Memory: Disputed Territory

Posted on October 22, 2015

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The photo series, “Memory: Disputed Territory” will be exhibited from Monday October 26th to Friday November 6th, 2015 at UNCG’s Multicultural Resource Center (Elliott University Center, suite 062).  The exhibit, by Guatemalan photojournalist, Roderico Yool Díaz, captures the lived experience of individuals still struggling to find justice for loved ones lost to the violence of the Guatemalan genocide.  Mr. Díaz himself will be in the Triad area to give talks at UNCG and Elon University to promote his exhibit and further discuss the themes present in his work.  A panel discussion on the diverse manifestations of genocide will take place on Wednesday October 28th at 7:00 pm at UNCG’s Alumni House with a preceding reception at 6:00 pm.  Both the exhibition and panel discussions are free and open to the public.

Mr. Díaz’s exhibition has been made possible by the collaboration between the Latino Community Coalition of Guilford (LCCG), UNC-Greensboro’s Office of Intercultural Engagement and American Friends Service Committee of Greensboro.

A Short History of Guatemala

The government repression of the Guatemalan people over 36 years of war (1960-1996) took an estimated toll of more than 200,000 lives. The violence included over 600 massacres, 45,000 people forcibly detained and disappeared, and more than 1 million people displaced from their homes. According to the UN Historical Clarification Commission report, an estimated 93% of human rights violations were committed by the Guatemalan army. The height of the killing occurred in the early 80‘s by the military regime of General Efraín Ríos Montt against the Mayan people, for which they now charge Genocide.

As the genocide trial got underway in Guatemala in the early months of 2013, it may have gone largely unnoticed by many in the US, but the verdict was internationally historic. On May 10th 2013, former military general and head of state, Efraín Ríos Montt, was convicted of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. It is the first time in world history that a former head of state has been tried and convicted for crimes against humanity by his own people in a national tribunal. Despite problems of ramped corruption, poverty and human rights violations plaguing the country, Guatemala succeeded in achieving what would be unimaginable in the U.S.—the conviction of a former head of state for war crimes. The verdict was suspended 10 days later through a questionable higher court ruling for what was decided to be incorrect judicial proceedings in response to a complaint lodged by Rios Montt’s team of defense attorneys, but the retrial process continues in starts and spurts and the former military leader remains under house arrest.

More importantly, the stories told by witnesses detailing their horrific and painful experiences during the armed conflict, can never be retracted. These stories are now part of the public record and registered in the country’s collective memory to be passed down and taught to new generations with the intention that in Guatemala, history will not repeat itself.

In months leading up to the trial and throughout the hearings, the Guatemalan public weighed in. Plastered on walls and buses, shouted by crowds in the street, headlining front-page articles, the controversy consumed the country: “!Sí hubo genocidio!” and “!No hubo genocidio!”—“Yes, there was genocide!” and “No, there was not genocide!” The controversy spans far beyond semantics describing events of the past—it’s an urgent and current debate as many of the guilty actors during the time of the genocide continue to hold political office in Guatemala. The question of what happened over 30 years ago continues to have a very real impact on current politics of power, money and a disputed collective memory in Guatemala.

The demand for justice of past war crimes has a direct link with ongoing work by human rights activists in Guatemala as they continue to fight against current threats of mega development projects compromising land and resources necessary to the survival of rural campesino and indigenous communities in regions throughout the country.

Panel Discussion

Join us on Wednesday, October 28th at the UNC-Greensboro Alumni House for a reflective discussion on the history and current events affecting communities in Guatemala and our own community, and learn how you can get involved.

