On Super Tuesday, when Americans were deciding who would get the power to kill or spare millions, a group of Guatemalan Mayan campesinos went to Madrid, on a civilizing mission.
They were there to testify about the US-sponsored Guatemalan officers who, in the 1970s and 1980s, murdered their families, and came out on top as rich men, drug dealers, US embassy consultants and Harvard fellows.
It’s not as if you can bring back the dead wives, missing kids, or shot-in-the-cerebrum husbands, or even sufficiently punish the guilty, who now grin in elegant Zona Cinco pools and in MacLean, Virginia, homes with lawns. They still twirl power and walk around, uncuffed, in polite society.
But you can, as one of the mountain corn farmers observed, “Capture them, imprison them. That’s sufficient.” It is generous of him, since they butchered his dear ones, friends and animals, and burnt his gut till his intestines spilled out. To the great credit of Spain’s judiciary they were willing to let him try.
Before the Spanish court, one of the surviving Mayans ended his testimony by standing up at the judge’s desk and asking for his land back.
How much land was it? I asked him last night. Less than five acres, corn land.
But after all these years, he still wants it back, and wants to leave it to a surviving son.
When the army of his homeland entered his village they burned the three-room schoolhouse (“They stole the roof!”) and cut and crushed the drinkable-water pipes. And as they raped, throat-sliced, and trigger-pulled their way through, they forced people onto the mountain–dodging US-arranged Israeli Galil bullets as they clambered upward, toward life.
They left behind land–which, in theory, is recoverable; the man was raising a fundamental point–but also much that cannot be gotten back, like a life without tormenting memories.
Speaking publicly in Spain , a very brave man from the Mayan highlands remarked that when he returned to his mother’s house once the US-backed Guatemalan army had gotten through with it, he found that his entire family had been “carbonized,” i.e., burnt carbon-black and crispy.
Soon after, the US sent more money (and other things) to that very army, perhaps pioneering–under Reagan–the first known application of the “carbon credits” concept.
There was another time, for example, a woman recounted just now, that she snuck down from the mountain and found that “all that was left were the dogs, barking in the houses.”
Outside, elsewhere, there were fires, bad smells, smoke, some crying, still-living children, as well as her own mother, dead–dead as a result of policy.