Mechanisms of Power – Regina José Galindo

La Verdad /  The Truth, 2013
Video, 70:35 min
Centro de Cultura de España, Cuidad de Guatemala, Guatemala

No importa que tanto intenten callarnos.
La verdad está allí, nadie podrá silenciarla.

Durante una hora leo testimonios de sobrevivientes del conflicto armado en Guatemala, mientras un dentista intenta silenciarme, anestesiándome la boca, una y otra vez.

Guatemala vivió durante 36 años una de las más sangrientas guerras. Un genocidio y éste dejó más de 200,000 muertos. El ejército que peleaba contra la insurgencia definió como enemigos internos a los indígenas aduciendo que simpatizaban con la guerrilla y durante cruentos períodos se dedicó a perseguirlos y asesinarlos. Las violaciones a las mujeres y niñas, la tortura, la estrategia de la tierra arrasada, la violencia y persecución y otras tácticas inhumanas fueron la práctica común del ejército. En 1996 se firmaron los acuerdos de paz entre el estado y la guerrilla. En dichos acuerdos se planteó la amnistía para la mayoría de los crímenes con excepción de crímenes de lesa humanidad. Años después, indígenas ixiles, víctimas sobrevivientes de las masacres logran llevar al banquillo de los acusados a dos de los militares más influyentes, el general Efraín Ríos Montt y su jefe de inteligencia Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez bajo los cargos de genocidio y deberes contra la humanidad. El juicio más importante en la historia del país dio inicio en el Palacio de Justicia durante el mes de abril del 2013. Dos semanas después de su inicio, y luego de haber escuchado decenas de estremecedores testimonios, y peritajes que demostraban que en Guatemala sí hubo genocidio, el juicio empezó a tener reveses por parte de la defensa, hasta que fue suspendido por ciertas artimañas y amparos por parte de la defensa y luego de la intervención del Presidente de la República, el general Otto Pérez Molina quien fuera señalado por un testigo por haber participado en torturas y asesinatos durante la guerra, durante la cual era reconocido como el Coronel Tito. El juicio logra reanudarse y llega a una histórica condena por parte del Tribunal que dicta 80 años de prisión a Efraín Ríos Montt por delitos de lesa humanidad y genocidio. Fatídicamente el juicio y la condena son anuladas semanas después. Actualmente el caso está en revisión y se pretende reanudarlo en el año 2016, cuando todo el proceso deberá empezar de cero.

No matter that they try so hard to shut us up. The truth is there, no one can silence it.”

For an hour I read testimonies from survivors of the armed conflict in Guatemala, while a dentist attempted over and over again to silence me by anaesthetizing my mounth.

For 36 years Guatemala has experienced one of its bloodiest wars. It was a genocide that left more than 200,000 people dead. The army that was fighting the insurgency described the indigenous people as internal enemies, claiming they were sympathisers of the guerrillas, and it pursued and killed them during several bloody periods of the war. The rape of women and children, torture, the scorched earth strategy, violence and persecution and other inhuman tactics were common practice in the army. In 1996 peace agreements were signed between the state and the guerrilla. In these agreements an amnesty was granted for the majority of serious crimes, with the exception of crimes against humanity. Years later, indigenous Ixil people, victims who had survived the massacres, managed to bring to court two of the most influential military men, General Efraín Ríos Montt and intelligence chief Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, under charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The trial began in April 2013. After hearing dozens of horrifying testimonies and seeing reports that clearly demonstrated that there had been a genocide, the judge sentenced Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison. Ominously, the whole trial and its final verdict were quashed weeks later. The case is still under review and is set to be resumed in 2016, when the whole proceeding will have to begin again from scratch.


Transcript of some witness statements. Provided by Regina José Galindo.
Guatemala, 2013

Oh God! In the village 95 men, 41 women and 47 children died. The exact number of dead is known from the census that was taken. Some men were hanged. My pregnant sister’s belly was ripped open and the baby taken out; she was tied up. Others were set on fire and roasted. And so they grilled them; those who took part in it stained themselves with corpse blood. Those who were not eaten were buried behind the school. That was hard. (GA-CH-70806)

They broke into our house and tied him up and… I almost don’t want to remember, because… they tied him to a stick and they took him…

The violence was merciless… That’s why after all this time you can’t forget it… It was too much… It was different for the women than for the men, because first they caught them, abused them and then, only then, killed them. They committed two crimes. The men were either tortured or shot. They killed them. But the woman suffered first, until she was allowed to die after the rape.

