Monday, March 9, 2009

After an embarassingly long hiatus from the blog world, I have finally decided to come back! I realize that I do have a lot to tell even when I feel like it´s just another day, another Quetzal (Guatemalan currency). And now is perfect timing for picking up again, because in an hour I´m heading out to the field and will have plenty of interesting stories to tell come this weekend.

I will be going to Cob├ín, Alta Verapaz, one of the most well-known coffee growing regions in Guatemala. While I´m sure that I´ll have some time to pick up some delicious blends, most of the trip will be spent carrying out the initial phases for forensic investigations in the region. In this case, we will actually be looking for massacre survivors who gave testimony in the truth comission sponsored by the United Nations. The Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH, for its Spanish acronym) just celebrated its 10th anniversary of publication. My job will be to go out to a few communities whose stories were published in the CEH, and talk with the surviving family members of the victims to see if they are interested in exhuming, identifying and then giving a proper burial to their loved ones.

This approach is somewhat opposite of how the process for exhumations normally works. Traditionally, local legal organizations make the initial contacts with communities and family members affected by the armed conflict. In these remote areas, news of exhumations travels by word of mouth (not by internet or written publication), and the legal organizations help family members file the necessary paperwork. Usually, it is not until then that we, the FAFG, become involved. In a sense, this is how it should be, because after all, this work is by and large a service to the families of the victims of the war. But due to the fact that this system relies largely on both word of mouth and the availability of the local legal organizations, it doesn´t always flow smoothly. Additionally, a colleague of mine just finished the comparison of exhumations that the FAFG has carried out with massacre testimonies described in the CEH truth commission; the idea now is to seek out the survivors from these cases to offer them the possibility of exhuming their victims.

So now I´m off; more to come over the weekend!

1 comment:

Sarah Labowitz said...

Hi Jenn--glad to see you're back on the blog. Looking forward to reading more!