By Andy McLellan
In 1964, General Efraín Ríos Montt became the dictatorial leader of Guatemala. For the next 20 years, the indigenous Mayan population of the most populated country in Central America was subjected to an extended and brutal military campaign, secretly waged with the support of the United States government. Death tolls are estimated to be upwards of 200,000, an the 1998 Truth Commission in Guatemala City acknowledged the events as a genocide. “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” is the story of bringing evidence against General Montt and serving justice. The country remains largely in the dark regarding the specifics of its recent history for many reasons, principal of which are to not admit to such atrocities and shelter Montt and other government and military leaders who are responsible.
Even today, in the highlands where the conflict was focused, it is not safe to discuss what happened. Malnutrition and misperceptions persist among the indigenous peasants, augmented by sustained army propaganda that insists it was they who saved the people against the armed insurgents. A lack of education is a major factor in the continued repression of these people.
But this documentary by Pamela Yates, and its predecessor, “When the Mountains Tremble”, are not the only actions being taken. There are numerous organizations seeking to educate and enable Mayan communities in the highlands. This documentary was co-presented by Philanthropiece (www.philanthropiece.org) and Reading Village (www.readingvillage.org) as a part of the Boulder International Film Festival’s call2action series, and they have identified 10 “Action Items” to encourage everyone to become involved:
1. Educate yourself! Learn more about the Guatemalan conflict and human rights violations by reading “Guatemala: Memory of Silence”. http://shr.aaas.org/guatemala/
2. Show your solidarity with the Guatemalan people by signing the Justice for Genocide petition. http://www.thepetitionsite.
3. Donate to the Philanthropiece Scholars program in building the next generation of leaders for Chajul, Guatemala.http://www.philanthropiece.
4. Donate to Reading Village and support our mission to create leaders and to promote literacy in Guatemala.http://www.readingvillage.org/
5. Stay up to date with Philanthropiece’s and Reading Village’s work by following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook.
6. Order this film to share with your personal networks and then donate it to a local middle school, high school, or university library. http://granitofilm.com
7. Invest 3 minutes! Watch “Granito, Every Memory Matters” about the film’s sister project dedicated to building a digital library of firsthand accounts from the war. http://skylightpictures.com/
8. Connect with Antonio Caba of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) to express your support. Send messages for Antonio to: email@example.com.
9. Be proactive about preventing future genocide and ethnic cleansing. Write your representatives in Washington, D.C. and share your outrage about human rights violations occurring around the world.
10. Create change! Become a documentary filmmaker – attend the BIFF workshop “Produce a Documentary” Sunday, Feb 19, 3-5pm at the Boulder Library.
Another organization working in Guatemala is Cultural Survival, who has established a network of indigenous community radio stations that facilitate communication, sharing, learning, unification, politicizing, and cultural survival. They can be found at www.cs.org.