Honor the Guatemalan quest for justice on May 10th


Download these instructions in .pdf format

How can you participate?
1. Read the verdict: Record and upload a short video of yourself reading a passage from the guilty verdict of Ríos Montt, and share it on Facebook, www.facebook.com/sentenciaporgenocidio,  as well as Instagram, Vine, Flipagram, YouTube. Add the hashtag #SentenciaPorGenocidio with each video.


Choose any passage from Judge Yasmín Barrios’s sentence: http://osf.to/1Jovntj. Or record a video reading the best known part of the sentence: “We do not want these types of actions to repeat themselves. We truly believe that in order for peace to exist in Guatemala, first justice must exist.”


2. Share a memory or opinion: Record and upload a short video answering one of the following questions and share it on Facebook (www.facebook.com/sentenciaporgenocidio) and on Instagram, Vine, Flipagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Add the hashtag #SentenciaPorGenocidio with each video.

Suggested Questions:

– Has something changed in Guatemala because of the verdict?

– Have you changed at all because of the guilty verdict?


3. Find a photo or drawing that represents this historical moment in Guatemala and upload it to the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/sentenciaporgenocidio as well as on your own social networking sites (Instagram, Flipagram, YouTube, Twitter), using the hashtag #SentenciaPorGenocidio.


4. Help us share information

– “Public opinion on racism and genocide in during the Guatemalan genocide trial against Efraín Ríos Montt,” Marta Elena Casaus Arzú,  http://bit.ly/1KJMnev

– Read the International Justice Monitor Trial Monitor Blog on Efraín Ríos Montt: http://bit.ly/1E5a0JY

– Watch the video “The Verdict, Produced by Skylight: https://vimeo.com/74675028

– Read Open Society’s “The Full Ríos Montt Judgment”, http://osf.to/1Jovntj



Retelling Truth: Documentary Film as Witness and Evidence in Genocide Trials


Last April, Pam joined Guatemalan filmmaker Izabel Acevedo in panel discussion about the role that documentary can play in talking about the civil war and genocide trials in Guatemala, in an event moderated by Prof. Peter Lucas as part of the ongoing Guatemala Después Exhibit at the New School. Pam screened excerpts from Dictator in the Dock, the 23-episode series that Skylight published on the Ríos Montt trial in May 2013, while Izabel showed parts of El mico de noche (The night monkey) and her first feature film The Good Christian, about Ríos Montt.

Part of the event’s power stemmed from the fact that it brought together two documentary filmmakers who covered the same historical event — the Efraín Ríos Montt trial in May of 2013 — in drastically different styles. The footage, while in the same locations, with the same people, shot at the same time, was remarkably different. While Pam’s work focused much more on the legal proceedings — the testimonies of the witnesses, the histrionics of the defense, and the remarkable case built by the prosecution — Izabel’s work is much more anthropological in its nature, visually and thematically exploring what the trial revealed about broader Guatemalan society, and the interaction between indigenous, mestizo and elite strata.

View the livestream recording here: http://livestream.com/TheNewSchool/guatemala-despues-retelling-truth-documentary-film

The questions and answers that followed the presentation were also fertile ground for further exploring the issues raised in both filmmakers’ work. Audience members asked why to focus on Ríos Montt, if the issue is a racist system, and how the guilty verdict may have changed racism in Guatemala.

If you’re interested in hearing more, watch the Livestream!


The Fight for 15

IMG_20150415_182735923 blog_HDRIt’s tax day, April 15th, and I’m marching down Broadway from Columbus Circle with a boisterous group of African American, Latina, and Philippina healthcare workers singing to the tune of “Oh When the Saints Come Marching In” –

We’re over worked, and under paid,

We’re overworked and underpaid.

All we want is fifteen dollars,

We’re over worked and under paid.

