Guatemala is a country of breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking violence. For 36 years, the country suffered an internal armed conflict, during which military dictatorships carried out unimaginable violence in an attempt to silence the voices of those working for social justice. Students, priests, labor leaders, family farmers, educators, and thousands of others were forcibly disappeared. Entire indigenous Entire Mayan villages were forever wiped off the map by massacres in which men, women, elderly and children were tortured, and killed. The lush Guatemalan countryside was scarred with hundreds of clandestine mass graves. Over 200,000 innocent lives were lost.
Guatemala today is still plagued by extreme poverty, discrimination, racism, misogyny, oppression, corruption, injustice, and violence. The best hope for repairing Guatemala’s torn social fabric and building a better future can be found in the valiant men and women who daily defend human rights. Whether protecting the environment, promoting indigenous rights, organizing peasant farmers, demanding equality for women, exposing acts of corruption, or seeking justice for crimes of the past, their efforts are peaceful, selfless and just.
Yet, for the invaluable work they do, human rights defenders in Guatemala continue to suffer slander, threats, attacks, imprisonment and even death.