I hope you understand the spirit of what I wrote, I hope it will be translated word for word, so that it won’t change the sentiment. Sorry if there is any mistake or some words crossed out, but each time I wrote, I became very nervous. If there’s anything you don’t understand, please ask me about it. I noticed that it feels very good to write about my past. I would like to write my story more technically, more orderly, so that it can be understood better, maybe someday I will be able to do it. Thanks for listening and reading my story.
In this moment, I prepare myself to write my story, I try to remember everything possible, I’m going to try to write all that I remember and all that they have told me, it’s my own story— very sad, but my own. It’s a story that never has been told or listened to in its entirety, no one has ever interviewed me. I’m a victim that has maintained his story in silence, and I write it now hoping that those who read it believe all of it, please. I will not write any lie here, and I hope that the translation will be the most accurate possible so that it won’t confuse what I am trying to tell you.
It makes me very sad to remember that I was only five years old, when these wretched men took away from me what I most loved—they took away my father and my mother.We lived in a very humble house in the village of Pamumús (which in Spanish, means place of rainy weather).This village belongs to the municipality of San Juan Comalapa, in the department of Chimaltenango. It was a very humble village. To get to it, you had to walk a lot of time through the mountains. I remember that you had to cross a river where I used to love to play. My life for those first five years was normal. I played, laughed, cried, always had my parents and siblings near me. In my house we had chickens that gave us many eggs, pigs, some cows, and a dog that I played with (we had to leave all the little animals). Then, what I remember is that one day they all left, and I was left only with my sister Luisa—they didn’t tell me where they went. What I remember is that that day they did not return. My family didn’t come back until the following day, but when they did, not everyone that had left returned.We never again saw my mother nor one uncle.
When I grew up, they told me that when they left me in the house with Luisa, they had gone to the graduation of my older sister, Patricia. My sister was going to receive her degree as a teacher in primary education. She studied in the nuns’ boarding school called the Indigenous Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, in Guatemala City. And due to the distance, they hadn’t been able to return to the village, so they stayed at my uncle’s house. Then, the next day, they started walking towards Pamumús, and as they went walking, some men blocked off their path, and without explanation, they took my mother and one uncle.Then they told my siblings and other family members that they should go quickly, without turning around to look, because if they didn’t, the men would kill them. They had to obey the orders of the damned soldiers because they were afraid of being killed, except my brother Pedro, who very bravely told them that they should take him instead of my mother, but they hit him and told him brusquely,‘No.’ I don’t know if they took anyone else. We never again saw my mother. My uncle emigrated, first to the Petén, and then to Mexico, because they were chasing him to kill him.
It’s not easy to remember and write this. Because when one graduates, it’s a reason to be happy and have parties, these tragedies turned off our happiness. I think of how my sister must have felt in this moment—no one could explain why they had taken my little mother, nobody could give us an explication. But the nastiness of these people didn’t end there. I remember, some time had passed, (I don’t remember exactly how long it was). One night, when my mother was no longer with us, they knocked on the door. We were very scared. We lived with a lot of fear ever since they kidnapped my mommy. I remember that one of my brothers opened the door and a man asked for my father. My father came out to see what was going on (note that my father was one of the leaders of the village of Pamumús. He was a very active man, he liked to work for the family and for the village. He had a very strong character, and we had to obey him or he would punish us.) My father spoke for a good amount of time with the men, and afterwards, he spoke with my older brothers and then he went out into the darkness. Like always, they didn’t tell me anything of what was happening.
(When I was old enough, they told me that my father had to leave in a hurry because people were searching for him to kill him, and these men that had come knocking on the door had been sent by the military to kill him. But instead they just told him to disappear to make it look like he had been killed, and there was no other way but for him to escape and leave us to ourselves.)
I try to remember with accuracy how much longer we stayed in the village of Pamumús, but it’s not possible.The only thing I remember is that later, we left, walking in the mountains, but it wasn’t where we always walked, because I remembered well the path that went to San Juan Comalapa (since then I haven’t returned to Pamumús, my siblings have, but I could not return to this place. If I return, it could end up that I remember many things that would make me even more sad). We walked for a long time, carrying the least necessities possible.
