“Today our loved ones return to Central Park; we celebrate their love and their LIVES, their example and their dignified rebellion” – Hijos Guatemala
On June 30, urban activists took to the streets once more for the Day of Heroes and Martyrs, in celebration of life, resistance, and dignity. This year marked the 17th anniversary of the march and the 8th year it has taken place instead of the national military parade on what is known in Guatemala as Army Day.
Admist concerns about an escalation in hate speech and attacks on social media by actors affiliated with the military, march organizers embarked with a spirit of joy and celebration of historical memory. In the name of the thousands of people killed and forcibly disappeared by the military, hundreds marched to Guatemala’s central square, led by HIJOS – the Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice, Against Forgetting and Silence.
While the current government of Jimmy Morales announced that the military parade would resume for the first time in eight years, it was later cancelled at the last minute due to the popular outcry in the midst of numerous cases trying former and current military officials for corruption and crimes against humanity.
Along the way to central park, the march stopped in front of the Casa de la Memoria, a living museum housed by the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH). The House of Memory shares stories of community resistance to colonialism, U.S. imperialism, and ongoing militarization, while inviting those who pass through its doors to take concrete steps to preserve historic memory and work for social justice.
Raúl, a member of HIJOS spoke in front of the Casa:
“Here, we find once more the history that isn’t explained in school textbooks. Here, we find a history that has been silenced. It is up to all of us to rebuild it and we do that through activities like this march where we share the true history of our peoples. Because it is only through studying our true history that we can understand the reasons behind the problems that concern us today. For us, rewriting history is a commitment. And we do it in the streets. We do it in public spaces.
We uphold the memory of our loved ones, recognizing that upholding memory doesn’t only bring pain. We rewrite our history, writing in the moments of resistance, of organizing, of struggle, of solidarity between peoples, built on commitment and consistency over decades and decades of struggle that has been carried out across the country.
Our struggle is to write our own history.”
The march ended with a concert in the central park – a gathering place for hundreds of protests over the last several decades, as Guatemalans stand against impunity and struggle for justice.
See below for a translated statement from HIJOS, commemorating the Day for Heroes and Martyrs. Click here to read the original statement in Spanish.
At the request of HIJOS, NISGUA has provided international accompaniment to several marches, including the June 30 Day for Heroes and Martyrs. For more photos, see NISGUA’s Facebook album.
The subversion of memory
Today, we invite you into our cave of memory, of struggle, of dignified rebellion – digna reVeldía. Today we share with you that we are made of flesh, we have bones, we bleed, that we become sick, and then, we heal. We know, it seems obvious. It is very common for our heads to hurt, for our stomachs to rumble with hunger, to lose our eyesight as the years go by, to want to scream with rage and cry from laughter: it is all natural.
We also know that hunger cannot be faked, that the historic plundering of our country has caused irreparable losses, that it has always wanted to take away everything we have. It has taken away lives, dreams, and futures, massacred entire peoples with bullets and shrapnel, with lies and trickery. Sowing misery, sugarcane, and palm oil, disappearing entire generations of men and women who wanted to fight against all of the things that feed this unceasing hunger, but that survives amidst smiles and resistance through to the present day.
Our body allows us to see the destruction that continues today, to smell the dried blood as well as the blood that has recently spilled, taste the bile from hunger, hear the cries and feel in our hearts the rancid injustice that our ancestors and family members lived through, and that we continue to live as those who are the “landless.” Our minds allow us to imagine, create, procure, dream and remember. It is beautiful if we see it in its entirety. It is it the gift that allows us to walk towards building a dignified life.
We are those sons and daughters who reject this imposed history, one that blames us for what has been taken. That dares to insinuate that our struggle has been an excuse for us to become rich, that it isn’t needed but rather is something fake and invented – much like them, who fabricate licenses for megaprojects and make false accusations against those who continue to walk in [the spirit of] rebellion, defending life and joy.
Today, we are still not equal, there are still people made of metal, with grey hearts that don’t even reflect a soul. Those who kill, rape, torture, disappear, and plunder. Those who have always done this and those who, today, put on their boots and medals to march in the parade. Those who privilege gold over water, who condemn fathers and mothers because children flee from the hunger and violence in this country. Those who hide behind their love for the “fatherland,” who call themselves honorable while they ruthlessly take life and with the other hand, offer scholarships for rapes.
They have forged their path using money, control, and power to try to deny our existence and put an end to our dignified rebellion. They deny the death they have seeded, which they still try to hide even as they continue to be the genocidas, the rapists, the racists, the patriarchs who violate the land in the name of gold and god. Those who today, more than ever, are accused again and again in various legal cases for hate crimes and crimes against humanity, and also for being thieves, for embezzling money from the people, for profiting from their medicine, their health. They are the ones who build school desks while they kill teachers. Yes, it is them who are responsible for where we are today.
It is because of this history of death and the need to rest in peace, this is what our grandfathers, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts fought for. This is why they walked along the path of dignified rebellion, why they defended joy, and why they sought out life. We are the sons and the daughters who walk today, accompanied by their energy, so that no forged iron, in no way and by no one’s hand, will ever cross our bodies, our veins, our creations, nor our memories.
They will not take our dignity, they will not take our rebellion, and they will not take our memory.
Today, on June 30, the streets will become our own skin, that we will be painted with joy and memory so that never again will military boots filled with blood go out onto our streets.
Today, 30, Day of Our Heroes and Martyrs.
We are Sons, we are Daughters, and we carry this message on our skin.