 A little earlier…

At 5:30 in the evening the 2 train is solid Brooklyn as I get on at Nevins; a collection of working New Yorkers heading to Manhattan. For a glorious moment I think they are all going with me to the demo. God knows most of them look like they could benefit from a minimum wage of $15. Right. We’ve got a long way to go before that happens. I was lucky to have finished some editing on a fundraising trailer, but my 3 coworkers were deep into deadlines and couldn’t get away, so there I was, by myself, heading to this demo. By Wall Street the train is full, now with suits and slacks and buffed shoes and briefcases, Wall Street standing, Brooklyn still in the seats.

So what takes me to today’s demo. Sure I believe in the cause, The fight for 15. 15 bucks an hour isn’t much to ask at a moment when wealth flows like a river at flood crest from most of us to the 1%. But me, I make twice that, 30 bucks an hour, although I often put in extra hours without extra pay, but that comes with the territory. I’m a documentary filmmaker, and I’m basically self-employed, and have been for many a long year now. But if anything in this unjust world is going to change its the American people, not the fat cats, who are going to have to do it. So every now and then I feel it’s necessary to take the pulse and check the temperature of this ailing patient, the American people. Are there signs of life in the narcotized somnambulant public. Gotta change trains at 42 St. Rush hour now as I jam into the Number 1, just another head of cattle, a revenue stream for some billionaire. I spill forth out of the car with my fellow travelers (oh that they were) and as I emerge up the circular steps at Columbus Circle I can hear drumming. Yes! There are about four blocks filled up solid from 60th Street on up Central park West. A small group has gathered around a man with a box of noise makers, that I assume he’s selling, although it is immediately apparent that he’s giving them out. Near by are stacks of printed signs on thick cardboard rolls. There’s some money supporting this demo, complete with stage, sound system, and large video screen. The SEIU locals have turned out. 1199 Health and Hospital workers are probably the biggest contingent. There’s a large Ronald McDonald puppet, and a lot of homemade signs. Counts are always hard, but my rule of thumb is about a thousand people per block, so I’m putting this at about 4 thousand. Kind of disappointing for the organizers I’d guess, but the people here certainly were in great spirits, and after I took enough pictures and videos to drain the juice in my phone I enthusiastically joined a group marching and singing to the tune of “Oh When the Saints Come Marching In” –

We’re over worked, and under paid,

We’re overworked and underpaid,

All we want is fifteen dollars,

We’re over worked and under paid.

This was a sanctioned march, with the all important police permit. While this means that they are not going to arrest you, it comes with the indignity of being herded along through police barrier chutes, divided off from the rest of the people on the street like some contagious and dangerous Ebola patients. But I discovered that the metal top of the police barriers makes a surprisingly loud and melodious clang when struck with my free noisemaker. We covered the 15 blocks down to Times Square in an agonizingly slow 90 minutes, with lots of noise, singing, and chants. As the march disperses I grab the Q back to Flatbush Brooklyn. Standing with my back against the door I look through the car of swaying riders and I consider the ailing patient. Small signs of life but far from out of the woods. But I am convinced that a demo a day keeps the doctor away, so get off your duffs and out into the streets. You’ll feel better.

Un Asunto de Tierras at the Havana Film Festival


Over the past 50 years, Colombia has endured one of the longest standing internal armed conflicts in the Americas–one that has left over 5.5 million people displaced. Roughly 13% of the country’s population are “internally displaced persons” or IDPs. The question of how to allocate reparations to these millions of Colombians who have been forcibly displaced is central to achieving justice and peace in Colombia. Over the past 10 years, the government has attempted to address the roots of violence in Colombia, with varying degrees of success.

In response to the growing demands of the victims, in 2011 the government under President Juan Manuel Santos promoted the passing of Law 1448, or Victims’ Law. This law attempted to establish a program that would provide reparations to victims, as well as a process by which victims could return to their land.

