They were supposed to be fighting guerillas. They burnt the crops. The animals. The homes. The people, if any were left, still in their homes. There were so many villages. Seventy to ninety percent of them were burned—in these mountains in which I now travel freely. 
Why? The intellectual author of the Ixil genocide, Ríos Montt, like thousands of Latin Americans, was trained in “counter-insurgency techniques” by the United States—techniques including torture and arresting the family members of those being questioned. Between 1981 and 1983, Montt oversaw seventy-seven massacres in the Ixil region alone. Torture was common. They said the Ixil people were “pro-guerilla,” the “internal enemy.” And the money, millions of U.S. dollars, kept flowing.
How? All of the Ixil people, an entire culture, became the enemy. A woman pregnant with the child of an Ixil man became the enemy. The child of an Ixil woman, born or not, became the enemy. The child will grow up to be a guerilla, they said. I have heard what they did to pregnant women. It moves my hands to clench my stomach, but clarifies nothing.
Mayan immigrants share cultural dance at a NISGUA event I attended in Los Angeles, CA. June, 2015. Photo Credit: Claudia D. Hernandez.
My friend Delila and I participate in NISGUA’s show of solidarity with Guatemalan women who survived sexual slavery. May, 2015. Seattle, WA.
Why? During his campaign, Donald Trump said both that he is pro-life and that the way to deal with enemies is to kill their family members. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families,” he told Fox News. The first military operation he ordered was the raiding of a village in Yemen which, according to witnesses, killed an 8-year-old U.S. citizen. She was the daughter of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was also killed without a trial—in a drone strike under Obama in 2011. Two weeks later, the Obama administration killed his son, also a U.S. citizen. He was sixteen, estranged from his father. He was eating dinner. When asked, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibss said that the boy should’ve had “a more responsible father.” It is fathomless.
Bright white clouds drape their veil along tree-covered peaks. I ask how and why over and over—or, rather, the land pulls these questions from me, each drop of water impels me to find something I can hold onto, something I can comprehend. But I cannot. It is like interrogating an innocent man. There are no answers here.
Ríos Montt Genocide Trial. Guatemala. April 19, 2013. Photo Credit: James Rodríguez, mimundo.org
Afterword: In light of recent events, I cannot recommend more highly the documentary “Dirty Wars” by Jeremy Scahill. There is no other video, (or any book or article) that I would rather people watch right now. It is available on Netflix.
Unless otherwise noted, photos by NISGUA, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.
 “Guatemala: Memory of Silence.”
Report of the Commission for Historical Clarification, Conclusions and Recommendations, 101.
 Ibid. 116.
 Jake Hess. “Infamous US military school still draws fire.” Aljazeera
, 9 Dec. 2014. Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.
 Sanford, Victoria. “Violence and Genocide in Guatemala.”
Yale University: New Haven, CT, 2016. Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.
 Farah, Douglas. “Papers Show U.S. Role in Guatemalan Abuses.” Washington Post, 11 Mar. 1999.
 Miller, Jeke J. “Donald Trump Will Continue Targeting Suspected American Terrorists Overseas.”
Time, 31 Jan. 2017. Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.
 “Democracy Now Headlines Jan 30, 2017.”
Democracy Now: The War and Peace Report. Amy Goodman. Minute 12:10-13:14. Accessed Jan 30, 2017.
 In light of recent events, I cannot recommend more highly the video “Dirty Wars”
by Jeremy Scahill. It is also available on Youtube
 Friedersdorf, Conor. “How Team Obama Justifies the Killing of a 16-Year-Old American.”
The Atlantic, 24 Oct. 2012. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.