents, evangelical pamphlets, speech transcripts, and declassified US government records, Virginia Garrard-Burnett provides aa fine-grained picture of what happened during the rule of Guatelaman president-by-coup Efrain Rios Montt.She suggests that three decades of war engendered an ideology of violence that cut not only vertically, but also horizontally, across class, cultures, communities, religions, and even families. The book examines the causality and effects of the ideology of violence, but it also explores the long duree of Guatemalan history between 1954 and the late 1970s that made such an ideology possible. More significantly, she contends that self-interest, willful ignorance, and distraction permittedthe human rights tragedies within Guatemala to take place without challenge from the outside world.

Excerpt

I am not a particular fan of postmodern disclosures of personal subjectivity, but it seems unavoidable here, because the writing of this book is in part my effort to sort through a period of Guatemala’s history that intersected with and in many ways has helped to shape my own life. in making this disclosure, I hasten to add that I do not wish in any way to privilege myself in the writing of this history; this is a story about Guatemala and Guatemalans, and not about the beholder and her own myopic gaze. As Colombian historian Marta Zambrano reminds us, however, there is always a double hermeneutic: “historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, ethnohistorians … are subjects of history as much as they are constructors of history, as much as the subjects that they investigate.” There is, then, no way to get around the how and the why of my writing a book that for many years I refused to touch because of my long-held conviction that this story was best told by Guatemalans, not North Americans. I embrace it today only because I have come to believe that this dark period in Guatemala’s history needs as much light cast on it as possible, and that light can come from many directions.

There is today within Guatemala and outside of it a vigorous and evolving historiographical debate about the nature and meaning of the thirty-six-year struggle. At the time, both the Right and the Left framed the motives behind the war within the construct of revolution and counterinsurgency—that is to say, as part of the ongoing narrative of the Cold War. More recent historiography of the period offers a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.