Un Asunto de Tierras, playing now at the 16th Annual Havana Film Festival in New York, follows one community of displaced persons — a group totaling 1,500 scattered across the country — who attempt to put into practice the procedure set forth by the Land Restitution Act of 2011. Through Kafka-esque twists and turns, the members of the community formerly known as “Las Palmas” attempt to restate their claim to their land, remember their community, and reassert their local identity. The documentary deftly interweaves the groups efforts to engage with the new government procedures with a behind-the-scenes view of the Congress and government officials as they debate the Act itself, open the new the Land Restitution Unit building, and argue over the program’s implementation. Un Asunto de Tierras offers an unflinching view of the hollowness of government justice processes that were, perhaps, never intended to work in the first place.

Bringing home a film: Disruption in Cartagena












In the second week of our Disrupt Poverty Tour, an outreach project of our film DISRUPTION, we arrived in Cartagena — one of the locations where the film was shot. After a 24 hour drive up from Tunja, we arrived at the house of Agripina Perea, whose story of economic empowerment through the Mujeres Ahorradoras program is highlighted in the film. Since DISRUPTION was shot, Agripina has become involved with Funicaribe (Fundación Instituto del Caribe), a group that offer full spectrum services to women-owned business. Funicaribe is working in low-resource areas around Cartagena to offer legal services, business advice and mentoring, to women business owners. Together, Agripina and the Funicaribe staff, coordinated screenings of the film in various locations in neighborhoods that work. Not only does the film feature Agripina, it offers a great starting point to begin a conversation, generate ideas, and motivate participants around social entrepreneurship for women.

We began the week by showing the film twice with women who had been featured in documentary itself: Our first night in Cartagena, we screened right outside Agripina’s home in the neighborhood of Revivir. While she has appeared with the film many times, this was the first time the film had been shown in her neighborhood. Our second day, we traveled to the neighborhood of Boston, where the Women’s Recyclers group also featured in DISRUPTION lives and works to screen with a group of women involved in Funicaribe’s work.

Following the screening, the group of women dialogued about their experiences saving, and their ideas for growing small businesses. Of the 38 attendees, eight had participated in the Mujeres Ahorradoras program and graduated out of it. The Women’s Recyclers group, all of whom were in attendance, had since disbanded but a new street cleaning and recycling group had formed as well. Women shared their ideas and hopes for the future — Karina Barri, for example, hopes to open a restaurant, while Hilda Julio aspires to grow a community cafeteria and Gloria Acosta an ice cream store.

These women will be working with Funicaribe to establish and expand their ideas — we interviewed a number of them as well, and will be following them over the coming months and years to see how their work grows.


Remembering Guatemala’s First Genocide Conviction as the Trial Resumes Today

Read the original article on the NACLA website.

What a moment that was! General Ríos Montt convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison. On May 2013, Guatemala, this small, Central American country, had for the first time anywhere in the world successfully prosecuted a case of genocide committed against indigenous people. Hundreds in the courtroom could not be silenced, and as they poured onto the streets to spread the news, they were dancing, shouting Justicia!, and singing the words of an Otto Rene Castillo poem, “Here, no one cried / Here we only want to be human / Eat, laugh, fall in love, live / Live life, not die,” evoking the memory of those who perished at the hands of the genocidaires.

I had gone to Guatemala in March of 2013 committed to filming the entire trial, gavel to gavel, with two cameras and a film crew of Guatemalan, Colombian, and U.S. filmmakers. We were determined to document this groundbreaking trial in its entirety—to throw open the trial court doors to the entire world. We began by uploading a new webisode of trial highlights every few days. Eventually, these trial highlights turned into Dictator in the Dock, a 23-episode webseries and online educational hub. The final webisode, “The Verdict,” recapitulates the trial in 14 minutes, with the reading of the verdict as the narrative spine.

