Carlos’s son

I’m the son of Carlos,  I am 25 years old, and I’m from Patzun, Chimaltenango. I want to talk with you about the history of the conflict here, I know what you’re speaking of this conflict, that lasted 36 years, ending in 1996.Many people, many people were murdered, were affected by this problem. My family, but not only my family, many people from my town, have many problems about all of this even though this conflict happened many years ago.

I was born in 1980, and the years of 1982 – 86, maybe this is the worst part of this war. All of the country, but the most part is in the Atitlan, the K’iche, mainly Chimaltenago. The majority of the Maya communities, Maya people, these are the people affected.

I was young, I didn’t know why the war was happening. Now I still don’t understand, I know there were political problems in the country, the history, but I don’t understand why it happened so much, all that happened to the people, I don’t understand what it had to do with us. With the people. This is what I don’t understand.

Many people didn’t understand, many people can’t read or write. They didn’t learn how.  Many people are only fathers, mothers and farmers. They were very poor, these people didn’t understand about politics, and many people died, and never knew why. The problem is that Guatemala is a country with many problems, one problem is that many people, they think that the Mayan people are inferior, and the political problems are one justification to kill many Mayas. Another justification – the ending of communism, of communism that the attributed to the indigenous people. It was only a pretext to kill them.

Were the people in the mountains supporting the guerilla?

Ah, the guerilla. No, the people of the villages they are scared.

Of the guerillas?

No, of the guerrillas and the army. Many people, many people became guerillas because they saw that the army was killing the people. So, what do you do? If you see that they are killing people? And of course, the guerillas don’t do anything to you, we are like friends, the thing is, many people or, that is… that in this moment. That, in this moment, I don’t know, it’s for defense, it’s because of looking for someone to help you, but I would say that many many of the people didn’t know the difference between which were the guerillas, and which were the army. Really, I didn’t sympathize with any of them.

So they didn’t understand what was happening. So here’s the army and here’s the guerillas, and the people are in between?

Yes, and the army said, “You are guerilleros. you tell me where  the base of the guerillas is” and the people don’t know. There were many massacres. Everyone in many towns were killed. This didn’t happen in the town of Patzun but in the other villages.

I was five years old in 1985, I don’t remember much. My mother and my father never tell me about this, but I see… and in this moment, I don’t understand what was happening.

What do you remember?

I remember discussions, conversations, talk about, I don’t know… one time, my grandpa talk with my mother, father, and my uncles. And he said he had two people that worked for him and one time these two persons turned up dead. They died. He said that it was the army. I don’t …. I remember he said that the people had two knives, machetes, to work. Yes, yes, and the persons..these two people turned up dead, and they had two machetes that were for working, planting. These two machetes, they grabbed them, and when they had killed them, they had the…

Here…draw a picture.

This is machete, and and whoever killed them did this with the two machetes. They made a cross. I don’t know, to me, this is ironic, it’s like making fun of the people that died. Because they grabbed the machetes and formed a cross. I saw many troubles in Patzun. I remember my father talk about this, my grandma told me one time, that we were in the house with my grandmother, and with my two siblings, or, only one brother was there then, and she told us that we should go. And she said go away, go and hide ourselves. I hear airplanes.

