Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village

Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village

Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village

Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village


TESTIMONY: DEATH OF A GUATEMALAN VILLAGE is an eyewitness account by a Guatemalan primary school teacher detailing one instance of violent conflict between the indigenous Maya people and the army. An accidental clash between the village's "civil patrol" and a Guatemalan army troop leads to the execution or imprisonment of many villagers. Written in clear, direct prose, this account reads like an adventure story while conveying an historical reality.


Friday the 9th of September dawned bright and clear. The air was crystalline after a week of heavy rains. I rose very early that day and unhurriedly gathered a few things in the morral which I used because rucksacks of any color were too dangerous to carry around. Only the army was considered to have the right to use them, and their counterparts, the guerrillas, also carried them. I wrapped a week's used clothing in a plastic bag, next to a few bananas I'd bought from an Indian woman who travels from village to village.

Every Friday, when I returned to town, my children looked into my morral first thing to discover what presents I brought them. For that reason I always carry some sweets and something else for my wife and children, who always awaited my return near the outskirts of town.

I put away my cot and prepared my breakfast. I began eating at seven and by seven-fifteen I set out for the schoolhouse to begin the day's teaching. Friday has always been a happy day for me, full of the anticipation of reuniting with my family in the town, several kilometers from the village.

After our morning hygiene exercises and a quick benediction I began classes as usual. For the past several days I'd been helping the upper grades prepare some observances for Independence Day ceremonies, to be celebrated the following week. Manuelito, the most mischievous boy in the class, asked me to sing the ditty of the "Indito" or little Indian, which goes like this:

A little Indian I saw
as he danced the trot
how well he moved his feet . . .

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