La Violencia – Justice in Guatemala?



The civil war in Guatemala officially ended in 1996, but like many deeply rooted disputes about power, land, and control, this one seems not to have really ended. Reconciliation, justice, and reparations are slow to come, and a violent life is still the norm for many in Guatemala.

9168778_origAt the always-wonderful Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival in Sarasota this weekend I saw La Violencia, directed by Til Frohlich and Pia Janning, a documentary about the toll of the civil war on the Mayans of Guatemala. Many women bravely spoke up uring the trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. They detailed family killings, rape, and years of dislocation and fear, often covering their heads during testimony.

In 2013, Rios Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, giving hope to many victims that justice might follow and perhaps they could live in peace. But shortly thereafter Rios Montt’s conviction was overturned and a new trial looms, intensely disheartening the women who testified and confirming their fears that the deck is irrevocably stacked against the indigenous people.

Then yesterday I came across photos and a piece in the New York Times about James Rodriguez, a Mexican-American photographer living in Guatemala. He is documenting the continuing search for justice, photographing, among other things, the exhumation of mass graves and the struggle for indigenous people to keep control of their land and their lives.  The sample of photographs is well worth viewing. Other samples of his work can be viewed at

logoAnd for a final note on Guatemala, if you want to shop and help a community at the same time, look up IXCHEL at