Then we arrived at San Juan Comalapa, and we stayed the night in my uncle’s house.The next day, my siblings decided to travel to Antigua, Guatemala, since the School of Our Lady of Mercy had relocated to Antigua, and I stayed with my brother Pedro for some time in my uncle’s house. My uncle loved me very much—I remember that he bought me a pair of shoes, because I didn’t use to wear shoes very much in the village where we lived. But these shoes that he bought me hurt me, because I wasn’t used to wearing shoes. My sister Luisa stayed with my grandmother, she loved her very much, but Luisa didn’t feel good there and, for this reason, she didn’t stay there very long. Then one day my brother Pedro decided that we would go to look for my other siblings.We wanted to be together, so that was how we ended up traveling to Antigua to look for the School of Our Lady of Mercy. When we found my siblings, they had missed seeing us, but we couldn’t all be in this boarding school because it was only for girls. My sister Patricia spoke with the nun that was the director, to see if we could stay there for some time.The director accepted that we would stay for a while.The director helped my sister Patricia find a place where we would all be able to stay, and it was like this that we traveled to the capital and the director brought us to a boarding school called Hogar del Niño (Home of the Boy), that was directed by Italian nuns that took in orphaned boys. So my siblings just left me there. I remember that when they left me they told me they were going to come back, and that they were only going to buy an ice cream. I asked about my parents, of course, I didn’t know what had happened to them, and I cried and cried and cried until I didn’t have the strength to cry. I remember that it was very hard on me, because I couldn’t speak Spanish. I could only speak Kaqchikel and this school was mostly taught by Italian and Colombian nuns, and none of the boys spoke my language either. I remember that I failed the first year in the school, but in this year I learned to speak a bit of Spanish, and the next year I repeated the first year of school and had a Colombian teacher. She was a very good person, like my mother. She even wanted to bring me to her country, but I didn’t want to go because I wanted to be with my siblings, even though I rarely saw them.
Meanwhile, the director of the School of Our Lady of Mercy looked for a place where the rest of my siblings could stay, my two brothers—Pedro and Jorge—stayed in the Indigenous Institute of Santiago which was another boarding school for indigenous boys.What made me the most sad though, was what happened with my youngest sister, Laura.At that time, she was three years old, meaning that at the time my parents disappeared, she was only two years old, and it was she that most needed my mother’s care, she was only a little baby.They found a place called Mather Orphanage in Guatemala City that was directed by nuns. It was hard for them (my sisters) to get accepted to this school given that Laura was very small and needed special care. And Natalia, my other sister, wore the indigenous clothing of San Juan Comalapa, and she didn’t want to take it off. Only by much insisting did they get permission for the girls to stay at this boarding school.What they told me afterwards was that my sister Laura was close to dying because she was so tiny and the treatment and food wasn’t adapted for her and only thanks to God, did she survive. My sister Natalia stayed in this boarding school until she graduated as a skilled accountant, and my little sister Laura, she was only there until sixth grade, since Natalia had graduated and she didn’t want to be there alone. Natalia started studying in the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, but she couldn’t finish. Laura graduated from the School of Our Lady of Mercy as a teacher of primary education, and then began law studies in the University of San Carlos of Guatemala but because of problems, she couldn’t finish. Maybe some day my sisters can continue studying in the university.
My sister Luisa stayed in the School of Our Lady of Mercy until she graduated as a teacher of primary education.Then she continued with her studies in the University Rafael Landívar with a scholarship, and now she’s actually licensed in bilingual intercultural education.
All of us had different experiences in each school that we were at, but I want to refer to the Hogar del Niño where I ended up staying. I was there for six long years. I say six long years because they were not the best years. In the first year I missed my parents very much and I missed my siblings, since they visited me very little and I became very sad and cried a lot. The nuns that cared for me couldn’t understand this, given that they had to care for many more boys and couldn’t care only for me. Moreover, they never told me why we didn’t go back to the village of Pamumús (though it was very humble, we were happy there), why we weren’t with our parents anymore.
