When I was a year old, my dad died – I never knew him – because of the war that happened there in my village, in Chajul, in Quiché. My mom was left a widow. There’s four of us in my family. A sister and two brothers, I make four, my mom makes five. We lived in one house but my mom never, never got married when my dad died and this was a hard thing for me because I never knew my father.
Thus it was horrible, it was terrible, I didn’t know my dad, only in photos, there were photos of him. It was really terrible and it affected me psychologically. So sometimes the kids would look at their dads, my friends, the neighbors, when their dads came home and they’d all run out, “Dad, Dad!” and hug him… I asked my mother why I didn’t have a dad and little by little my mother began to explain because I wanted to have a dad.
Sometimes when I’d ask her about it she’d start to cry. I had my uncle, I called him dad, and he also, thanks to him he helped me get beyond it, what I was missing, what was empty inside me and that’s why.
Then, my dad was a patrolman because back then everyone had to go patrolling, they had to travel a lot. So it was because of how they terrorized my dad that he died. Little by little, according to my mom, he was really, really thin and he was frightened and afraid. It killed him. My dad died. Of fear.
I have an uncle that the soldiers took him away and also my other uncle, the guerrillas took him away. Like that, he disappeared, we never saw him anymore. And I don’t know if he’s alive, still alive, or if he’s already dead. Two uncles. One they took to the soldiers, the other they took to the guerrillas.
I even have a friend that can’t forget where his father died. We were around eight years old already (or he was eight, and he’s older than me) and his father, the soldiers grabbed his father in an apple tree and burned him, still alive, in front of him. So then he also, psychologically… it’s affected people there, they’re very scared because of the war that happened. But little by little they’re moving on, moving on.
It was terrible because my mom’s told me that sometimes people were just thrown in the streets, with no head. And the soldiers even also sometimes the guerillas arrived in the village and if you had… if someone had contact with the soldiers, they’d kill him, just as the soldiers would kill if someone had contact with the guerrillas. The soldiers were killing people in the village, sometimes with machetes. There were people, already dead, but with no head, no arms, no legs. The soldiers damaged my family because it was very hard and still sometimes people today don’t forget– at least I don’t forget either, really– because the war marked me with that memory. There are still people in my village that when someone, when a person comes to the village they hide because they’re still afraid because of the war.
There is still a great deal of pain… when someone sees that something happened and hides. At least in my town that still exists. If you travel, you arrive in my town, in a village, the children sometimes now they don’t do it but the old people: “Who is he?” They hide. They’re afraid, because of the war. Maybe it was because Chajul isn’t developed economically and intellectually because… they couldn’t study, there weren’t schools there, there weren’t classes, they didn’t have classes and the soldiers came but they burned the schools even in the church as well. There’s a movie called Cuando las montañas tiemblan (When the Mountains Tremble) I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but this is very interesting.
The memories are still there and there are even men who, whether they were guerrillas or soldiers, they… they hit hard. That is, they’re hard, they don’t think that there’s a person there, and I’ll leave it at that. There are still people like that, hardened. Because of the same thing, from the war that caused everything.
When the war ended other problems came too, like the gangs, the people who assault, and here in Guatemala there’s a lot of that. That is, there in my village the war is all calmed down. Well, thank God the children now are being educated, there’s a difference from before. Before we couldn’t study, at least for me when I grew up. I only spoke my language and the classes they gave us were in Spanish and I didn’t understand anything. I didn’t learn Spanish until I was 12 or 14. I only spoke Ixil. But later I learned Spanish, I spoke Spanish, but very little. I understood it but I couldn’t express myself. I still – exactly – I still have a hard time now as well.
When I grew up I knew how to understand (what had happened) and now thank God I have struggled to surpass it. I work, I work and study, I work to pay my school fees. I study on weekends and sometimes at night, though it’s also thanks to many projects just like what you’ve done. And well, thank God, really, that there was the peace signing. Now… we are… maybe we’re not at peace because there are always wars, there are always thieves. In reality Guatemala sometimes needs help, just like other countries.
I’m studying business administration. My vision is to give my people jobs, people in my village, to start a business. They grow coffee, cardamom, green beans, so I want to make an association to be able to export coffees and have a business in the village to give people there jobs, because we are farmers. I am a farmer, I work the earth and I know how to work well. That’s my vision. I… God willing, I graduate this year.
When I have children I will tell them how I lived. That is… tell them something about my father and have them understand that you have to appreciate yourself. But I won’t go into great depth because maybe, from my point of view, it would hurt them, maybe, their minds. But yes, I’d tell them what I went through and what happened: just like my mother told me, I also have to tell my children.