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La Historia de Nuevo Horizonte

Yesterday, we met Marlon Garcia. He is an ex member of the Guatemalan forensics team, an artist, and is currently working on a museum for Nuevo Horizonte. He presented to us a portion of his life’s work in maps, photography, and oral history. Beginning with the Spanish colonization of the Americas, he dissected the complex history of Guatemala and the war that to this day affects every person living here. A big part of his belief is that museums are a show of ownership, and often in the world this is colonial ownership. There have been museums in every colonizing country that show the history and artifacts of indigenous peoples that they have conquered, erased, massacred, genocided and destroyed. These museums show a false and inhumane version of ownership; a concept he further exemplified with harrowing pictures of ‘human zoos’. These images showed pens that indigenous peoples of the Americas and of Africa had been kept in by their colonizers. He then proceeded to explain how France developed “La Guerra Moderna”, modern warfare. Building from this, he began to discuss with us the creation of the School of the Americas and the militares turned dictators that were taught modern warfare there, before being armed and sent back to their countries. This he connected to the US teaching militares in the Middle East modern warfare, arming them there and later these people becoming Al Qaeda. Modern warfare, in the context of the School of the Americas, is a concept that differs from combatant vs. combatant fighting. It shows that if you murder the civilians, villages and families of the combatants, you eliminate the combatant. It teaches that torture is an acceptable form of warfare and protects no one from inhumane and terrible acts. From here, he began to discuss the history specific to Guatemala. He outlined the involvement of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. in taking over the colonization of Central America from Spain. Guatemala gained independence from Spain in 1821, but the Spanish descendants of the first colonizers continued to hold power and exploit the land and the people. The US became the next major colonial power to exploit Guatemala during Theodore Roosevelts terms in the early 1900s. Marlon then went over the way that industrialization in Guatemala allowed for the exploitation of indigenous workers for coffee, and chicle. After and during these crops, other colonizing countries became involved and began the era of the banana republic in Guatemala. The United Fruit company was one of the biggest culprits. During this time, Guatemala suffered under the rule of dictatorships until the revolucion in October of  1944. This revolution got workers weekends off, an 8 hour work week, and pregnant women access to healthcare.  This began a 10 year golden era for Guatemala from 1944-1954. Towards the end of this era, there began a land reform to redistribute land from the Spanish descended elites to the indigenous peoples of Guatemala. In 1954, the war began. This was due to the involvement of the CIA with help from the United Fruit Company. The US excused their involvement by saying Guatemala was in danger of communism. During the war, people disappeared regularly and villages were massacred. The Guatemalan military army used modern warfare to terrorize people. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly were murdered. Many people were tortured,  psychologically as well as physically. Being a civilian did not grant you any security in the war. This war officially ended in 1996 when the government signed peace accords with the guerilla fighters. However, the fighters were indebted to the government and thus financially crippled. While they had been given land as a form of reparations, they still had very little resources or money. In 1998, Nuevo Horizonte was founded by former Guerilla members. Now, Marlon wants to build a museum here to honor the history and memories of the people who live here while claiming this past as their own.