They surrounded my house, came in with me and I couldn’t go out. I remained lying between the two [men], abused.

“Your husband died”, they told me, “he found a better home, he left you”. After they told me that, they raped me. They took my husband, they brought out my children and locked me with them. they raped me. It hurts me, everything that happened is painful. They set my house on fire, they raped me.

Between the boulders of the gorge, we lit the fire with my mother – it was elaborate at the time. When the violence increased, the soldiers seized us and took us to the cemetery and told us: “Now you will dig your own graves, because you have weapons.” They took many of us widows with them; around one or two o’clock at night they released us and we went home. Often they gathered us together and took us to dig; they told us they would make them our graves, but we only went around the graves. We were sure they would kill us and weep, but they did not. Pure horror! It was terrible what we had been through. We thought we wouldn’t survive.

My husband was taken away one night. He was hiding, but they found him. All he could do was get his sweater. He was barefoot and shirtless; he just put on pants They hit me with a rifle When it dawned, I wanted to take some food to my husband, but they wouldn’t let me through. “Your husband will be back soon,” they told me. A gentleman came up to me and told me that he could help me to free my husband if I became his mistress. I told my mother-in-law and she told me to accept the offer to save her son’s life. But the Lord only betrayed me. Knowing that I was alone, the lieutenant took me to the army and told me, “You’re staying here now,” and put on sports pants. He made me run outside, everyone bothered me when they saw me running in my gym pants. I saw that they [the soldiers] were holding the men behind their sleeping places. I heard them complaining.
He [the lieutenant] made me walk along the lagoon. I cried because the whole village saw me, and because I refused, the lieutenant beat me and dragged me there. So I fled. I went to the capital and left my children with my mother-in-law. They said that if I stayed, he might kill me, and so I saved myself. I left and now I can’t go back.

In mid-1982, when they charged me, they abused me three times. They took me to the police station. They told me, “You have guns and you supply the guerrillas”. But I told them, I don’t own weapons and I don’t help the guerrillas. “We’re going to kill you,” they said to me. Then I carried my son on my back: “If they want to kill me, they will not only kill me. I will not leave my son”.
There was someone who told the soldiers that I was the one who cooked tortillas for the other soldiers and pointed to my house, which was across the street. That’s where I was received and that’s where the soldiers came and grabbed me and raped me. The next day at dawn the soldiers were already in the houses. They kicked the doors down. My mother, my mother is already old, they tied her to a stick and had her taken away by the cows. There was nothing we could do. We were just waiting to die. They were watching us. There was nothing we could do.

When we came to the village to register my son’s name, the soldiers were already there and they said: “Here comes my son, here comes my child”. And when I arrived, they untied my child from my back and they gathered and told me that they would take the child away from me. “Take the money!”; “No, I’m not giving up my son!” They asked me, “What are you coming here for?” and my brother-in-law said we wanted to register the child. And the soldiers asked me what name we had chosen for him. So I answered “Jacobo”. His name isn’t Rigoberto Antonio, they chose it for him. We did not want that name. They went in and told the mayor to give the child up. L “m not letting go, it “s mine. Maybe what they “re saying is a lie and they “re going to throw him into the abyss. I’m not giving up the child.”

Burned bodies, women pierced by sticks, buried like animals for frying. All bent. And slaughtered children, well cut up by machetes. Even the murdered women, well hacked up too.

Since I was a boy, I worked in the capital. What they tell about the massacres I didn’t see and when I got there, it had already happened. When I got home, my mother told me what had happened in the community. I was working in the capital, the working year was over and I had a holiday. So I came here. The events had already more or less calmed down. I told myself that I would take at least eight days off. Unfortunately, during the holiday I fell down, so I was at home for eight days when the soldiers came again. That day, at about half past two in the afternoon, I prepared tortillas. I was alone…Oh God yes, that’s how they took me and pushed me, that’s how I felt it. One of them pushed me with his weapons and then the other one, from the front. Behind me there was another one with different weapons and later when I felt it, I was already… They had already put me in that room and done it to me.