But 10 days after the verdict was announced, the pendulum of justice that had swept away the impunity of the old order swung back like a wrecking ball to destroy the gains made. Ríos Montt’s guilty verdict was vacated on a procedural technicality by the Constitutional Court, with the case set to resume again in January 2015. While over the past few weeks Rios Montt’s lawyers have made last-minute attempts to thwart the trial from moving forward, we share with NACLA readers, this morning, January 5, as the trial resumes once again, our first Dictator in the Dock episode “Anticipating Justice,” filmed on the first day of the trial in March 2013.

A number of events in the months since the verdict was first announced have exposed the fragility of challenging impunity in a state whose legal and political ties to a genocide committed just over 30 years ago remain strong. Ríos Montt’s lawyers’ principal legal strategy has been to delay and to deny in order to prevent Ríos Montt, now 88, from ever going to prison. The Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz, who vigorously prosecuted the Ríos Montt case, was forced out of office early. The following day she left the country, and her assets and bank accounts in Guatemala have been frozen since.

Judge Yassmín Barrios, head of the tribunal of the three judges who tried the case—herself a model of judicial rectitude in Guatemala—has been professionally censored by The Court of Honor of the Bar Association of Guatemala on a bogus accusation that she disrespected and defamed Ríos Montt’s defense team. In fact it appears that the opposite was true, as can be seen in the scene from the episode “Respect” from the Dictator in the Dock series. And worse, Judge Barrios has been marginalized by many of her fellow jurists who are afraid to show support for her. She has become the victim of slander and has been threatened with physical attacks. Her world is circumscribed between home and the courts, and she has 24-hour police bodyguards. She continues to assert that the Ríos Montt trial was fair, and in an interview with Skylight Pictures for our upcoming film 500 years, reiterated that “the verdict and the sentence did exist; they were born in a court of law, they achieved national and international recognition, and they are irrefutable.”

In a shocking suicide that dismayed the judicial community and human rights defenders, Supreme Court Justice César Barrientos Pellecer, one of the greatest crusaders against impunity in Guatemala, was unable to endure the number of threats against him and the legal action taken against members of his family. As president of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, he supported and helped implement the High Risk Courts for the most serious crimes, where Ríos Montt was tried.

Though one of several actors working to wipe out the court’s guilty findings, the organization the Anti-Terrorism Foundation is emblematic of the neo-fascism dominating the post-trial debate. They assert that “Guatemala is not a genocidal country.” And incumbent President Otto Perez Molina, as he told Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and me at a meeting in 2012, concurs. The Foundation has made numerous attempts to discredit Guatemalan and international experts who testified for the prosecution in the Ríos Montt trial, calling them “enemies of the state” in full page ads in Guatemalan newspapers and on television. The Public Ministry and several private citizens have brought spurious criminal charges against the most effective activist leaders.

Together with this foreboding legal climate, on May 13, 2014, the Guatemalan Congress voted 87 to 24 to adopt a resolution decreeing that “no genocide occurred in Guatemala.”

The government of Guatemala has hired the Washington DC Public relations firm of Otto Reich (remember him as the effective promoter of the U.S.-backed Anti-Sandinista contras as “freedom fighters”?). He states in his Foreign Agent Registration that he is to “design a strategy to move forward [to] change North American political parties that are willing to abandon the reference of the Guatemala of the 1970s and 80s, as well as the last century, and are eager to talk about the present and future of Guatemala of the 21st century.”

Right after the verdict was read, The Association for Justice and Reparations (AJR) and the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) published Yassmín Barrios’ 718 page sentencing report that describes in great detail the evidence behind Ríos Montt’s conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity. They have distributed the book widely throughout the Mayan highlands, where the survivors, witnesses at the trial, and large segments of the population consider that the guilty verdict is valid. On Nov. 6, 2014, AJR and CALDH’s legal representatives of the victims petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to condemn the state of Guatemala for obstructing justice and promoting impunity for crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity committed against the Maya-Ixil people.

The reverberations from the Ríos Montt trial continue to threaten the powerful and to empower the dispossessed.

