Massacres in the Jungle: Ixcan, Guatemala, 1975-1982

Massacres in the Jungle: Ixcan, Guatemala, 1975-1982

Massacres in the Jungle: Ixcan, Guatemala, 1975-1982

Massacres in the Jungle: Ixcan, Guatemala, 1975-1982

Excerpt

Few places have been more studied by anthropologists than Guatemala. In the distant Indian highlands, careers have been made, theories developed, and classic ethnographies written. In many ways the field has been defined and re-defined in that troubled country. There are, however, few Guatemalan anthropologists; the two most distinguished are Myrna Mack and Ricardo Falla. I have had the privilege of knowing both these extraordinary colleagues and friends for many years. I worked closely with Myrna Mack until she was brutally assassinated by the military on September 11, 1990. I now feel honored to have been asked by Ricardo Falla to write the foreword and the epilogue to this exceptional book, surely to become one of the classic Guatemalan anthropological writings.

Until recently few ordinary Guatemalans had ever heard of the profession of anthropology. In the innumerable press reports since Myrna Mack's assassination three years ago, however, she is always referred to as "la antropóloga Myrna Mack." As a result, anthropology has become an honored, widely known, and admired profession. It has become synonymous with courage, social consciousness, and first-rate scholarship.

Like Myrna, her close friend Ricardo Falla is a remarkable scholar and human being. He is a Jesuit priest and a committed anthropologist whose work presents a challenge to a new generation of concerned social scientists throughout the world. In Massacres in the Jungle , Falla documents a decade of political turmoil in the Ixcán rain forest, culminating with the horrifying massacres of 1982. His copious note taking and rigorous approach--checking and double-checking every detail--result in one of the more careful historical documentations of the tumultuous decades of the 1970s and 1980s in Central America. Few anthropologists could have gained the confidence of the people or the personal commitment to participate and be a witness in the way that Falla did. His documentation is so careful because he wants to accurately convey his country's painful history and, above all, because he cares deeply about the people he is writing about. Falla declares his commitment to the poor and to the Indians along with his contempt for the criminal actions of the military, emphatically condemning when something "is not right." His high ethical standards and exceptional scholarship shine throughout the research.

Falla gathered data for this book through fieldwork in late 1983 and early 1984, mainly in the Mexican Lacandón forest refugee camps. After care-

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