Around two o’clock in the afternoon they started to take women out in groups of ten and twenty. Some fled home where they were raped and set on fire along with their houses. There were many soldiers, about 200, and they went towards Yaltoyá and there they found the women who raped and killed them. They stayed in Yalambojoch for four days. They forced the people to attend various meetings to organize the patrol. The following day they dug a hole into which they dropped bombs and exploded. Many women fled the community with their children and were abused and executed not far from there.

They locked the women with their children and two elderly people in another house, threw a bomb inside and let them burn to death. I will not forget how one woman tried to escape: she ran out of the big flame, but they caught her and shot her and ripped her heart out.

While these people perpetrated the massacre on my husband and my son, the others abused me. One killed my son and I saw it all. And I saw them lying there with such injuries, especially my boy. He had been tortured, he was lying there without his panties. They were both lying the same way, and my husband’s neck was crossed by a wooden stick with a noose, and his chest was pierced with stitches. And I was raped, I didn’t care.

The pastor, my brother-in-law, was also taken like that. I didn’t think they would hurt them… They had them crucified because the ceremony wasn’t over. Well, they waited for him to cross himself and then murdered him… How many shots they fired at him! That’s how it all happened. That’s how my sister’s husband died. He, my brother-in-law, played the guitar. My sister-in-law’s father’s brothers, her brother-in-law… My sister-in-law’s father died too… All the men at the party were murdered.

It happened at a lady’s house, who was at the party. It was around seven in the evening. When they saw we were gathered, they surrounded the house. They hadn’t finished the reading when these people told the men to go out and told them to stay… That’s how they caught the men. The pastor took out his book. He went out, but in that moment we were locked in and we did not hear him and the men anymore. I felt like I was already dead. They took other women out with me, too. A 40-year-old woman they took out with me was raped. It happened behind the house. After they set fire to the house, they did whatever they wanted with me. I don’t know how many raped me; after they let me go, I stayed between them.
I no longer paid attention to whether they took the men out or not. I felt so exploited. After they set fire to the houses, I stayed among them. There were people who recognized them, they were whichever ones. They were also the ones who raped me. They were the ones who watched [me/us] during the celebration.

One night, while she was on her way to the refuge, she and her husband stayed overnight at a place [on the road]. Not only her, but a group. And when they heard the shots and the bombs, they said, “Oh God, we are afraid, here come the soldiers. My husband was carrying our baby, and they grabbed him and took the baby.

My little sister was captured by a soldier. She was stripped, abused. They beat her, and what beatings, and she was so little. Then they took her to the village, like someone who would say “Look! Look at my trophy!”. It was as if they wanted to show which were the families that were helping the guerrillas, because that’s what they had the little sister from. They abused her, they tortured her, not just once. And they took her to show them to the people. They put a gun in her hand and they put a dress on her. After they did all that to her, they put a dress on her.

I fled with my daughters into the mountains until we reached the refuges at the border. But the army caught up with us and they separated me from my daughters. Oh dear, my daughters. They’re on one side and I’m on the other. They accused us of being guerrillas and beat us with their guns. At night we escaped until we reached the shelters. During those days they raped me, I think my daughters too. But where will they be, my daughters?

It is unbearable for me to tell because the memories of what happened to our men are so painful. They dragged them on the ground like strays, hands and feet bound.

I gathered all my courage and went to the station to ask for my husband. I asked them, “Have you seen my husband here?” I also told them that I had children with him, that I was married to him, and that I wanted him to be released because we had children and he was not to blame. He had no problems either, because he had completed his military service three months ago. But the military would not listen to me. And they told me: “Come here” and grabbed my hand. They arrested me there just like that and the soldier who had received me raped me. He called two others and they all raped me, but my husband never showed up.

After a few days the army took the men to the finca with a truck, executed them and made them disappear.

Oh, it hurts so much. They had already taken my husband, but then they came to my house. I cried out of fear, but they came and I couldn’t do anything. And there the soldiers grabbed me, in front of my children, and how they screamed and cried in fear!

I saw him lying there. Yes, I saw him lying there while the vultures ate him.

