En route to Rabinal. Drove north, then east, then west and north again through acres of green landscape and vegetation which went from relatively lush vegetation to increasingly more grassland/shrub, then trees.
Just outside Rabinal at Qatchuu Aloom (Mother Earth) Organization/Society in time for lunch- beautifully set up serve yourself on local pottery under a thatched roof. Seed collecton and storage is a main thread of this women based group. Well built facility which can house up to 15 people. Seed storage building- 4 colours of indigenous people 1 colour per wall. Walls lined with shelves or pottery jars of various sizes- grain, food plant seeds. Storage is important but equally is getting seeds planted and some of harvest returned to the seed bank. 80% of the Mother Earth group are women but both men and women from Guatemala and other countries come to learn seed collection/storage and permaculture.
Actual name is Association Quchuu Aloom of Mother Earth. Amaranth which is an ancient grain from this region is a focus for the seed bank- but many other seeds are stored including those of areas/countries from people who have taken courses with the women. Organic food systems, conserving and storing water, food security and sustainable methodologies such as permanculture are the foci. They produce and sell amaranth cereal (a popped dried type), amaranth flour and herbal shampoos.
After lunch we met with Jesus Tecu Osorio who as an adult has made the massacres of Rio Negro area the focus of his life- not making sure the truth is told, but ising the historical truth to move forward and rebuild the knowledge of the Achi culture and maintain the language and cultural traditions.
Jesus met us at the gate of the cemetery holding several- we walked and spoke around 6 monuments representing massacres 1981- 1983 in Rabinal- including the Rio Negro region.
Scattered through the section near the gate of the large cemetery we visited a set of large “tombs”/monuments. The first place he spoke of was the monument for one woman who had been taken from Rio Negro to the army camp of Coban and killed there. Then he spoke near a tomb for a community 47 men taken to Coban base from Rio Negro. The monument held tribute to massacres from 1980 and 1982 initially 7 people March 4, 1980 then 75, 98, 90 and then a pit or well where 177 people were killed and of them 147 were identified.
Following Jesus through this litany of atrocities was an oddly reflective experience. He spoke with clarity, sincerity and as dispassionately was one could as for a survivor.
The final session was a brick memorial to the two men from Rabinal who were killed in Mexico with a leader in 1976. The community had not known where the two had gone. To me these two were the only “real” guerrillas this community produced. The others were displaced indigenous community people men, women and children who because of their will to live as they had been for generations were conveniently targeted as political agitators with leftist bias.
Jesus spoke of his own situation when he was asked the question about his life he brought out three books for sale at the last monument. As a child of ten, he was one of 18 children taken as slaves by the military who had come in March 1982 a thrid time to Rio Negro. They had taken the men in February, taken some women a week later and come for veryone in early March. After the women, very young and older teens were killed. This 18 who became slaves now are the witnesses. Jesus has been the driving force of much of this work. Initially worked with a large agency and now works with the Bufete.
After leaving the cemetery we visited with Jesus’s wife Isabel, and her 8 children and numerous other children. A delight, which included animated fun with the young folks and the tortilla-making lesson with Isabel.
Supper at the in-town office of Qechuu Aloom institute completed a remarkable learning day. We shared the meal with the young American human rights accompanier and their Sweedish supervisor (ACOGUATE).
The third day here was a lifetime experience for us travelers thanks to the two dedicated young women Jackie and Lisa. In memorial to 5000 people lost in the region as a whole.