Copyright 2004 Donna DeCesare
The most comprehensive coverage of Central America in years.
Award-winning radio to use as an educational and learning tool.
Candelaria Ralios and Beatriz Manz
Massacre survivor Edwin Canil

Manuel Canil, Edwin's father and plaintiff in human rights lawsuit

Candelaria and Braulio Ralios, former guerillas

Segment 1:

Reporters: Maria Martin, Walter Morgan, And Sam Eaton

Some two decades ago, in Central America, civil conficts raged that took an estimated three houndred thousand lives. In Guatemala alone, two hundred thousand people died. The numbers are almost incomprehensible. In an effort to bring those numbers to a more human scale, and as part of our special series, "Despues de las Guerras: Central America After the Wars", we now bring you the story of one Central American village. This report tells how this village in Guatemala's rainforest came to be, of how its people, many of them poor indigenous Maya, became caught–or became players in–a conflict between left and right. And of how, like 400 other indigenous communites in that country, Santa María Tzejá was burned to the ground, in what the U.N. Truth Commision called a "genocide" against indigenous Maya. It is also the story of hope and determination, and the search for "un poco de tierra", a bit of land. Maria Martin hosts this special report.

After the remote Guatemalan village of Santa María Tzejá was viciously sacked by the military in 1982, survivors fled into the surrounding rain forest and eventually to Mexico... some even further, to the United States. Others stayed behind, falling into the military's hands. Today the community is rebuilding with the help of villagers past and present. The story of the village of Santa María Tzejá, embodies the forces and conflicts that define the country today. Our guide for this report is Chilean/American anthropologist Beatriz Manz, who has spent over two decades studying this community. (Beatriz Manz' book: Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope was recently published by University of California Press.)

Note: a second report on Santa María Tzejá airs as segment five.

For more information about Guatemala and the issues raised in the segment "Santa María Tzejá: The Tale of One Village", see the following books and articles.
(Note: this is not intended as a complete list. Check back for more recommendations.)

Carmack, Robert M., Harvest of Violence: The Maya Indians and the Guatemalan Crisis. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.

Falla, Ricardo. Massacres in the Jungle: Ixcan, Guatemala, 1975-1982. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

Heptig, Vince. A Mayan Struggle: Portrait of a Guatemalan People in Danger. Ft. Worth, Texas: Maya Media, 1997.

Russel, Grahame. Unearthing the Truth: Exhuming a Decade of Terror in Guatemala. EPICA and CHRLA, May 1996.

Manz, Beatriz. Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror and Hope. Berkeley: 2004.

Perera, Victor and Daniel Chauche. Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Sanford, Victoria. Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.

Wilkinson, Daniel. Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal and Forgetting in Guatemala. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala:

UN verification mission in Guatemala

The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission:

The Commission for Historical Clarification

The Guatemalan Truth Commission report

Discovering Dominga: Guatemala and the Maya

Center for Human Rights Legal Action site about General Fernando Romeo Lucas García

Conciliation Resources (CR): Violent Truths: The Politics of Memory in Guatemala <

Produced by GraciasVida Media Center, the independent journalism resource for Latin America.

For more information, contact:
Producer Maria Martin email:
or telephone: 415.670.9717

Funded by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

© Maria Martin

Photo at top left © Donna DeCesare