The fight-back on the grassroots level is gaining momentum. Peaceful resistance protests against the extractive industries continue, and are becoming more forceful. On June 23, 2014, 50,000 people came out in support of a National Mayan Work Strike, creating human blockades in 29 places on the Pan-American highway from Tecpán to the Mexican border, ensuring that no commercial truck serving the mega-projects could do business as usual that day.

The popular song “Amnesia,” written and performed widely by Alejandro Arriaza and rappers Alioto Lokos, sums up the mood:

Y ahora pretenden decretar amnesia, / And now they want to decree amnesia,

y ahora quisieran reescribir la historia, / And now they’d like to rewrite history,

pero no cuentan con la resistencia / But they didn’t count on our resistance

ni que tenemos muy buena memoria. / Nor that we have very good memory.

Y ahora resulta que ellos son los buenos, / And it turns out that they are the good ones,

y ahora resulta que no hicieron nada, / And that they did nothing wrong,

pero no vamos a morder su anzuelo: / But we’re not going to fall for that:

Ellos la deben, ellos la pagan. / They owe, and they’ll pay.

Medios en Movimiento (Entrevista con Martín Rodríguez Pellecer)


Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, fundador de Nómada (Nómada)

Para leer esta entrevista en inglés, haga click aquí.

Uno de los fundadores de Plaza Pública, Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, ha lanzado un nuevo sitio de medios digitales, Nómada, que está compuesto de periodistas comprometidas que se dedicarán a perseguir investigaciones, crear información visual de datos, y mezclar estilo y diseño para jóvenes urbanitas de Guatemala y más allá. Me senté a hablar con Martín por skype el 27 de agosto de 2014.

Uno de los fundadores de Plaza Pública, Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, ha lanzado un nuevo sitio de medios digitales, Nómada, que está compuesto de periodistas comprometidas que se dedicarán a perseguir investigaciones, crear información visual de datos, y mezclar estilo y diseño para jóvenes urbanitas de Guatemala y más allá. Me senté a hablar con Martín por skype el 27 de agosto de 2014.

Pamela Yates: ¿Por qué viste la necesidad para crear Nómada? Danos una breve explicación de lo que esNómada.

Martín Rodríguez Pellecer: Nómada es un medio digital que aspira a retratar la sociedad o a reflejar parte de la sociedad de Guatemala desde ángulos mucho más frescos y atrevidos que mezclan política y cotidianeidad, política y sociedad. Hace un tiempo participé en la fundación de un medio digital [Plaza Pública] para una universidad jesuita—; esto sucedió cuando todavía habían pocos medios con circulación en internet en Guatemala. Luego decidí fundar mi propio medio que tomando lo que había aprendido de mi experiencia previa y con el objetivo de llegar a un público más amplio. Quise llegar no solo a lectores con conciencia social o con algún interés en política sino a todos los jóvenes urbanos, sobre todo del país, que tengan o no interés en política y que tengan o no conciencia social.

PY: ¿Cuáles son las fuerzas de Nómada?

MR: Hay varias cosas. Nos interesa en Nómada no solo contar historias sobre la política y la sociedad en Guatemala sino contarlas con otra estética, con otro lenguaje, e ir mezclando la preocupación por la estética con la preocupación por las noticias importantes. Hacerlo con el lenguaje fresco y con el mejor nivel de periodismo de América Latina o del continente.

1 Periodismo Independiente from Skylight Pictures on Vimeo.

PY: ¿Y por qué el nombre Nómada? ¿Qué tiene que ver un nómada con un periodista investigador? Es muy poético para un medio digital en línea.

MR: Pues estaba buscando una palabra que evocara futuro y evocara vanguardia y movimiento. Conversando con una amiga filósofa me contaba de un antropólogo que había venido a hablar en Guatemala en unas conferencias y mencionaba todo el tema de las sociedades nómadas. La tecnología nómada es la que tenemos ahora, que está en constante movimiento. Además era una palabra esdrújula, lo que le daba más fuerza. Después tuve la fortuna de descubrir que hace cien años los unionistas centroamericanos que querían unir Centroamérica democráticamente también hablaban de periodismo y letras nómadas para referirse al periodismo independiente.

