Travels with V
Guatemala, Belize, Mexico
Soldiers that never surrendered
The civil war in Guatemala raged for over 40 years. It started in 1954 when the elected president Jacobo Arbenz announced plans for a land reform that would help the poor and landless maya communities. With support from USA a military coup was staged, and in the following years different puppet presidents would run a cruel genocide campaign against the mayans and other peasants. The peak of this bloodshed was under the general Efrain Rios Montt in the early 1980’s, when tens of thousands of civilans were murdered and 100 000 were refugees.
But in 1996 a peace treaty was signed by the government and the guerrilla that had been fighting for many years to defend their people against attacks from the military and big landowner’s paramilitary gangs. For one group of guerrillas this treaty stated that they were given a pieco of land where they could build houses and start a new life. This became the Cooperative Nuevo Horizonte (New Horizon) ca 40 kilometers south-east of Flores.
There were 15 families that begun clearing the jungle forest and started building roads and houses. And today the community has grown to over a hundred families. They have schools, a church, shops and a restaurant, there’s even a bar!
Each family that moves to Nuevo Horizonte gets a 20 X 40 meters lot to build a house on. But some houses are very simple huts and others are bigger, professionally built and nicely painted, it all depends on the builder’s economy. Some people work in the community while others work in nearby villages or in Flores.
Not all who live here today have a guerrilla background, but many choose it for security, to live amongst one’s own people.
The cooperative is determined to follow a set of rules that have to do with equality and progress. Improving the situation for women and children, so all kids must go to school. Visiting a classroom we are impressed with these children’s concentration and commitment.
How do the ex-guerilleros in Nuevo Horizonte view their history today? We speak to Compañera Beatrice, she like many of her comrades have kept their alias names from the war, so she won’t tell us her real name.
Today the cooperative has a couple of projects going to create new jobs and a better economy. One project is a fish farm, so in the restaurant we could enjoy super fresh fish grilled with vegetables. Another project is what they call “Solidarity Tourism”, they have guest houses, organized tours of the cooperative and some water activities in a nearby lake.
We felt great warmth and pride among the people in Nuevo Horizonte, they live with small means in primitive houses in one of the world’s poorest countries, and they receive no help whatsoever from the authorities. Yet it’s one of the very few really positive results from the peace treaty in 1996, a treaty that didn’t change an inch in the conditions in society that in 1954 resulted in the war.
From here we head on to one of our dream destinations – the amazing ruin city of Tikal!