I spent many sad moments, for instance, when the rest of the children’s families visited and when they were allowed outings to go to their homes, but nobody visited me and I didn’t have anywhere to go.
I remember especially when I was about ten years old. They brought us to the doctor in the middle of the city—certain ones of us that had problems with our eyes—and on this occasion, we traveled by bus and the nun came with us to care for us, and I was so excited looking at the buildings, the cars, so many people, so many stores, that I didn’t notice when the other kids got off the bus with the nun. I was lost in the city, in a city where I had never been. I cried a lot, I didn’t know what to do. I walked for hours in the streets, until a policeman asked me, ‘Why are you crying?’And I answered that I was lost and that I studied in the school Hogar del Niño. The police gave me one quetzal and left me on a bus, telling the driver that he should leave me at the Hogar del Niño. I rode alongside the driver, but surprise! he told me that we had arrived, and showed that here was the Hogar del Niño. I began to cry and I told him that this wasn’t the Hogar del Niño. The driver gave me some food, since it was already lunch time, and I had no idea where I was.The bus had gone the whole length of the city, and then the driver continued his route and gave me directions that I should get off in the place that he would show me and that there, I would board another bus that had the number 10 on it (what luck that I could read and write).And that’s how I did it.When I got on the bus with the number 10, I felt more lost, since I didn’t know where it was going to stop, but I sat down next to the driver and told him that I wanted to arrive at the Hogar del Niño that was in Zone 7. He told that yes, he knew of the place.The bus took a long time to get to Zone 7 and every minute that passed, I got more scared, since I didn’t know the places that the bus was passing. I felt happy when I saw a market that at the time was called La Samaritana (actually it was called ‘La Económica,’ but it didn’t have any economy) and quickly I signaled the driver that I would get off here. Once I got off, I didn’t know what to do, I was very afraid of what the nuns were going to say to me. I walked and walked each step with more fear and urges to cry. At one point, I thought it was better to just stay lost, when all of a sudden I saw my brother, Pedro. I called him and told him what had happened, but before I could tell him everything, I had already started crying bitterly. He calmed me and brought me to the Hogar del Niño.The nuns were very happy to see me, because I had come back.They hugged me and told me that most of the nuns had gone out to look for me.They asked me to tell them how I got back on my own, but I couldn’t even tell them because I was crying so much. In that moment, I knew that there did exist people that worried about me, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted the love of my parents and my siblings.
This is only one of the things that happened to me, all of my siblings had different experiences. My sister Patricia could not care for six siblings. She started to work as a teacher in primary education, in a village in the municipality of Sumpango. Patricia had to walk a lot to get to the village, and she earned 80 quetzales (about $10) each month, which wasn’t even enough to support her, much less support her six siblings.
We had many sorrows of all types. Another of the things that at the moment didn’t seem very important because I was a small boy that had just barely started to understand the world, was when I started to travel alone to Antigua, one day my brother Jorge arrived to visit me, but only to tell me that I shouldn’t come to Antigua for a while because my sister Patricia had had her baby die, and no one was free to take care of me. I was left thinking a lot about why I had never had the opportunity to see my sister pregnant, and how she almost never visited us, and now even less since the loss of my nephew. It’s very painful to describe all of this, because at this time, I suffered from a lot of things that a normal boy wouldn’t have to suffer, and since this moment, I never again asked for my parents.
I studied six years in the Hogar del Niño, and then I studied in a different boarding school of Italian priests, called the vocational center of San José, and I studied there for three years. In this school, I had to skip the last year due to the fact that I didn’t want to be closed in anymore.