What a massacre has been committed against us! What a massacre. A woman had her child taken away. Poor woman! They’re not human… This is pure hell. They grabbed her child and beat her up, then the poor woman died, it was horrible. Oh my God, what will death be like? Because the death we saw is ugly. They threw the bare child into the bush; they covered her mouth and covered her eyes. A knife wound here, you see, and a bullet hole. Then they wrapped the baby in a kind of big bandage and there it remained, the poor thing.

You could see them beating the women in the stomach with their weapons; or they laid her down and jumped on her stomachs until her baby came out like a core, all deformed.
I have seen them put weapons into her vagina and kill her fetus. Blood came out. Then they stuck the head of a man who had just been murdered into her stomach.

On July 15, 1982, in the Tzalamabaj farm in Chiché, a district of Quiché, a family tried to escape. But the [soldiers] came and found them all, and the first thing they did was rape the mother [and one woman] after another in front of the family. So they took the girls… Even the smallest one, who was 9 years old. They set the house on fire. Everyone survived, no one died.

There were 10 executioners who worked in shifts to kill people. While five killed, the other five rested. Where part of the rest was raping girls. After raping them, they would stake them and stick sticks into their genitals.

It was similar then. First they raped the poor woman; then they tortured her. But only after all the officers and trainers had abused her, did they torture and kill her.

I felt very bad. I thought of many things. At some moments I thought about beating him But I couldn’t because he was carrying a gun I was afraid of him because if I hit him, he could have killed me instantly. I was shaking. I was very scared.

“If you don’t let us do it, we’ll turn you over to them with the guns,” they said to me in my own language. “All right,” I said. How could I not accept… “This is how I save my life.” That’s why we prepared their food, that’s why we gave them our bodies.

My life was really hard. I felt bad afterwards. I told my dad and mom that I felt it would have been better if I died. “It would have been better if they had killed me,” I said to myself. These problems led to the point where I tried to kill myself. “Why do I want such a life?” I kept thinking, “Why do I want this life?”

The people who had gathered came to see and said that the [women] must be set free. But others said it was better not to do that, because the soldiers would come back and kill everyone. “When they come, they’ll see that we’re trying to get the women out and they’ll kill us…” What fear the people were!

There was no respect for humanity or for life. They robbed, murdered. They took my mother’s breasts with a knife and then hung her. They raped, killed and impaled women.

We were told never to talk about anything at home. Even if someone knew, you can’t tell. We never said anything like that.

The army came from San Juan Atitán. When they arrived at the school that day, I was 10 years old. They asked the teachers to take the older girls out of the classes to abuse them. All the girls of the school. They threatened: “If you don’t let the girls out, we will set the school on fire and you will all die.” So the teacher pulled us out and we went outside. There were four of us [first]. At that moment they grabbed us, dragged us to the foot of the mountain and raped us. Five of us were raped and several older girls were also raped. All the soldiers passed by, everyone was watching.

What happened that day… It was about 10 in the morning… that’s when it happened. That day I just cried. They questioned me about everything, everything. They questioned my aunt, my grandmother was there, and my nephews. [They wanted to know] where my cousins were. We were locked in the house. “Well, since you won’t tell us where your husband is…” They left us in there and locked the door. They left us in there with my grandma and my aunt. They took all the women. That’s what happened. That’s what happened.

When the military found a woman, they grabbed her by the hand and raped her on the spot. And so many, many women have been abused. When you didn’t have running water then, it was terrible to go to the river to get water because the soldiers were always chasing the women.

For two years we stayed with the other widows and they made us work. The army made us cook for them. But after two years we had to separate, because some women came together with other men and left and I don’t know where they are anymore. The five of us held on. We gave them our bodies and we gave them food and we held on.

When they took my husband, I stayed in their hands. Then we prepared them food, we fed them at the station, we cooked them food, the tortillas… And they raped us. They raped us because they said, “How else are you going to pay for the tortillas and the food that you’re eating?

The day they took 15 people – men, women and children – they locked the men up in the church for a whole night, where they tortured them. The women were locked up in the school, where they were all raped: little girls, senior citizens, all raped in the school.

