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CHAPINA 2.0: REFLECTIONS OF A CENTRAL AMERICAN SOLIDARITY BABY

May 14, 2013

GIC living room

Photo: Guatemalan Information Center,Friends and family in my living room in Long Beach early 80’s.

CHAPINA 2.0: REFLECTIONS OF A CENTRAL AMERICAN SOLIDARITY BABY

BY Maya Chinchilla
“Knowing the truth may be painful, but it is without any doubt, highly healthy and liberating” –Slain Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi, 1998

In the 1980s, my parents and a group of Guatemalan exiles founded the Guatemalan Information Center, a human rights and solidarity organization focused on international solidarity with Central America. They showed documentaries like When the Mountains Tremble and slide shows to raise awareness about the extreme human rights violations in Guatemala, which were enacted with the complicity of the U.S. government under the Regan administration. They spent nights and weekends organizing events and staffing literature tables all over Los Angeles, often accompanied by guest speakers, music, art and food. I vividly remember the leaflets and flyers, permeated with the smell of mimeograph ink, and small newsletters that they learned to typeset themselves.
Like other dedicated organizers, my parents didn’t have a regular bedtime. I remember my sister and I found places to sleep in corners of the room when meetings would go on late into the night. I have written about this experience in my poem, “Solidarity Baby,” in which I call my home a “Central American underground railroad,” or a place where refugees and exiles rested after running for their lives.
I grew up hearing about dictators such as Jose Efraín Ríos Montt, a cruel army general who, after leading an internal coup became the de-facto president in 1982. He is only one of many U.S. supported military regimes that took leadership after the years following a U.S.-backed military coup in 1954. This same general and former president was recently on trial for crimes against humanity and for helping to design and execute the scorched earth policy that resulted in the Maya genocide during the 1980s, the most brutal period of Guatemala’s 36-year war. This historic trial marks the first time a former head of state has been convicted of genocide in his own country and is the result of years of struggle from many, like my parents, who never thought they would see this day.
I was five or six years old the first time I saw When the Mountains Tremble, a powerful documentary about the repression of indigenous Guatemalans by the military dictatorship and the ways in which Mayan and Ladino Guatemalans organized themselves to resist repression and to work for much-needed fundamental social and economic reforms. We watched it in my living room, where organizers and friends sat on couches folding chairs, and even on the floor, and leaning up against each other in anticipation of the story of the film. As a dreamy yet observant kid, tiny for my age, I would casually slip in and out of the room without much notice. Curled up in my mother or my father’s lap, I would listen to the rise and fall of their breathing, their hearts pounding as their words echoed through their chest discussing the issues at hand.
(read more here: http://mujerestalk.malcs.org/2013/05/chapina-20-reflections-of-central.html)

Check out this essay I wrote. Click the title below to read more:

Chapina 2.0: Reflections of A Central American Solidarity Baby

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