This panel discussion on genocide will take place timed with the upcoming photo exhibit Memory: Disputed Territory by photojournalist Roderico Yool Díaz, organized in conjunction with the Latino Community Coalition of Guilford and hosted by the Office of Intercultural Engagement in the Elliot University Center. The photo exhibit will feature images and stories of survivors of Guatemala’s armed conflict as they continue to demand justice for war crimes including crimes against humanity and genocide. The panel discussion will feature the artist, Roderico Díaz, along with panelists from diverse perspectives on genocide speaking on topics such as: the destruction of native peoples and culture by European settlers of the US; the slave trade of African peoples and on-going systematic violence against African Americans in the US; the history of Guatemala’s genocide and US involvement; and a discussion of the founding philosophy behind the word “genocide”, coined by Raphael Lemkin, and its evolution into international law.

With social and cultural definitions of genocide varying widely and often conflicting with the word’s more narrow legal definition as defined in international law, the topic is ripe for discussion. Greensboro has a rich history as a homeland to indigenous peoples such as the Lumbee tribe, a pivotal site of resistance during the civil rights movement, and more recently the new home of many international refugees fleeing conflict zones. Organizers of the event hope to invoke a wider community discussion around elements of genocide and discrimination visible in our own history and community today.

The discussion facilitator, Aleks Babić, is a survivor of the Yugoslavian civil war and a first generation refugee to the US. As a multimedia artist and a public health educator, Aleks connects global struggles to every day choices and practices through spoken word, photography and audio production. Aleks uses they/them/their pronouns and will be the panel discussion facilitator.

Discussion Panelists:

Roderico Yool Díaz, of Guatemala, is an independent documentarian and photojournalist whose work portrays different facets of Guatemalan society, highlighting injustice and the difficult work of human rights activists in their pursuit of justice. His work especially focuses on the survivors of the Ixil Genocide in Guatemala and the struggle of indigenous and campesino communities as they defend their identities, natural resources, and rights to land and territory. His perspective is informed by his own experience as a survivor of internal displacement and the enforced disappearance of family members during the armed conflict in Guatemala. He is a member of the organization H.I.J.O.S. (Hijos e hijas por la identidad y la justicia contra el olvido y el silencio – Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice against Forgetting and Silence) which works for justice for the 45,000 victims of forced disappearance during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.  Roderico Y. Díaz is a collaborating journalist in the Center for Independent Media (Centro de Medios Independientes, CMI).

Dr. David Crowe is a Professor Emeritus of History and Law at Elon University. He has written extensively on the topics of genocide and war crimes, including War Crimes, Genocide, and Justice: A Global History (2013), The Holocaust: Roots, History and Aftermath (2008), and Crimes of State: Past and Present (2010). He has taught courses on these topics at Elon University and its School of Law, and frequently serves as an expert witness on various cases in the U.S. and Canada on the plight of ethnic minorities in Eastern Europe and Russia. He is currently writing a biography of Raphael Lemkin and is editing a book on the role of the Soviets at the Nuremberg IMT trial in Germany.

Alisha J. Hines is a PhD candidate in History and African & African American Studies at Duke University. Her research centers around the gendered politics of mobility and resistance in the antebellum Mississippi River Valley. She is originally from Chicago, where she first gained experience working in the field of education in under-resourced and under-served communities.  She has experience working and consulting for various non-profit organizations in and outside North Carolina. She is also president of the Hurston-James Society, which is an organization committed to the academic, professional, and personal development of graduate students of color in the humanities and social sciences in the Triangle.

Nora Dial-Stanley is an enrolled member of the Lumbee tribe of NC and has advocated for American Indians in NC for over 30 years. She has played an integral part in the development of American Indian policies, especially in areas of cultural preservation and cultural sustainability. In the past she has played an active role in the Guilford Native American Association as a member of the Board of Directors, Chairperson of the Cultural Committee, Co-Chairperson of the Pow-Wow Committee, and Chairperson of the Miss GNAA Ambassador Pageant. She volunteers as a Lead Instructor for the One Spirit Cultural Class that meets weekly with Native Youth across the Triad and is the adviser to the Native American Student Association at UNCG. She has volunteered with countless organizations and events across the state as an organizer, public speaker, storyteller, and consultant to educate others on the cultural, traditions, and history of her people.

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