This next part of my story that follows is the part that very few know. Maybe it is the saddest because it was when I was older and could understand more about things, and on one occasion, my brothers Pedro and Jorge (they were studying in their final year in order to graduate as primary school teachers) brought me to the municipality of Sumpango, to a place where a man lived. My brothers were doing their work in Sumpango, and they lived with this man, and I also stayed with him once in a while.This man had a very kind wife and they also had a son. For much time we had many interactions with this family, but I asked myself, who would this man be? I never asked anyone else, just like I didn’t ask anything about what had happened to us in the past, and nobody told me about it. (Now I understand why they didn’t tell me about it.)
Little by little my siblings started to tell me some things, and what they told me caused me much sadness, and I couldn’t believe them. One day, talking with a friend of my siblings, he told me something that I do not forget. This friend told me the man we had been going to visit in Sumpango was my father. I was dumbfounded and didn’t know how to answer him, because my siblings had told me that the soldiers had kidnapped and killed my mother and father. I didn’t tell my siblings what this friend had told me, until one day I told my brother, Jorge. He answered me that it wasn’t true, and that I shouldn’t believe the friend because he was joking. (The truth was that they didn’t want me to know, because then I might tell about it if the soldiers asked us). So I believed my brother more than the friend, because the man that was supposedly my father lived with his wife and son, so it was impossible that he be my father.
Three years passed, (in which my sisters Natalia and Luisa graduated as accountant and teacher, respectively) and during that time, I had the opportunity to go back to the man in Sumpango (I mention this man a lot, but I never knew his name, they only told me that he was a friend). He missed me a lot.The fact was that we always found this man living in a different place. We never found him in the same house, he changed houses constantly, but, well, when I returned to see him this time, he lived out in the fields, very far away from the center of the village. In fact, all the houses that he had lived in had the characteristic of being very far from the village. We always had to walk far, and this time it was very far from the village.The man let us into his humble house and, as usual, he offered us something to eat or to drink. My brother, Pedro spoke for a good while with him in private and then the man gave us a box of tomatoes and other vegetables.We said goodbye, and we left.We were waiting for the bus when in one moment, Pedro broke the silence that had invaded to tell me the following: ‘This man that we come to visit so much is our father.’
(For whoever is reading these lines, I want them to know that in this moment, I spill some tears, I take a rest in order to be able to return to writing. It’s not easy for me to tell about this, I would like to overcome this, but it is very hard for me.)
I stayed completely quiet, because after 10 years, my father ended up to be this man that I had known for about 5 years. I asked myself the following questions: Why doesn’t he live with us? Why did he abandon us? Why didn’t they tell me this when I first met him?
I didn’t know what to say, I took this good man as a person that wanted to help us. (In the course of my life, there have been many people that have extended their hand to us to help us for no reason). I stayed absolutely quiet, I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know whether to start crying or leave running and hug him for the reuniting. But no, I didn’t do anything, nor did I say anything. Pedro didn’t say anything else to me, he just told me that they hadn’t told me before because I was too young, and that I wouldn’t understand. I didn’t protest at all, I didn’t say anything, I was completely confused. I never told anyone this, I didn’t have anyone I could trust that I could tell. During the nights, I thought a lot and cried a lot, I asked myself thousands of questions, like the following: why didn’t my father look for us earlier so that we could be together? Why does my father have another wife and, at that moment, he had three kids with the other wife? Was it possible that my mother also was alive and we just didn’t know where she was? I asked myself thousands of questions, but I didn’t ask them of anyone else. I swallowed everything alone. I lived and continue living always pensive, sad, timid, swallowing all of my problems. I ask my brothers very few things, but when we all get together, sometimes they start to tell about things that happened to us and I take advantage of this to learn about more things from my past, from our past.
I asked myself why my father looked to have another family, and I asked myself if my mother was maybe alive in some place in Guatemala or Mexico. It hurt me a lot that it was hard for me, but it was hard for me to say ‘dad’ to this man, since I had already known him, and had never called him dad. Moreover, I didn’t like that he had another family, because if he didn’t have the other family, he would have been able to live with us. During the trip home, nobody said anything, we all were very pensive. I thought and asked myself,‘When are we going to see him again?’ so that I could have the opportunity to ask the questions that I had always wanted to ask him.
