What War?
192 Pages
English

What War?

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In 2004, Laurie Levinger left her home in Vermont for Guatemala, where she planned to teach English to Maya university students. But on the first day
of class, Levinger became the student instead of the teacher when a young man named Fernando introduced himself by saying, "My father was killed
when I was four months old. I am a survivor of the Guatemala civil war."
Shocked, Levinger's first thought was, "What war?"
Beginning in 1960, fighting between the Guatemalan military and guerrilla fighters raged across this Central American country. By 1980, this violence--which began with a CIA-backed coup and efforts by the United Fruit Company to protect its financial interests--turned into the massacre of Maya people in every corner of Guatemala. By the time peace accords were signed
in 1996, over two hundred thousand Maya people had been murdered, "disappeared,"or forced into exile by their own government.
Levinger's students had been young children when these atrocities were committed. Many lost their parents. Many had relatives who "disappeared."
All had suffered the loss of their culture, their family ties, their sense of safety, their personal identities.
As a clinical social worker, Levinger believes in the importance of bearing witness, of speaking the unspeakable out loud. After her initial trip, she
returned to Guatemala, this time with a tape recorder and a mission: to record the testimonies of her students, to document their enduring love for their Maya culture, and to honor their unflagging search for truth.
In What War? Levinger brings us stories, told in the spare and eloquent language of truth-tellers, reminding us all that the true cost of war is borne by the survivors. And so is the hope for peace.

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Published 05 August 2011
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EAN13 9781725230279
Language English
Document size 1 MB