Later, she told us that about two kilometers away from the house, there had been a battle between the guerillas and the army. Many people died in this time. There weren’t bombs, there were machine guns, the army of the Guatemala doesn’t have bombs, and I remember this occasion, many times.
Where did you go when you ran away with your grandmother and your sister?
With the neighbors, with other people. And many many nights the same thing happened. So then, they said, “come, let’s go sleep in other houses”.
Were they were looking for your family in particular?
Yes, my family, other families, many families. I don’t know if it’s true, but the people were saying that my father is guerillero. The people said that my father was a guerilla, the same as other uncles, but my father wasn’t. My father worked with…my father was a nurse. He worked in the health center. And later, he worked in the university of Landivar. He worked in this place, and the work is to visit the people in the communities because they gave them support from the institution. Maybe these travels to the communities was interpreted as though he was going around talking, I don’t know, about things…I didn’t see that my father was killed. My father was disappeared. I don’t have one grave to cry for him. I don’t have… I don’t know where is my father. In Patzun, you remember I told you that one month ago they started exhumations at the military base in town.  Many people think that in this place the remains of dead people exist, but one week ago, some brothers were working there, and they didn’t find anything. But they only searched small pieces of the area. They are not going to continue to work. They searched only a small part of all, of all of it, and in this place, they didn’t find anything.
But, the base of the army is bigger, and I know many many people think that yes, there are bodies there, but in the place where they searched, there aren’t.
Did people in the villages know where the graves are?
No, no, but I think they suspect. In this year, this place, there is a church, in this part, you don’t see inside this place. The people that entered, many times they never left. But, well, the people that died there, inside, or the people that entered the inside, never could tell where it was, but all the people are sure that there were acts like this there. And the work they pursued, they were there for one week, working in this small piece of the whole military base.
So when you were 5 years old one day your father just didn’t come home?
Yes, only my father disappeared. He didn’t disappear in Patzun. I told you my family was searched, persecuted. My family went into hiding, first in Patzun, in other houses, and we also went to Guatemala City, to run away for a time. My father ran there for a while, too. Sometimes for one week, sometimes a month, sometimes from moment to moment. Here in Patzun, and outside Patzun.
My father disappeared in Guatemala City. He was working when he disappeared. This day my father he was with his brother-in- law, husband of my aunt and two other people. In this occasion, the four people disappeared. One month after, another of my uncles did too. He lived in Patzun, and the army looked for him in his house, and they grabbed him. In total, in my family, two uncles and the brother-in-law disappeared, or that is, three uncles. My father, Carlos, his brother and husband of my aunt.

I have another uncle, he also is afraid that the same thing would happen to him and he went to seek refuge in Mexico. Three years, no five years ago, he came back to Guatemala. But he stayed in Mexico maybe 12 years. Now, he’s with his family. Many people went to Mexico because in Guatemala they are afraid, they thought…

When did your mother tell you and your sister and brothers about your father?

I don’t know, I have never…. My mother never tells… never speak about this. At that time. But I see, I understood what happened with my uncles, my father…My mother never told us.. I don’t know, maybe to protect us, but she didn’t ever tell us about all of this that had happened. Never. Now she says that it was so that we wouldn’t feel hate. To preserve out hearts, she never told us about this because she thought that since we were young we could have another picture, that we weren’t going to understand it. I knew that my father had disappeared, because I hear, all the people. And I understood. But my mother never spoke of this. As she said, even today she never… My mother never cried in front of us. my mother cried when she’s alone.

And now, I understand that maybe this was the best. To have told us what happened in this time, because I feel like she could have said that it was the army. If she had told us that my father was taken by the army, my siblings and I would have grown up with hate.  Many people (feel that) because obviously, they saw them when they killed their parents. When they killed all the people, they saw them. Many people. Even today, they have an attitude of hate. Yes, they have hate. But, I don’t have hate.

If she had told you what was happening when you were a little boy do you think you would have felt hate?

I don’t know, I feel, maybe, yes.  But it’s not hate, I don’t know, with all the people, I don’t know, it is a feeling, I feel hate, but I feel that obviously, one is going to feel hate, going to feel anger because of all of this. .for everything that happened. But I feel that it is a feeling, a feeling more controlled, it’s not jealous, or extreme, it’s not…Many people feel more hate, but a hate that is just so strong. Really hate, yes…With all of this, the war, the army, with this, and it’s– how should I say it, what I’m trying to say is that since I was little, when I was little my mother never say, your father was killed by the army.

She never told you that?

No, never. She believed that if she had told us, my siblings and I, we would have grown up with hate. And she don’t want this…But now is different, now is trauma, maybe… maybe I have a little trauma…Many people grew up with trauma, many people think… there are many many people that have grown up with trauma. My grandfather believes that one day my father will come back.  Yes, his son. Two sons. My grandparents believe, my grandparents look for him still. But I don’t believe my father will come back to the house. I know 20 years ago, my father probably is dead.

Your grandfather believes that his sons will come home?

Yes. What I say, is that if when  I was young,  when I was a kid, if they had told me everything? Maybe I… I don’t know… I would have thought, or it would have affected my mind…

My mother is very strong in her mind. Christian. Very, very Christian. Yes, she made a better decision. A better decision. Never she say, “I’m poor”, she never said “poor us, this happened to us”. No. She didn’t do that. No. She worked, she was go, go, go! My mother is a teacher. Teacher of elementary school, for 20 years. She is Evangelical, yes. My dad… my father is Catholic, and when I … when I was a boy my father, he brought me. Now, I don’t go to church. I respect the Maya religion, but I don’t practice religion. Because I don’t believe in all this.

