Shortly after our arrival in the town of Rabinal, we jumped in the back of a pickup truck with a man named Juan Manuel to venture to his community of Plan de Sanchez. Located high above the town of Rabinal in the surrounding mountains, Plan de Sanchez is notable for its massacre and the aftermath.
Like many places in and around Rabinal, the majority of the village of Plan de Sanchez was massacred in 1982. Our guide through this process was Juan Manuel, now in his 50s, and one of the few survivors of the original town. He lost the majority of his family, including his wife and their children. Our meeting with him took place in the community museum/church/memorial, that was previously his sister’s before she died in the massacre.
The building is now a place of memory. It has pictures of the victims all over the walls, murals depicting the massacre and an alter that is now a place of worship and is sacred because of the horror that occurred there. And so, he sat there in that church, with all of us around, to tell us of that day thirty years ago when he lost everything. It was tragic, in the true sense of the word, not the way it is used normally by our culture. But the amazing thing about Juan Manuel is that he lost everything and he continued on. He is now married to a woman who was a widow from another massacre, he has a new family, and he fights everyday for justice. The reason that Plan de Sanchez is more well known is that it was the first community to have an exhumation of the victims back in the early 1990s. So with the information that the exhumations provided, Juan Manuel now continues to seek justice. Criminal convictions are now rolling in for those responsible, and monetary reparations, both for individuals and communities, are now rolling in. A small sense of justice for the hundreds of lives lost thirty years ago.
The second visit of that day in Rabinal was with Jesus Tecu Osorio. One of the few survivors from the community of Rio Negro. Jesus was ten years old when the four massacres were happening in 1982. One of the most severe was at Pacoxom, where 177 women and children were killed. To show their benevolence, the community patrollers (soldiers), spared 18 children. Jesus was one of those eighteen. Now nearing forty, he ifs another who fights for justice. He works in the legal aid office in Rabinal, he fights for reparations, for criminal convictions and so much more. He, along with Carlos Chen, are two of the few surviving voices of Rio Negro that stand up for human rights and want the wrongs righted, as much as is possible.
So, in the day preceding our trek into the community of Rio Negro, the focus was survivors and their fight for justice.