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Week 1-2 Carmack

Week 3 Whisnat

Week 4 Whisnat

Week 5 Whisnat

Week 6 Nash

Week 6 Essay 1 Question

Week 6 Essay

Week 7 Nash

Week 8 Manz

Week 9 Manz

Week 10 Binford

Week 11 Binford

Week 12 Oppenheimer

Week 12 Quinnones

Week 12 Essay 2 Question

Week 12 Essay 2

Week 13 Oppenheimer

Week 13 Quinnones

Week 14 Dow

Week 15 Dow

Final Paper


Victoria Kline
Anthropology 582: Mesoamerican Cultures
October 29, 2004
Dr. Ramona Perez

Paradise In Ashes Part II

Chapter 4 Ashes, Exodus, and Faded Dreams begins the day after the massacre at Santa Maria Tzejá. The little town the people had put so much effort into building was in ruins, its occupants either dead or hiding out in the rain forest. Survivors had nothing but the clothes on their backs. Those that had survived fell into 3 categories: they were either captured by the military, went to refugee camps in Mexico, or stayed in the jungle surviving on what they could gather or produce. It is the latter group that interests me the most. Several families were able to survive for quite a long time in this subsistence manner on wild foods, building shelters of whatever they could find, planting milpas (corn fields) using the slash and burn technique, all the while evading the military by covering their tracks, keeping quiet (including the children!), cooking at night so as not to be detected by aircraft, and continually monitoring the army’s whereabouts (Manz 2004:126-127).

All this is pretty amazing and says to me that these people had the wherewithal to survive off the land. Would have been perfect if they were just left alone. One family that decided to stay in hiding in the rainforest was able to do so for 12 years! (128-129) The parents and children of this family end up being a case study for what happens when a family is split up under adverse circumstances and then reunited after a period of ten years (130-133).

Bishop Samuel Ruiz of the Chipas Catholic Church aided the Guatemalan refugees that made it across the Mexican border. Guerilla forces, angry with the refugees because they were abandoning the cause, detained some of these refugees. These same guerillas had already sent their families out of Guatemala into the safety of Mexico (126).

Men and boys who were captured by the military were soon forced to hunt for those who held out in the rainforest, searching for and destroying milpas, the lifeblood of these families holed up there. The fact that peoples from the same village were turning against one another was devastating to those involved and created a rift between the people that facilitated military control (127). “…the cooperative spirit they had nurtured so long was shattered.” (133)

Chapter 5 A Militarized Village: a year after the destruction of Santa Maria Tzeja, the military started forming “model villages” for those captured by the military, and those returning refugees. The military model for these model villages was to insure tight military control over the people in the villages of the “new Guatemala.” The military opened these villages to new settlers with the goal of making sure at least parts of the population of the model villages were loyal to the army. (155) The village became split into 60 percent new settlers (nuevos), and 40 percent original settlers (antiguos, or old ones) (156). The army caused fissures in the continuity of the settlement by giving away “vacant” land to nuevos. The lands they were allotting to the newcomers were lands that had been held by antiguos who had not yet returned to Santa Maria Tzeja, for whatever reason (156). A system of spying on the villagers from within was another method for the army to subject the village to strict military control (157).

After a certain amount of time the army withdrew, making regular visits to check up on the model village, villagers taking the place of military overseers to continue to keep order even without military presence (158). Military control was the norm throughout Guatemala at this time in a campaign imbued with propaganda that placed the responsibility for all the destruction and deaths of the people on the insurgent guerilla armies (158-159). What a crock!

The military used the fact of protecting the people from Communism as its reason for destruction, and killing (those acts they were now trying to put off on the guerillas). The truth was that the guerilla army did have a Communist background. And I do not know what that means exactly, except that if you grew up in the time I did (1950s and 1960s), then you knew that Communism was bad. Every parent of that era made sure that his or her children knew that Communism was bad. When I assess what the Indians and Ladinos of Santa Maria Tzeja were up to before the village was destroyed, it was a communal type venture, where everyone worked for the good of the whole, rather that the individual family unit. The mode of living, commune style, was also being modeled across the United States, although it was thought of as being outside the norm (normal society). Nonetheless, it did provide a workable situation for some people. Communal living often gets associated with brainwashing and restriction of freedom, and propagandistic dissemination of material that may be detrimental to society outside the commune. David Koresh and his followers in Waco, Texas come to mind.