Do you think that the fact that your mother was very religious helped her?

Yes, yes. She said, “God help me” and my mother searched and found and got in with a church, she looked for help, my mother searched for help. … so she wouldn’t be too affected, I don’t know, but she might think of other things. I think that yes, it helped her quite a bit. Because, I don’t know, many people believe in God. And in some manner, this gave my mother strength. This is what she says. And she says, “God helps me, if it hadn’t been for Him, anything may have happened, we even might have died”.

Have you talked about this history before with your friends, a teacher or anyone?

No, never. Because I feel with my teachers, not, but with my friends, sometimes, because there’s too many peoples who don’t understand. They don’t understand how I… maybe I am wrong, but, we have very different points of view, different points of opinion about this…I understand that this happened, and that it wasn’t just. I understand too that this is not correct. Yes, it’s wrong, terrible, but I understand it doesn’t do any good for anything. ..Many people even today, they think that… they feel a lot of hate, much hate about this…I understand that this has happened, but it doesn’t do any good to feel this hate. And I understand that to feel angry, hate, it doesn’t do any good…I think it’s better starting work or other things. Many people say, “I am poor because I suffered a lot” I don’t say this, because the best thing is to work hard to have a better life.

Yes, this is the better way. But there are many problems, many stories, stories with much hurt, very much hurt, very hard stories. People have stories much worse than mine, there are people, many students in the program whose father and mother were killed and the majority of their family. I still have a mother. But many peoples in the program don’t have – have nothing.

Have the students talked to one another about their personal stories?

Not with all of them, with some. But I haven’t spoken with everyone about this. I spoke maybe with 5 or 8 people, we’ve talked about this. And there are many stories that are much more complicated… many people cry when they tell about this. Many people cry when they talk about this.

Do you cry?

I don’t know if I… some people cried for my father. But I don’t remember doing it. I don’t remember, maybe never, cried for my father.

Do you think that talking about this is helpful for you or not? 

Yes, yes, it’s good, it’s when I talk about this, sometimes I remember other parts from this, it’s better, better. Today, I feel with my uncles, with my grandma, my grandpa, my mother, never I ask, even until today, I never asked my uncles anything.

You can’t talk to them about this?

No, never, never, but now I feel, I need ask maybe, but now, I feel that… I don’t know, I know the history, what the books say, now I know. Now I know the history,  what was the cause of it, why it started, now I feel like I am ready to ask questions. I feel now, I have different … about this, I want to talk about my father with my grandpa and ask.. I feel like now, I know some different points of view of this.

Do you think that they will be willing to talk to you, to answer your questions?

Yes, but now I need ask more. I want to ask my grandfather…I know what it is that I saw. I need to ask what he saw. I didn’t see very much when I was 5. But it’s, until, with them, I haven’t been able to talk until now, because each time that we speak of this, they cry. Many cry, and can’t speak, but I need now, I need know more. About this.

And do you think that they will be ready to talk?

With all, all the family. Yes I think that yes…I think they…until now, I haven’t asked them… I don’t know, I feel not ready to hear all this. Ready to listen to all of this. To hear all the people. My uncle that fled to Mexico? He told me about this, and he have the history, part of history, but I want …he has his version of the story. I want all the versions to understand. Many times, when they tell you what they say is part of… is part true, but also it is, I don’t know, like modified by their feelings. So, as I said, I now feel more prepared to be able to talk with them. Because I have never spoken of this with them, I haven’t wanted to. I felt that no, because I didn’t know really, first, I didn’t understand what is what had happened, now I more or less…now I know a little more… I don’t know, I feel like if I had done it before, I wouldn’t have understood,  I wouldn’t have understood 10 years ago…and now, I feel that yes, I can talk about this, and ask about it…I don’t know, but I need ask, I need ask. I need know, what feels my mother.

What your mother felt?

No. What my mother feels now. What my uncles feel now. Many years after maybe now is deeper. Maybe it is more centered. Now my own feelings are more mature, maybe. Probably now, the stories are more mature, they don’t have so much crying. I feel that now, my uncles, my mother, my grandparents, can talk about this, they can talk about what they felt. What they were feeling 20 years ago. Now is more easy for them. Yes, it’s possible now. Many years ago…yes, it was very hard.
Do you talk to your sister and your brothers about this?
My sister and my brothers maybe they aren’t very interested.  I was 5 years old, my sister was 3 years, my other brother 1 year, and my last brother, the youngest… no. (my mother was pregnant with him). I think that the interest has to come from within them. They have to be interested. While they aren’t interested, I feel like the same thing that happened to me, maybe they won’t want to talk about this, maybe they feel like they still can’t. The same as me, they aren’t ready for this. Maybe, I don’t know, I am fearing talking with them about this. I have more memories from my father, but the memories I have are not clear.