PY: Tú has dicho que Nómada ayudará a la sociedad guatemalteca a ser más democrática y transparente, pero ¿Cómo?

MR: Ese objetivo involucra varias responsabilidades. Desde hacer un poco de watchdogging a los actores con poder, hasta transparentar los medios de comunicación que, a pesar de ser los mayores promotores de la transparencia en la sociedad, en muchos casos esconden sus estructuras, sus accionistas, etc.

2 Alianzas con otros Medios Latinoamericanos from Skylight Pictures on Vimeo.
PY: Tú usas varios adjetivos para describir Nómada. Uno de ellos es “vanguardista”, éste usualmente se utiliza para describir movimientos revolucionarios ¿Qué quiere decir “vanguardia” para Nómada?

MR: Bueno, se usa para los movimientos revolucionarios del siglo XX y también para la moda. El adjetivo tiene varios usos. Nómada es vanguardista en tanto que, por ejemplo, es el primer medio en América Latina que tiene cuotas de género, y eso es un avance también. Hacer periodismo más transparente y con otro nivel de diseño—nuestro diseño no tiene nada que envidiarle al mejor diseño de periódicos del planeta—, esos son otros aspectos en que Nómada es vanguardista.

PY: El otro adjetivo que usas es “feminista” y éste tampoco es muy usual al describir el periodismo o los medios en línea.

MR: Sí. Eso se refiere a tener principios de equidad entre hombres y mujeres que se traducen en cuotas de género, en no aceptar publicidad de prostíbulos, en hacer notas que tengan enfoques de denuncia cuando hay actos misóginos o machistas. Entonces, somos una publicación feminista puesto que consideramos el tema de la equidad en todo momento que hacemos periodismo o tomamos decisiones institucionales y no únicamente en el día de la mujer o el día de la violencia contra la mujer.

PY: Es interesante porque tú has escogido adjetivos para describir Nómada que son inusuales y producen shock.

MR: Queremos contarles a los lectores, que son sobre todo jóvenes veinteañeros, que el mundo es distinto de cómo lo han intentado enseñar las generaciones de nuestros padres o de nuestros abuelos, o de cómo lo ven otros jóvenes que piensan como nuestros abuelos.

3 Tu tambien eres poeta from Skylight Pictures on Vimeo.

PY: Tú también te describes en tu perfil de Facebook como feminista.

MR: Sí, también soy un activista feminista.

PY: ¿Qué quiere decir eso para ti?

MR: Esto involucra desde denunciar las injusticias en el tema de género—que es tan profundo y tan alarmante como las injusticias económicas o interétnicas—hasta tomar decisiones en el medio como el tema de las cuotas de género. También tiene que ver con hacer activismo en todos los momentos de la vida y tratar de hacer avanzar el debate. Recordemos que en Centroamérica, que es una de las regiones más desiguales del mundo económicamente, también es una de las más desiguales en las relaciones entre hombres y mujeres. Entonces no podemos considerar que sean batallas secundarias estas batallas de equidad.

PY: Estas basado en Guatemala. Pero ¿Consideras que Nómada es o será panamericano?

MR: Pues, me gustaría que en unos años se convierta en una revista de referencia latinoamericana en lo que respecta a los cambios que están sucediendo en nuestras sociedades. O sea, ya no son sociedades que se enfocan únicamente en la dicotomía campo-ciudad, sino que son sociedades cada vez más urbanas. Aunque obviamente tenemos muchos problemas en las provincias de nuestros países, también tenemos muchos problemas urbanos que no están siendo contados. Sobre todo problemas de jóvenes que son marginados por la forma en que piensan, visten, o trabajan. Creo que conforme nos vamos urbanizando más en América Latina nos vamos pareciendo más. Entonces yo espero que cuando en Sao Paulo quieran enterarse sobre tendencias en otras ciudades de América Latina puedan entrar a Nómada y puedan ver lo que está pasando en esta parte del continente y tomar ideas, o retroalimentarse, o compararse, o ver que se está haciendo. Entonces sí me interesa que Nómada sea una referencia a nivel latinoamericano respecto a qué estamos haciendo como sociedad, aunque estemos contando historias desde Centroamérica.

