The Mayan community, left in ruins after a catastrophe that left scars physically and mentally, are still struggling to recover from what can only be described as a nightmare in real life. The Guatemalan Civil War, a controversy between the Mayans and the Government, was an injustice due to discrimination in the government system. There was only one way this could end, mass genocide of the Mayan people. Through this terrible event, the Mayans still persevered. They had hope for a better future where they could be free from hate.
The Mayan people have been used as slaves since the Spaniards founded their land in the 1600’s. In the late 1800s, The Mayans had no security in keeping their land. Not only was it extremely easy to take Mayan land, it was also easy to enslave their people as well. When the Mayan land was taken, they would have nothing and have no choice but to become a slave to stay alive. These injustices continued for years until the Mayans started to stand up for their rights. These protests made the plantation owners and slave owners of the Mayans feel threatened, and started asking the government to get rid of the Mayans. The government ignored the requests of the slave owners, but later would use it as an excuse for the genocide.
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In 1944, a civilian government was elected on a platform of ambitious land reforms. In response, the CIA helped install a right wing military dictator in June, 1954. This conflict was the start to 40 long years of political violence in Guatemala. The military rulers continued to liquidate their political opponents throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In order to stop this dictatorship, a guerilla movement began due to the civilians getting increasingly militarized. The Mayan initially supported the guerilla movement. They viewed it as a last hope for their equality. The government did not like this, and marked the Mayan population as enemies. This helped kick start the Mayan Genocide.
In 1980, the Guatemalan army instituted Operation Sophia, an initiative aimed at ending the guerilla movement. The army targeted the Mayan population, who were the main supporters of the guerilla movement. This was the start to the worst part of the Guatemalan Genocide. Over the next three years, the army destroyed 626 Mayan villages, killed about 200,000 people, relocated over 1.5 million people, and drove over 150,000 people into hiding. They then instituted a Scorched Earth policy. They burnt and destroyed buildings and crops, slaughtered livestock, polluted the water supply, and violated sacred places. All of these horrible actions were undertaken by the army. The Mayans were not the only ones hurt. Catholic Priests and Nuns also faced violence because they supported the Mayan population.
In 1986, civilian rule and a new constitution were set up, but the Guatemalan army kept its power, fueling the genocide for a little bit longer. Peace talks were being set up across the globe to stop the genocide in 1991, but made poor progress. After 10 years of trying to stop the Guatemalan Genocide, a peace agreement was finally signed in 1996. Part of the agreement included the start of The Historical Clarification Commission (CEH). The Historical Clarification Commission was an investigation into the events of the Guatemalan Civil War. It began work in 1997, funded by a number of countries, with the U.S.A being a very generous donor. The Commission asked for the records of the Guatemalan army for the period of 1981-1983, the peak of the genocide. The army was unable to provide the records, however, the Commission was able to collect over 9,000 witness statements for what happened in the three year window.
In February, 1999, ?Guatemala: Memory of Silence’ was published. This report brought attention to the injustices of the Guatemalan Genocide to people around the globe. The report also revealed the government policy of genocide against the Mayan Indians. This started movements around the globe to help the Mayans. In June 2001, Mayan communities brought a charge of genocide to Efrain Rios-Montt, the former dictator in charge of the genocide. From that point on, the trials from the genocide began to become more frequent, with the injustices against the Mayan finally being resolved.
After the Guatemalan Genocide, Mayan communities were left in ruins. People all around the world were trying to help the Mayans the best they could. Bridgeway, a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were first introduced into this cry for help from a missionary in their community. Bridgeway went on a mission trip in 2006 to Guatemala to help build homes for the widows and children. Jeff and Jodi Helpman, who were former members of Bridgeway, saw the need in Guatemala and got their church, The Grove, a church in Bryson City, involved in the mission trip as well. Together, the two churches formed Bridge of Hope, a foundation dedicated to helping clean up the Guatemalan Genocide. Every year in March, Bridge of Hope sends a group of people to go to villages in the Ixil Triangle and build homes for the widows and children affected by the Mayan Genocide. On the trip, the group will build about 15 to 25 (12ft by 12ft) homes. Not only do they provide homes, they also provide wood stoves, gardening tools, live stock, and most importantly, hope.
I chose this service project because my family has been a part of Bridge of Hope for all my life. I have heard many stories from them and know a lot about the trip. The main reason is that I plan on going to the 2019 Go Guatemala trip next year. I wanted to learn more about the area before I experienced it. Our plan for our service is to help raise money for the 2018 Go Guatemala trip. We are going to help fundraise by operating our church’s hot chocolate bar on Sunday, December 9.
The Guatemalan Genocide deeply affected the Mayan community. It left the Mayan scared with the loss of friends, family, and their homes. Although nobody can reverse the Guatemalan Genocide, there are people out there who are willing to work hard to make a difference in the Mayans lives by showing their compassion and helping to heal the wounds The Mayan Genocide left behind.
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