In our film last Wednesday, we got a picture of what it was like for villagers in the model villages to be part of civil patrols informing on their own people (Under the Gun: Democracy in Guatemala 1987).

Manz spends several pages discussing a new Catholic Bishop to Santa Maria Tzeja, Father Tisiano Sophia, an eccentric, anti-liberation theologist, who was at once demanding of the peasant population in terms of labor for building, and protector of the people from military injustices.

Chapter 6 Reunification: the time came for the refuges that had been living in Campeche and Quintana Roo to return to Santa Maria Tzeja. One impediment was that many of the lands once occupied by refuges were now owned by nuevos, newcomers to the area via army invitation. This caused some problems overcome through discussions and negotiations by the antiguos and refugees (Manz 2004:185-186). Nuevos were compensated for their ownership in Santa Maria Tzeja, which helped them to go elsewhere and begin again, a plan aided by the United Nations (186). This provided the foundation for a new start for the antiguos and returning refugees in Santa Maria Tzeja. Compeche refugees had established a close community in the more than 10 years that they lived together there. Those Santa Maria Tzeja refugees that had been sent to Quintana Roo and also returning to Santa Maria Tzeja were willing to let the majority rule (from Compeche) as to the logistics of reuniting with antiguos and refugees in Santa Maria Tzeja (188). There were compromises all around. As for other refugees returning to villages other than Santa Maria Tzeja, there were problems of non-organization, separation, inability to come to any sort of consensus, and inability to unite (188). May 13, 1994 was the date of the official return of the refugees to Santa Maria Tzeja, and the end of 12 years in the refugee camps in Mexico (191). The return to Santa Maria Tzeja resulted in the start of schools, the interest of the people in learning, the beginning of youth service to the community, and the reinstatement of the cooperative. The reunited peoples had to learn to communicate after ten years of divergent experiences, and subsequent suspicions that the separation (and army) had encouraged.

Chapter 7 Treading Between Fear and Hope, President Clinton visits Guatemala March of 1999 and apologizes “for the role of the United States in the country’s bloody past” (224). The UN issued an extensive report charging the Guatemalan military and government with genocide of ethnic Mayans. This led to the charge of genocide against the army by the people of Santa Maria Tzeja and three other villages in July of 2001 (225). On page 230 Manz evokes ideas on individual memory of writer Primo Levi. Levi’s observations that the people of Santa Maria Tzeja have created fabricated memories from fragments of true, imagined, and implanted ideas, is an insight into a universal about memory creation. I think that everyone’s memory is selective, that we in fact create our own reality this way, true, ideal, or pessimistic. These people had lived through true horrors and states of living we cannot even imagine, and selective memory would be expected especially in the environment of the recombination of two groups living opposing experiences. Manz then delves into theories of collective memory.

In interviewing Manz is aware that informant answers are filtered. Truth may not be the best way to answer, may not be in the interest of the interviewee, and she gives the example of Jesus and how he tries to respond with how he thinks the interviewer would like the response to be. (231) This has to have a lot to do with ability to trust, the way the people were divided between insurgent and army influence, each with their own set of propaganda. Trust would be difficult under the circumstances of unrealized promises and destruction.

For all the gains that the original settlers to the Lacandon rainforest made, the building of the village of Santa Maria Tzeja, the invasion of the Guatemalan army and connection with the villagers to the guerilla insurgents, then the destruction of the town, the exodus of half the population to refugee camps in Mexico while the other half of the population remained in Guatemala but under strict military control, to the reuniting of the refugees with the ones who stayed behind in Santa Maria Tzeja, and the , we end the book with an uncertain future for the inhabitants of Santa Maria Tzeja.   


Sources Cited

Manz, Beatriz
2004    Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

Under the Gun: Democracy in Guatemala.
1987    Videocassette.

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