Guatemala: A Buried History
On behalf of the rich oligarchy of Guatemala, backed by the fiercest army in the region, the Mayan people were massacred. In the northern highlands (Altiplanos) of Guatemala, some 626 villages were eradicated, and over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared by a ruthless and most efficient U.S. backed military. Civilians were massacred, women were raped and tortured, and villages were burnt to the ground. The years ahead of the 1980’s were essentially marked as the apex of violence since the CIA-sponsored coup that ousted the progressive elected government of Guatemala in 1954.
In the 1980’s Reagan’s presidential administration passed off claims of Guatemala’s horrendous human tragedy as wild exaggeration. The U.S. government did everything in its power to protect their funded foreign military from their brutal military tactics and war crimes. Media outlets were manipulated to cover up wide spread massacres and shift the series of violent events in Guatemala’s region from Guatemala’s military to a fabricated left wing guerilla army. Human rights reporting was largely censored and belittled because of this profoundly political driven system of media.
During the years surrounding 1980’s, Americans were obsessed with ousting the socialist Sandinista Government with Contras in Nicaragua, and eliminating the communist Farabundo guerillas in El Salvador, yet there seemed to be hardly any room for Guatemala’s dirty war. The CIA had long been involved in Central America from creating, arming, and training Central American militaries in counter insurgency doctrine, to the orchestration of the army’s overthrow of a democratically elected government in 1954.
Under the Reagan administration the U.S. relationship with Guatemala warmed up again. Despite facing problems with congress over a Carter-era embargo of Military Aid to Guatemala, the administrations sought help from their allies. It involved the governments of Israel and Argentina to step in and become principal suppliers of hardware to the Guatemalan military. Under a guise of a humanitarian relief effort to Guatemala, Reagan was able to give $33 million in aid to Guatemala’s military, even when U.S. officials were aware of the army’s dismal track record on human rights under it’s Military dictator, Rios Montt. The aid helped continued the genocide of alleged communist Mayan people by the use of Guatemalan security forces.
This anti-communist collaboration perpetuated a profitable, archaic and unjust, social-economic system in Guatemala. Guatemala’s Truth Commission pointed out that the lives and deaths of Central American peasants have never weighed much in the scales against the commercial and strategic interests of the United States.
In 1999, Bill Clinton made an official visit to Guatemala, in a first for U.S. president; he openly acknowledged that America’s support for repressive regimes in Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America had been wrong. As grim as the documents portray, the Clinton administration was to be commended for making the documents on Guatemala public.
It is in this way, I believe former presidents and their fellow war criminals have been spared from meaningful accountability, thus making it easier for Washington to recycle its lethal imperial tactics. That is what keeps me going. The fact that I am able to tell the truth about history, and you the viewer can see the exact same events unfolding in real time somewhere else in world, in such places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The telling of Guatemala’s real story is buried in more than just a history lesson; rather they are recycled tactics of a corrupt system of government that garners profit from war and exploitation. You, the people, have to be aware of the extreme bias in your newspapers, and on your television screens. Do your own research, and stop listening to the scripted media.
I want people to know what really happened, not only in Guatemala but also everywhere around the world, so that the people know their past and prevent it from ever happening again.
Unless we know the truth the wounds of our past will remain open and can never be healed.
Collin Perez '16
Advisor: Marina Mangubi
All images copyright © 2016 Collin Perez . All rights reserved.

Guatemala: A buried History. Installation. 2016.

La Solucion Final. Charcoal. 42" x 36". 2016.

Massacre At The Spanish Embassy. Charcoal. 36" x 70". 2016.

Portrait of A Mayan Woman. Charcoal. 42" x 36". 2016.

Scorched Earth. Charcoal. 36" x 50". 2016.

Shallow Grave in the Altiplano. Charcoal. 36" x 50". 2016.

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