Important but Unknown

Over a 36 year time period, Guatemala faced conflict between the government and rebelling left-wing groups. Individuals that fought for their beliefs of liberation and equal human rights were found killed or missing as the Guatemalan government acted in an inhumane and violent manner. The end result? Guatemalans are still picking up the pieces of the civil war, yet, this event is still unheard of by many people internationally.

As the war began in 1960, problems arose in the government years before. Carlos Castillo Armas, known to be a communist threat, was declared president in 1954, after being the only candidate in the election. During his time, Castillo Armas arrested and killed thousands, and had even created a dense list of people suspected to be communist. After being assassinated in 1957, a series of conservative military dictators filled his role.

In strategizing methods against the government, a tourism boycott was set in place. Guatemalans asked for tourists to stop traveling to their cities as money was not only benefiting an extremely small portion of their nation. The goal was for tourism money to lower in protesting human rights for all. As a government could not afford one of its main income methods, the idea was compromise would be made from lack of profit in tourism. In addition, letters were being sent to potential tourists, like below, advising the tourist to help stand with the poorly treated civilians for Guatemala and to raise awareness in other parts of the world.

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Letter from Guatemala News and Information Bureau (GNIB) writing to advocate tourism boycotts

This war included over 200,000 deaths and more than 3,000 civilians removed from their homes. It is still a problem in the country and has not been resolved after the war ended with peace negotiations in 1996. The government captured and tortured people for information, and now those people are either missing or suffering with their PTSD. In addition to the ignored psychological problems faced by Guatemalans, many families’ economic lives were changed for the worse. With over half the population living in poverty, there are many alarming facts about the current culture in Guatemala.

Women are now participating in more household jobs, but are going without pay. Poor households find it common for women to stay and do more household maintenance, a job that is necessary. However, these women are not getting paid and jobs that could find are restricting them of fair pay or fair labor.[1]

These women are responsible for raising their families, sometimes independently. The burden is falling through the family chain. A very low income family will not be able to provide educational resources for a child, or children. As that child grows older, it will be faced with the same struggle of lack of a quality education, or any education to find work substantial enough to provide for a family. Even educated women are found discriminated against because of their gender when looking for work.[2]

In hopes of creating something better for the youth generation, La Pedrera School Project was established in 2004. This non-profit organization was created to provide education to the Mayan youth in La Pedrera, Guatemala. This school makes it as simple as donating any amount you wish to help supply students with resources, or a full $300 donation to sponsor one student’s academic year; including registration, supplies, a uniform, two pairs of shoes, and basic medical care.[3] With many families in La Pedrera worrying over money for food, providing a basic, necessary education structure to kids is essential in hopes of turning the community around post-war.

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Families of students and outside visitors gather in front of La Pedrera School.

In terms of political action, it has taken 15 years for one step of action to be taken against the civil war. In 2011, the first female attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz, prosecuted and distributed multiple life sentences to four soldiers known to have killed 201 people during the civil war.[4]

A 36 year-long war has affected the lives of an entire country, yet the event and aftermath is widely unknown amongst the general population. Until money, resources, and equality get settled thru the nation, these problems will persist for years to come.

[1] “Economy of Guatemala.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Mar. 2017. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

[2] Dear, Paula. “Healing Guatemala’s Emotional Scars from the Civil War.” BBC News. BBC, 13 Mar.    2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

[3] La Pedrera School Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

[4] Villarreal, Ryan. “Half The Sky Is Falling: Systemic Violence Against Women In Guatemala Ripples From Brutal Civil War.” International Business Times. N.p., 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

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