The only person that knows more or less all of this is the woman Lucía, because after the re-meeting, I told her everything. She is the only person that has known how to listen to me. She has given me breath to keep moving forward. I told her how I didn’t feel comfortable calling him ‘dad,’ but that I respected him a lot. (I’m very grateful to Lucía for listening to me and understanding my tears.)
In Guatemala, we celebrate the 17 of June, the Day of the Father. On one occasion, I went to look for my father in the department of Chimaltenango. It was very hard, and I walked a lot, his house was very far away, but in the end I found him. When I arrived, I found his wife and her kids, I entered the very humble house, and they offered me something to drink.Then I asked them about my father, and they told me that he had gone to work out in the fields (I was very sad because it was the Day of the Father and I thought that he didn’t know it.) I asked them where he was working and I went to look for him. I remember that I walked a lot, and I found him picking the crops. Since the crops were very small it was easy to see him. It affected me a lot to see him work, because when I found him, I saw him thoroughly, and I saw him working with a hoe. He worked very slowly. I slowly got closer, until he noticed I was there.
I greeted him, but I couldn’t say Happy Father’s Day! I don’t know why I didn’t say it, I spoke to him and asked him if he could give me a little time to talk with him. He told me that only if it would just be a moment, because the owner of the land didn’t want him to be resting.The only thing I said was that I wanted to know my story, our story. He began telling me the following:
In San Juan Comalapa, there are some very bad people. (My father told me the names of these people that are actually alive, but I couldn’t remember their names.) Some of these people were in love with my mother but since my father married her, they resented my parents. It was so much resentment that these bad people told the soldiers of the government of Rios Montt that my parents were guerrillas and that my sister Patricia was studying with the money that the guerrillas were giving her. It was for this reason that the soldiers had kidnapped my mother. After that some men sent by the army looked for my father to kill him, but thank God these men were not as bad, and they told him that they had been ordered to kill him, but that they knew him and that they knew he didn’t have anything to do with the guerrillas.They gave him the opportunity to go very far away so nothing more was ever known of him, and they went to inform the army that they had killed him and hidden the body. So that was how that same night he left the house and traveled to Escuintla. Sadly, at this time, the soldiers found out about everything, and they found out that my father was in a farm in Escuintla, and that was why he traveled to the Petén. He lived there for quite a while, and for all this time he didn’t know anything of our existence. He knew where we were living, but the soldiers also knew, and they were watching us to see if he would come to us. Afterwards, he made the trip to Sumpango, and that was when my siblings were close to him, but he was already living with another woman and had one child with her (he told me many things that he saw and lived when he was in the Petén, he saw many massacres, and this affected me a lot. Thank God that he was still alive and we were, too.)
My next question was,‘And my mother? What happened to my mother? Is she alive?’ He told me that he found out that the soldiers had killed her and buried her in a clandestine cemetery that was in a military camp in San Juan Comalapa.
I said goodbye with much sadness, and I was very angry with the stupidity of the men who had assumed that my parents were involved with the guerrillas. My parents were humble workers, they didn’t know anything about communism, and for this stupidity, the men changed the destiny of our lives.
Actually in the secret cemetery located in San Juan Comalapa, they are doing exhumations and they have found more than one hundred corpses of people that had been buried in this place.When I went for the first time to this place, I felt very moved to see it. In a pit where some anthropologists were working on the corpses of a group of people that looked like they had been buried alive, and that was what the anthropologists commented. In another pit you could see remains of people that had had the so-called ‘shot of grace’, others were mutilated with the head between their legs. I don’t want to keep mentioning them because the only thing that came to my head was, how did my little mother die? To be able to find the remains of my mother, I had to know how she was dressed the last time we saw her, and the only person who remembered, more or less, was my sister Patricia.We traveled to this place various times with the hope that we would find the remains of my mother. We are sure that her remains would be found in this cemetery because one soldier that was in this place at the time knew my mother and he told us that she had been assassinated there.
