I hosted the Haverford group in a visit to the FAFG forensic lab, where they were able to see the bones of those who fell victim to the armed conflict. We then went to an exhumation in a small town in Chimaltenango. I was proud of the Haverford group for not only going out to witness the exhumation, but also for grabbing shovels and helping dig up the dirt where we eventually found the skeletons of two Mayan women and a baby that had been reportedly killed by the Guatemalan military in 1982.
It was here that I had the most emotional experience of my time in
After a full afternoon of digging, one of my FAFG colleagues calmly mentioned that we must be getting close – dark soil started appearing, which was a result of a high concentration of organic matter, and the sound of the pick axe was all of a sudden quite hollow. Not 30 seconds afterwards, bright green threads of traditional Mayan clothing were uncovered in the grave.
It was late in the day by the time this occurred, and my colleagues explained to the family members present that the actual exhumation would have to take place the following day. Don Andres listened attentively, then lit two candles to leave at the site over night. He then sat down on the edge of the grave and started to cry. We had seen Don Andres tear up off and on throughout the day as he talked with us, but this time he was not just crying but wailing. The mental health accompaniers who had come to assist the family for the exhumation sat with him to calm him down and assure him that it was best to leave the work for the next day. Don Andres eventually calmed down, and we were assured by one of the FAFG cultural anthropologists that this was actually a healthy part of the process for Don Andres.
I looked on with the Haverford group, tears in our eyes and lumps in our own throats witnessing the pain of a loving father, but knowing that we as outsiders could not truly understand it. As one astute Haverford student later commented, no political reparations or peace accords would ever be sufficient to erase this pain. Unfortunately, this is how hundreds of thousands in