4 Creciendo rapido from Skylight Pictures on Vimeo.

PY: ¿Cómo es que un medio digital como Nómada puede producir cambios?

MR: Creo que podemos aportar a que los ciudadanos jóvenes tengan muchos más facts y mucho más contexto en sus vidas para tomar mejores decisiones y para discutir con más argumentos con sus papás o con jóvenes influidos únicamente por los libertarios. En Guatemala el debate está muy influido por los libertarios tipo tea party porque tienen muchos recursos y mucha disciplina y nadie contrarresta o enriquece el debate nacional con facts. Entonces al aportar periodismo, facts, y artículos independientes, podemos hacer que el debate nacional sea mucho menos conservador o mucho menos libertario y que sea más real, que refleje más lo que está pasando en la sociedad y lo que están pensando los ciudadanos guatemaltecos y las guatemaltecas—y no solo lo que piensan quienes escriben columnas de opinión, entre los que me encuentro yo. Entonces queremos contribuir al aportar en reducir los espacios de impunidad para actores con poder, al contar más partes de la sociedad, al contar qué está pasando, y al contextualizar la discusión

PY: Tú eres un ciudadano del mundo, has estudiado en el extranjero y hablas varios idiomas ¿Por qué te quedas y trabajas en Guatemala? ¿Cuál es el atractivo para ti?

MR: Nunca me lo he preguntado mucho, pero cuando fui a hacer la maestría a Madrid siempre lo vi como algo temporal para prepararme para regresar, igual cuando fui a hacer un intercambio a Berlín. Cuando he viajado siempre lo he hecho pensando que no solo tengo una responsabilidad como ciudadano guatemalteco que ha tenido más oportunidades que el promedio sino pues porque disfruto mucho de estar en casa y aquí están mis amigos, mi familia, todo un país por construir y por mejorar. Si viviera en un país que no es el mío y en el que todo está construido y todo está establecido, probablemente me aburriría mucho. Entonces no solo es porque hay muchas cosas por construir, muchas cosas por cambiar, muchas cosas por mejorar sino porque es más entretenido y más divertido que vivir por ejemplo en Berlín, donde está todo hecho y todo es perfecto o imperfectamente lindo, y donde hay pocas cosas por cambiar. Aquí tenemos muchas vidas por mejorar, muchas vidas por cambiar, hay muchas injusticias y mucha gente que no tiene conciencia de esas injusticias. También mucha gente que tiene naturalizada la inferioridad entre etnias o entre géneros. Entonces hay mucho trabajo por hacer. Nunca me he planteado la idea de vivir fuera de Guatemala.

5 Future Features from Skylight Pictures on Vimeo.

PY: ¿Cómo describirías este momento en Guatemala y América Latina?

MPR: El momento actual es como una olla en la que la presión está aumentando. Entonces hay ebullición desde las protestas del interior contra el modelo extractivista hasta el movimiento de ciclistas, o el de corredores, o entre los artistas, o la gente que abre bares o páginas de internet. O sea hay una ebullición como en el resto de América Latina que es un continente que se está moviendo y que lleva un par de décadas moviéndose, o creciendo económicamente o con ideas nuevas. O sea que Guatemala está cada vez latinoamericanizándose más con eso. Los primeros que plantearon la despenalización de las drogas en el mundo fueron Guatemala y Uruguay, y después un colorado de Washington. También aquí se están haciendo medios digitales con nuevas narrativas. Éstoshacen ver que el boom del periodismo iberoamericano no es algo de hace diez años sino algo muy actual y que los lectores pueden seguir sorprendiéndose de la manera en que estamos contándoles la sociedad. Entonces creo que es un momento muy lindo para estar en América Latina y Guatemala porque la estamos contando de otra manera, estamos rehaciéndola,construyéndola. Es un momento que a mí, a pesar de todas las dificultades, toda la injusticia, toda la violencia . . . es un momento que si uno mira solo la fotografía de cómo están los países, están mal, pero si uno mira el video, de dónde venimos y a dónde estamos, como en el trabajo que ustedes han hecho que en ese sentido es muy impresionante, ver ese video del pasado al presente a mí me da razones, me da facts, para ser optimista.