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Praise for What War?
“Mayan communities in Guatemala remember the govern-ment’s genocidal assault of the 1980s asla violenciaviolence. Sur-, the vivors protected themselves by a culture of silence. A middle-aged American stranger who knew little Spanish came to teach English and, somehow, encouraged young Mayan university students to share their pain-filled memories with her and with each other.This book records that extraordinary achievement.” —Staughton Lynd, peace activist, author and historian
“Until Laurie overcame the language barrier to listen with pro-found respect to the stories of these Mayan youth, they had not even had the opportunity to share their experiences among themselves, let alone the larger world. Their moving histories portray families with the courage and resilience of survivors determined to make a better world.” —Sue Ellen Kingsley, director/founder of Copper Country Guatemala Accompaniment Project
“These are young people who were born into a generation of violence as the Guatemalan civil war claimed the lives of family members and forced whole communities to move.The students in-terviewed in this volume have vivid memories of their experiences and, importantly, they were willing to share their stories with Lau-rie Levinger and with us, the readers ofWhat War?—Carol Hendrickson, Ph.D., Hampshire College
“History, told through the stories of those who lived it, compels us to listen with our hearts, with compassion and a promise to be alert…alert to the suffering of the victims.The visible and invisible scars recounted in these remarkable chronicles gives us a new ap-preciation of the evil perpetrated in the name of government, and
the incredible beauty and strength of the human character. Levinger has captured an extraordinary account of the young men and women who are working to overcome the tragedy of their child-hoods. She is to be commended for listening with her heart to the unhearable.” —Charlotte Houde Quimby, MSN
“How do people survive terrible events and yet retain a sense of hope and possibility? This question echoes throughout this pow-erful and courageous book.When the Guatemalan civil war broke in upon their lives, most of the men and women who tell their sto-ries here were very young…Laurie Levinger, with a therapist’s skill and patience and with a sensitive outsider’s eye for the beauties of another culture, encourages her conversation partners to explore their memories and to make sense of the past. As she sets these sto-ries in their historical and sociological context, and as she draws out the larger themes embedded within them, Levinger presents a richly-textured portrait of the realities of genocidal conflict.Anyone who responds to the cry ‘Never again!’ must read this book.” —Susan White, PhD
“Laurie Levinger, a retired social worker, went to Guatemala with volunteers to teach English to Maya university scholarship re-cipients. Well-trained, intelligent, perceptive and kind, Laurie began to hear her students’ life histories, how they had been affected by the violence perpetrated on their communities by the Guatemalan military. We hear Mayan voices who witnessed these events or felt the ripple effect of this hidden, rural war. These narratives are not only gripping, they tell a universal story of how even under the most terrible circumstances people manage to survive and succeed.” —Chris Lutz, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
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What War?
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TESTIMONIES OF MAYA SURVIVORS
LAURIE LEVINGER O full circle press
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What War? Laurie Levinger
Copyright © 2009 by Laurie Levinger Resource Publications PublishedA2di0v0is9iobnyofFWulilpfCainrdclSetoPcrkePssubLliLshCers 199 W 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 Photographs taken by Laurie Levinger except for that appearing on page 189, courtesy of Bob Civiak. What War? Testimonies of Maya Survivors Additional permissions appear on page 188. By Levinger, Laurie E. Copyright©2009 by Levinger, Laurie E. . . . . . . . ISBN 13: 9781610976329 Publication date 8/1/2011 Levinger, Laurie, 1950-Previously published by Full Circle Press, 2009 What war? : testimonies of Maya survivors / by Laurie Levinger. — 1st American pbk. ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Guatemala—History—Civil War, 1960-1996—Personal narratives, Mayan. 2. Guatemala—History—Civil War, 1960–1996—Social aspects. 3. Mayas—Guatemala—Inter-views. 4. War victims—Guatemala--Interviews. 5. Mayas— Guatemala—Social conditions. 6. War and society—Guatemala. I.Title. F1466.5.L48 2009 972.8105'209239742--dc22 2009025432
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I am grateful to many people who supported me throughout this project. First, I want to thank the Maya Educational Foundation for the opportunity to go to Guatemala as a volunteer teacher. Jane Greenberg and Eulalia Lopez came up with the idea of the English Language Program at Eulalia’s kitchen table, and Armando Alfonzo from the MEF helped create the program which has meant so much to so many of us.Thanks to Bob and Jane Greenberg for their lead-ership of the ELP over the years. Members of the MEF Board have been helpful in every possi-ble way.Thanks to Chris Lutz, Carol Hendrickson, Marilyn Moors, Brenda Rosenbaum, Elisabeth Nicholson, and Susan Feinberg. Chris Lutz and Armando Alfonzo consulted regarding the history chapter. Armando has been immeasurably helpful, patient, and always avail-able to discuss even the most basic questions. And it was he who suggested that I submit the manuscript to Editorial Cholsamaj, the Guatemalan publishers of this book. Christine Bartlett invited me to the lunch in Antigua where I first met Balam, whose story sparked my interest in the hidden his-tory of young Maya during the civil war. Karen Nielsen accompa-nied me when I returned to Guatemala to ask our students the first questions from which this book emerged. Lucia Sebaquijay and Irma Otzoy of the Fundación para los Es-tudios y Profesionalización Maya (FEPMaya) in Guatemala City an-7
swered questions and offered on-going support.Through providing financial and social support FEPMaya is helping young Maya be-come educated and active citizens. Bob Civiak, Marilyn Moors, and Nancy Weiss reviewed earlier versions of the manuscript. Karla Kingsley, Jeanette Fadul, Goyo Norman, and Guisela Asensio translated thetestimonios. Guisela Asensio translated the manuscript into Spanish, asking probing ques-tions and giving feedback that improved the book. Susan J. White edited an earlier draft, and helped frame the chapter on religion. Her commitment to the project, her editorial skills, and intellectual rigor have resulted in a far better book than the one she first read. Mindy Schorr, Jo-Anne Unruh, Charlotte Quimby, and Lianne Moccia witnessed the awakening of my love for Guatemala. Their interest and unwavering support have accompanied me every step of the way. Wendy Osterweil and Eli Goldblatt endorsed the idea of this book before I’d written a word. Thanks go to Ruth Sylvester for excellent proofreading, and to Sonja Hakala of Full Circle Press for her expertise and enthusiasm for this project. The Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust and the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation provided generous financial assistance. My children, Josh and Hannah, offered guidance and loving sup-port. Martha Rockwell listened and encouraged me from the very beginning of this project. And finally, I am eternally grateful to the students from FEP-Maya who, along with their friends and families, shared their per-sonal war with me. I am honored by your trust. Thank you all. Laurie Levinger
Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.What War? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
2.in ContextThe War
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
3.The Elemental Right to Remember and to Speak . . .27 Testimonios: Fernando,Víctor, María, Elías, Flory
4.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43Reclaiming History Testimonios: Porfirio, Elías, Laura
5.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51Maintaining Integrity Testimonios: Hélida, Mateo, Robin, Balam
6. Severed Roots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65 Testimonios: Pancho, Bartolo
7.One Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .73 Testimonios: Carlos’s son, widow, brother and father
8.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95. . . . Women . Testimonios: Laura
9.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103Lost Children Testimonios: Eliseo,Victoria, Ical
10.The Violence Within . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129 Testimonio:Wilfredo, Héctor
11.Waiting for God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .139 Testimonio: Mateo
12.Peace? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .147 Testimonio: Andrés, Laura
13.Murder in Guatemala City
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .153
14.A Flame Inside Us . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157 Testimonios: Carmen, Juan Carlos
15.What Good Does Talking Do? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .163 Testimonios: Flor, Flory
16.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173The Fight Against Forgetting
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .183