Category: Memory

A Search for Justice

In 2004, when I left Harvard and last saw you, I thought I would never learn the truth of what exactly happened to Carlos Horacio in the horrendous holocaust of the Palace of Justice in Bogotá. Yet fate was holding a tremendous surprise for my daughters and me, filled with…

Memory: Editor’s Letter

Category: "Memory" Editor’s Letter Memory Irma Flaquer’s image as a 22-year-old Guatemalan...

A Search for Justice in El Salvador: One Legacy of Ignacio Martín-Baró

In the small rural town of Arcatao, Chalatenango, Rosa Rivera clung to the hope that one day she would find the remains of her disappeared mother and father and lay them to rest in peace. Others sought to exhume mass graves hoping to recover bodies of nearly 1,000 relatives massacred in the Río Sumpul. …

El Salvador Could Be Like That: A Memoir of War, Politics, and Journalism from the Front Row of the Last Bloody Conflict of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War

“There are no just wars. There are only just causes.” I was sitting in the modest home of a former FMLN guerrilla woman in a rural village in the northeastern corner of El Salvador. It was 2001, and I was nearing the end of my second year-long stint in this small Central American nation, interviewing more than 200 Salvadorans, mostly from rural areas, about their experiences during the civil conflict of the 1980s. …

First Take: Memories and Their Consequences

I visited the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos in Santiago, Chile, two years ago. It was a heart-rending experience. To enter the museum, I moved through a stark and subterranean passage and found myself in a somber space of transition. There, a wall of photographs transported me back in time—long ago in a messy graduate student lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, four of us stood in shock …

An Exploration of the Mexican Health Care System

The recent creation of Seguro Popular—a governmental program granting basic health services to millions of Mexicans previously uninsured—has newly enabled thousands of Mexican women afflicted with breast cancer to access treatment. With the growing prevalence of breast cancer survivors, the question now arises of how best to maintain their health and address their needs. …

Educating the “Good Citizen”: Memory in postwar Guatemala

On my many field trips, I tell Guatemalan teens I’m interested in how they learn about the 36-year conflicto armado (armed conflict). I then study their faces. If not baffled, they avert their eyes and share refrains passed on by many adults in their lives: “We have no historical memory,” or “In Guatemala, there is no historical consciousness.” School teachers say, occasionally with concern, “We don’t talk about that here,” …

Discovering Dominga: Adoptions and Tangled Truths

In the open central market one morning in Rabinal, Guatemala, 28-year-old Denese Becker picked up a bolt of corte cloth, woven fabric used by Achi Maya women to make their skirts, and brought it to her face. She closed her eyes. “My mother,” she said. “This smells like my mother.” I knew which one she was talking about….

Because They Were Taken Alive: Forced Disappearance in Latin America

In Guatemala City, a single garage light has been burning continuously for almost thirty years. The garage’s owner, a woman now in her nineties, cannot bring herself to turn it off. On May 15, 1984, her son, Rubén Amílcar Farfán, left the house early as he usually did, headed for the university. But later that afternoon, friends of his rang the doorbell of the family’s house, anguished, to report the worst …

Democracy, Citizenship and Commemoration in Colombia

Military detachments costumed in the historical uniforms of the patriotic army journeyed on foot, by mule and on horseback on a long journey promoted as the Liberty Route to celebrate Colombia’s bicentennial. The media showed the inhabitants of different towns of the country celebrating the arrival of the marchers, fulfilling their own role in this polemic recreation of the official stories about national independence. …

Covering Central America in the 1980s: A Memoir in Words and Photos

The wipers slapped across the rain-smeared windshield as we sped through downtown San Salvador. Nelson Ayala clutched the steering wheel to keep us on the road through the torrential downpour. It was already two hours past dark, and it felt way too late to be out on the streets in this part of town. Suddenly, a body appeared in the headlights just ahead of us, sprawled on the pavement. …

Memory: The Alchemy of Narrative

Six-year-old Ana peeks out of a keyhole onto her middle-class Bogotá street even though her parents had forbidden her to do so. It is Friday, April 9, 1948, and popular presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán has been assassinated, an….

Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead

As graduate students in Harvard’s Department of Government, Shannon O’Neil and I read from the same interminable Mexico reading list handed to us by our mentor, Professor Jorge Domínguez. A few years later, in 2002, we became good friends in Mexico City. Alejandro Poiré, a fellow Domínguez student, was then Chair of the Political Science Department at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), where I was a faculty member. He provided Shannon with an office during her Fulbright stint, and so ITAM fast became an ongoing seminar for a gringa and this Mexican-American pocho to learn about …

Memoryscape: A Documentary Film Explores Memory

Walking up to 12,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes took two entire days. With Ramiro Niño de Guzmán, a Quechua-speaking human rights leader, I set out for his childhood home in Checcasa, along the same path that the army had taken when it attacked his village in 1988, accusing his family of being Shining Path insurgents. His brothers were tortured and killed, his sisters raped and dismembered….

Memoria y democracia

“Por más de 8 años, cada vez que salía de viaje, lo primero que hacía era empacar la camisa y los pantalones con los que había sido torturado por la policía. Se notaban claramente en ellos la sangre coagulada y los rotos causados por los golpes. Sentía necesidad de llevarlos conmigo como memoria fresca y como testigos de la injusticia infligida sobre mi” (Antonio, líder sindical)….

Neruda and the Chilean Open Graves: Windows of Hope

Chilean graves have been opening during the last years. Remains of poet Pablo Neruda were removed last May from his tomb facing the Pacific in the small Chilean coastal town of Isla Negra. Before Neruda, in May 2011, remains of former President Salvador Allende were also unburied, to fully determine if he in fact committed suicide while military forces bombarded the presidential palace. …

Colombia: A Concise Contemporary History

In 2008, as a Harvard college sophomore, I was getting ready to go back to Colombia, my birthplace, for the first time since I left with my family as a 13-year-old. I read everything I could find, looking for a better understanding of the country than my vague adolescent memories. I was disappointed to find only opinions at two extremes….

Unsettled/Desasosiego, Children in a World of Gangs

Unsettled/Desasosiego is an honest book that recounts Donna DeCesare’s long relationship with Central America and its people in an intimate, personal fashion. The photograph on page 19 is highly revealing. It captures the movement of people, the chaotic hubbub, the ongoing life of the town and—finally—some armed men who seem entirely out of place. On the left, a little girl embraces a wooden pole. …

Víctimas Invisibles, Conflicto Armado, y Género: Eliminación de la mujer colombiana de la memoria histórica

Durante siglos la memoria histórica en Colombia ha sido un asunto menor, algo del orden del sentimiento que para muchos, tiene una evocación de conservación o conservadurismo. Ese sentimiento que ha sido real en Colombia, es inspirado en aquellas construcciones que obligan a las personas, a no recordar los horribles sucesos de crímenes y guerras que han marcado el país.


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