They are very diffuse, but maybe with the fact that now there are various publications, now maybe 2 or 3 books about the history of this.

Do you have any photographs of your family?

Yes, I have two photos. Yes, my father, my mother says, “your father like the pictures and your father has many pictures of you and him, from all the family. But in the time of the violence all the pictures, my mother burned them, or buried them because she was afraid that someone would see the photos, and she had a … if something happened to us in the family, and they were to find the pictures of our relatives, they would probably go and look for them as well. I have two pictures of my father, and all the pictures, all of the photos were destroyed. I think that they were very afraid that people would recognize the members of the family.

There’s one other thing I wanted to ask you, you know the story you wrote me about how you decided to become an architect?  You said you found a sheet of paper where your father had designed a house.

I don’t know, I was maybe 8 or 10, I can’t remember, how old I was, I found one piece of paper, but I don’t know what this paper is I don’t know nothing, but I .. I see this paper, and I read: kitchen, bathroom, living room. This is a plan. This is one small page where there is a design of a house. I ask my mother,”what is this?” I didn’t know, and she tells me that my father wants one day to build this house. For the family. I’m like, this moment, maybe I… I don’t know, but I felt, in this moment, or I understood in this moment, that I wanted to study this. And now I have this design. Only in pencil… I don’t know, I think that this influenced me to study what I studied. At this time, I saw this page, when I was little. I looked at it, and said, I didn’t know, I asked myself how they had done each of the little drawings, the trees, the chairs, the tables, and I imagined this, that is, I was perhaps curious…I was 8 or 10 years old, but this time, I already could see the house. I hadn’t seen even a plan! But I feel that in this moment, I understood many things. And, I finish my elementary school, my basic education, enough to want …. I want to study this. I never veered, I knew this was what I wanted. It’s, I don’t know, it’s… to me, this house excites me very much. Now I look at the design and all, and I feel, perhaps the same as I did as a child. And just the same, the drawing is bad. The drawing is bad! (laughing) Now I know, that this is a dream of my father. I want maybe in 2 or 3 years or maybe more years, I don’t know, to build this house. His house. It’s like, each time that I remember this little page, I am going to feel the same, like when I was little and I looked at it.. It was a fascination…I don’t know, but this paper is the thing that helps me more remember my father. My father have many dreams. My father wanted this house. My father wanted to know how to be a farmer, with cows, with…My mother still tells of this, and I feel like she still would like to have it. I don’t like the cows. The cows, I don’t like…

My father had many dreams. Maybe I can make one dream from my father. One dream. Yes. That would be good…Sometimes when I remember my father, I don’t feel like crying, I feel happy. I’m don’t feel like crying, I feel happy. Yes, when I talk about my father, I feel happiness, I don’t have to cry. But I have some memories of him. One time when my father crashed on the curb, and I’m going, bang! and I got a bruise. Near the highway, there was a gas station and my father told me, “you, you get water for the car”. And he told me that I should fill the water tank. And I went with a container one, two, three, four, many times..and it never filled.  The radiator was … Have a hole! (laughing) and I hadn’t seen it. I didn’t see it. Then when I got tired, “no more no more”, I walk around the car, and saw all the water…(laughing). I was maybe 3 or years old. This is the memories that I have of my father, but I feel happiness. I never feel sadness. I feel happy…

My grandma, say, yes I look like my father, but I don’t know. It’s …it’s weird, the picture of my memory, of my father, in my head is different,  from the pictures. It’s different, the picture of my father’s face that I have in my head…
How old was your father when he died?

Maybe 28, 29? My father married with my mother when she was 25. So, maybe 29 or 30.

So he was about the age you are.

Yes, I’m 25…

Thank you so much, I really appreciate your talking with me.

Thank you because you want talk about this. This is not, this is not….You… how to say this… you didn’t have to do this. You don’t have one reason to do this, but you want to. Thank you….

In Patzun we have flowers similar to this (crying, handing me a flower), a sun flower. Patzun is the land of sun flowers.

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