Dictionaries define genocide as the extermination or systematic elimination of a social group based on race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or nationality. Its etymology is attributed to Greek, while other linguists attribute it to Latin, nevertheless, all linguists agree in one way or another that genocide is the extermination of one’s origin.
Why would one group want to exterminate another? Why would a group or any human collective want to destroy the origin of another? Marta Casaús defines racism as, “The generalized and definitive appreciation of differences – biological or cultural, real or imaginary, benefitting one group at the expense of the other. These attitudes can manifest themselves as behaviors, imagery, racist practices or ideologies which expand to the entire social sphere forming part of the collective imagination.”
Along these lines, genocide is no more than a group’s last resort to submit another, to impose their way of seeing, thinking or feeling, in favor of their economic interest. Genocide is a type of fear, to destroy one form of being in favor of the economic and political hegemony.
What we know today as the republic of Guatemala is a territory consisting of distinct peoples and communities which originated in times before our era, peoples whose origin is before the invasion and subsequent colonization in 1524. Peoples who have maintained their own forms and ways of seeing and understanding the world. With colonization, these peoples were assassinated, persecuted and concentrated with the goal of submitting them and imposing them to the colonist way and to take all the political and economic profit to the benefit of the colonizer.
Despite the attempts of annihilation, persecution and submission, the people of Guatemala have maintained economic, political and cultural resistances to the invader, configuring new identities, rebuilding time and again the physical and cultural origin that the colonist destroyed.
By way of fire and blood, the criollo and patriarchal powers have implemented genocide, as the maximum expression of their impotence in the face of the resistance of those that are different. Genocide is not only implemented through killing members of a group, it also creates the conditions for the full or partial disappearance of the group. Genocide is the dispossession of lands, imposition of megaprojects, closing spaces for expression of one’s own cultural forms, as well as cultural destruction itself. Genocide is implemented through the creation of these mechanisms so that in one form or another the other group is submitted to the point that the group perpetrating the domination disappears or absorbs them.
Today’s violence derives from and is related to the violence of yesterday, to the different genocides. The powerful have not been able to resolve the causes that provoke the outbreak of resistances to their impositions. One example of this are gangs, who inhabit territories their grandparents, fathers, mothers, uncles, or other people close to them, have had to occupy for having suffered genocidal policies in a direct way, having been displaced from their communities during the war, before they were even born. The concentrated areas in which they were relocated demonstrate the government and economic powers’ continued and ongoing incapacity to resolve resistance to its genocidal policies. They live in settlements lacking access to basic services, education, culture, history and memory, expressing the violence to which they have been submitted in society.
The genocidaires today complain about the society they created. Those who planned, financed and executed the genocide (and not only in the 1980s), those who rearranged territories, destroyed cultures and ways, usurped memories and histories, invented subjectivities and imposed false nationalist symbols, today return the responsibility of misery, fear, impunity, violence and insecurity to the people. The same people who call us a terrorist today, once called us animals without a soul and gave us the title of communist to justify their barbarity, today they march in white through a society that they created.
My name is Ana, Hugo, Ricardo, Erick, Silvia, María, Jacinto, Jan, Pilar, Cecilia, Jacobo. I’m 17, 19, 20, 25, 29, 37 years old and I’m a victim of genocide, for those who are no longer with us, for those who we miss, for poverty, the silence, the fear, the impunity, for injustice, for the closing of space, because time and again they attempt to destroy my origin, my identity, but also because time and again I recast my origin, recreate my identity, I resist; I will not keep silent. Today we have a sentence for genocide that a constitutional tribunal emitted after hearing the testimony of almost one hundred witnesses, a sentence that the Constitutional Court annulled, basking in impunity, but every day in the peoples’ voices legitimize that despite the continued genocidal policies, we continue we continue to live. We continue to create and recreate our cultures and memories, making history.