I felt very sad when one friend from San Juan Comalapa told me that they had found a giant oven and that one soldier had given testimony that in this giant oven, they burned the people and that all that was left were their ashes.Then I didn’t want to know anymore, because I associated everything with the death of my mother. *
This is what has me so sad. Why, for some stupid reason, did they kill my mother? For some stupidity they disintegrated my family. For some stupidity I lost my language, I lost my culture, we lost our property, because never again did we return to our village. In the end, we lost everything. In reality, it’s for my mother that I cry. She didn’t have to suffer this. I don’t know in what way she died.These people did not have the right to take away the life of my saint mother. She didn’t deserve it.
Sweet, darling mother, wherever you are, I want to tell you that I love you very much and I will never forget you.You know very well that someone will do you justice, I love you so much!
But, thank God, that with all our limitations, all our suffering, and thanks to all the people very far from our family that helped us come out ahead.Thanks to the Maya Educational Foundation that granted me a scholarship, that when I graduate, I have to reimburse, but I think that all is possible.
I hope to graduate as a lawyer and notary in December of 2005, and work for the people with few resources. Because I have been thinking that when we, in some moment in our lives needed help, we didn’t get it because we have scarce resources.
I would like for peace, tranquility, justice and love to reign in Guatemala. I would like all Guatemalans to be equal, and for there to be no discrimination on grounds of race, culture, religion, ethnicity, and ways of thinking. All of this influenced me to study the career of law, because now that I’m in the situation I’m in, I couldn’t study the career that I truly wanted to study, which was architecture. I couldn’t because of the time that the career requires and for the expenses associated with it. I worked on the weekends, from Friday nights, Saturday, and Sunday all day and, if necessary, I work sometimes during the week, but I am happy in my career, because I can help many people.
I’m very content, because I’m forming a relationship with my girlfriend, Ana, she’s waiting for a precious baby.And I will be a responsible father, I don’t want my child to miss the affection of a father, I want my child to be a good person, and when my child grows up, I will tell him of my past so that he can reflect and appreciate life and learn how to respect the rights of everyone in the world. I’m very happy with Ana, because she understands me. She is with me through the good and the bad, she’s hardworking, and I know that she will be a good mother. I love her very much.
I hope that you understand what I have written. I tried to write as coherently as possible, I think that I wrote some things that maybe for some (people) aren’t important, and also some things I have left out. Maybe it is because I forget in the moment, or because maybe someone in that moment would think I was exaggerating. Of course this isn’t my whole story, but if there are any questions over some part that isn’t quite clear, you can ask me about it however you want. I don’t want you to feel embarrassed to ask.This will help me remember things that I’ve forgotten.
Finally, I want to thank you for your humanity and solidarity that you have shown towards the Maya people. I want to thank you for being interested in my life and those of my friends, and like I mentioned in the beginning, no one has ever been interested in my past, in my story. This is the first time that I write my story. Sometimes, someone that hasn’t lived this will think that I’m exaggerating.
I hope you understand me, really understand, since in one moment, I felt that I was in control of what I felt. I felt that I would tell my story with ease and calm, but it’s not like that. (At the group meeting on) the 11th of March, 2005, at 3:00 in the afternoon, I noticed that I hadn’t overcome my feelings. On listening to each story of my companions, I felt very affected and when it was my turn, I felt that I had a knot in my throat and I couldn’t speak. Since then I have been very sad, remembering many things, there are moments when I am alone that I start crying.When I walk to the library, people have seen me crying, and at night I cry regularly. It gives me sorrow to tell this, but someone will think that I exaggerate.The truth is that only the one that has lived these injustices feels it and understands it.
I want to tell you that I cry for the death of my mother, the way that she died, the reason for her death (it’s a stupid, senseless reason). I cry because I can’t give her a Christian burial and that there isn’t a place where I can leave her a bouquet of roses. In conclusion, I cry for the death of my mother.
Thanks for being my friends, for listening to me and understanding my past.This is what happened to me and I don’t wish it on anyone else.