Farewell to a Giant of Human Rights

L1080831On May 16 of this year the world lost Clyde Snow, one of the greatest defenders of human rights of our times.  Clyde was a tall garrulous Texan with an easygoing manner that masked a tenacious commitment to finding the truth and advancing justice through the science of forensic anthropology applied to the exhumation of victims of mass atrocities. As Clyde often said, “the bones tell stories.”  And these were stories that often helped land the perpetrators of heinous crimes in prison, from Argentina to Guatemala, the Balkans, Rwanda and beyond.  And although the world won’t be the same without Clyde, his work lives on through the crack forensic anthropology teams he formed in Argentina, Guatemala and Peru, two of which are featured in our films “State of Fear” (Peru) and “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator”.   The young people that he trained, like Mimi Doretti (Argentina), Fredy Peccerelli (Guatemala), and Jose Pablo Baraybar (Peru), amongst many others, are carrying on his legacy in all corners of the world.  As Fredy says, “He changed the world and Guatemala. He also changed every one of us that were fortunate enough to work and share life with him.”  And here at Skylight, Clyde’s example of courage and tenacity in the quest for justice has been a constant inspiration, informing all of our work.  This Saturday, September 27, we will be attending a memorial service in Norman, Oklahoma, where he lived with his wife Jerry.  We miss you Clyde.

“Wherever atrocities had been covered up he would soon appear, a polite but rumpled figure in a tweed jacket with a fedora tilted on his head. His ways of working could seem casually slow, starting at noon and punctuated by many a meal of good steak and good wine. But his intensity of purpose, to bring to justice the rational, well-dressed men who had sat round a table and ordered mass killings, was ferocious.”    (Anne Wroe 05/24/2014)

Read his full obituary in The Economist.


Filmmakers’ Statement on the Making of “Disruption”

Since founding Skylight in 1981, we have been committed to the advancement of human rights and social justice through media.  We have told stories that explore and document a range of pathways to social change; from rebellion against a brutal military dictatorship in Guatemala (When the Mountains Tremble), to direct action movements by the poor in the U.S. (Takeover,Poverty Outlaw), to the role of new transitional justice mechanisms like truth commissions (State of Fear) and the International Criminal Court (The Reckoning), to the relationship of justice to social change (Granito: How to Nail a Dictator).

For more than 30 years, the human rights movement has achieved extraordinary advances in criminal justice, such as the prosecution of military dictators (Argentina, Guatemala) and former heads of state (Fujimori) for grave human rights violations.  But at the same time the roots of the social upheavals we’ve been documenting over this span – extreme poverty and economic inequality – have remained an endemic, even deepening atrocity.  DISRUPTION poses a challenge to the global human rights movement to rethink how economic rights can be made a significant force in development, through strategies that relate more effectively to potential allies in government and the private sector. We believe that those who believe in the power of human rights must find new ways to address economic injustice – and on a scale commensurate with the millions of people around the world that are mired in poverty.

DISRUPTION builds on our decades of commitment to the struggle for human rights to illuminate new developments that should be part of our debates about how they can be expanded and made more effective in our world today.

Pamela Yates (Director), Paco de Onís (Producer), Peter Kinoy (Editor)