In the Lab of the Forensic Anthropologist Foundation of Guatemala

Inside the laboratory of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropologist Federation. (Photo: Caitlyn Colley)

Human remains from an exhumation of a war cemetery are cleaned, marked, and analyzed inside the laboratory of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropologist Foundation. (Photo: Caitlyn Colley)

Today we listened to a This American Life podcast and watched a video that explained the massacre of hundreds of innocent people in small village called Dos Erres. Government troops disguised themselves as guerrillas in order to get into the village to find weapons that the guerrillas were [supposedly] hiding. The government troops assembled the community in the churches and schools while they searched for the weapons. When the weapons were not found, the troops began to execute the men, women, and children. The villagers were brutally killed and buried or thrown in a well. The government troops never spoke of this atrocity and no one ever questioned why this village disappeared (fearing they would be killed), until one man filled with guilt came forward and confessed.  Because of this, anthropologists from FAFG (The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation) were able to move forward in their research to find the burial of this lost village. Visiting FAFG today made this story that much more real when we were able to see the remains of peoples who had been missing for more than 20 years. The FAFG organization is doing amazing work to restore the bones found. They are finding answers to the extent of brutality of the massacre. It is even more important that they are able to bring the remains of villagers home to their families where they may have a proper burial that will allow the souls of the dead as well as the living to move on into the next life.

– Caitlyn Colley

Editor’s Note: Today was a very full day and much of what we saw and heard related to some of the most brutal violence of the armed conflict which saw its peak in the early 1980s and ended with the signing of the peace accords in 1996. We will not always be focusing on such macabre scenes or disturbing stories. Guatemala has come a LONG way since the savagery committed in the 80s. And yet, as professors, we believe very strongly that one cannot understand the Guatemala of today without a clear grasp of the violence and racism of the colonial period as well as of the civil war. Furthermore, it is in the context of such violence that truly heroic stories of resistance and courage shone most brightly.


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