At nightfall many of us women got into the habit of hiding in the mountains at night with the children to avoid being raped. Others found shelter in the house of neighbours who lived further away. In one community, the army called a meeting of all widows after they had made their husbands disappear. In the house where the meeting took place, the [soldiers] collectively raped the women again. All these widows had already been raped when their husbands were arrested. “You stayed, you’re alive,” said one general, “that’s not our fault. Why are you still alive? Why are you still alive? It is the law that commands us to kill people.”

The officer had his killer gangs and ordered them to kill as they had to. “Today you will either be beheaded or hung by barbed wire. Today you will rape all women”. Often the orders were given in advance, sometimes before the victim herself. They raped the women… 20 or 30 soldiers raped one of them. If they liked a woman, they let her go. Otherwise, the last in line would kill her.

They broke into our house, tied him up and… …I almost don’t want to remember it, because it’s… They tied him to a stick and they took him away. They surrounded my house and they came in. I couldn’t get out and was trapped between the two [soldiers].
“Your husband did not die”, they told me, “he has found a better home”. Those who raped me took my husband, took my children out and left me inside with them. It hurts. Everything that’s happened is painful. They burned down my house and my property… (GA-AV-13/09/2005)

When the men found us women, they took us to prison. Since we always held our small children by the breast on the way, they were imprisoned with us. They witnessed the rapes the soldiers committed against us. The children at the breast, amidst the rapes.

I already felt dead. There are other women who were taken with me. One who was with me was raped 40 days after giving birth. It happened behind her house. After they set fire to the house, they assaulted me. After they released me, I stayed with them. I didn’t notice whether they took them [the men] out or not.

Women were beaten a lot; [they] were abused and beaten. They called them “cows, shush, cows, shush, grazing cows.

At ten o’clock in the morning the officer said: “It is better to divide the women: one for every two soldiers. These women will prepare the food and the others will be for pleasure. We will stay for 15 days and in those 15 days we will use you”.

Since my pregnancy did not come from intercourse with my husband, but from any soldier, I have consoled myself with God. Some people have told me to give the child away or kill it, but how can I give it away when it is my son? How can I kill it if it is my son?

They told us we were the caretakers of the army.

My children went with me to the station because I had no one to leave them with and they had to eat. My children were with me when I was raped, and when the military started touching me, the children started crying. My children did not ask me about it. I don’t tell them because it’s not good. When that happened, they were still small. So I don’t think they remember it. If they remembered, they would’ve asked me.

You can’t feel life anymore. You don’t know if you’re going to survive or… or not survive. You know… you just tremble. Since then, the fear has stayed because as soon as you feel [again] that [the soldiers] were there, you feel like this place here is breaking, like your heart is opening up… But you don’t have a heart anymore.

Yes, sometimes I think and say to myself that it would have been better if I had died. Why am I alive? I am suffering. When I fall asleep at night, I have good dreams: I get out of bed and sit under a tree and say (I’m like crazy): “God knows when he will call me to himself”.

And that’s what they did to me, for fifteen days I was bleeding, it was flowing and flowing and flowing. When they raped me, they covered my mouth so I couldn’t scream, and so they kept me hooded on the floor. And my children… I can’t remember, I was drugged. They hit me with the butt of their guns. They hit my right foot, it’s still there.

After that happened, I washed, put lotion on. I did many such things because I was afraid my body would be infected. I was afraid it was contaminated, so I washed and treated myself with plants. I have done so much. Thank God there was nothing.

When I get pain, I think it’s the injured tendon; I have cramps at the waist that go all the way to the heart… It hurts me. When I walk, I feel a strong impact on my foot. That’s because they raped me.

I have to say that this pain that I feel cannot go away, because it has imprinted itself in my heart, in my feelings. Because, look, during the war I had a child on the run because they had murdered my husband. I was on my way to see my husband, but this was already the date of birth … So I had to walk to my house for four hours, but with the baby already in my hands, dead. That’s why there is this resentment, this sadness that doesn’t go away when I remember. No, I better not remember.

It doesn’t erase itself from your memory, even if you try to fall asleep when you’re out and about, going shopping; you see everything in front of you until you can fall asleep. But when you wake up it’s already in your head because they’ve looked you in the face and said things to you… You never forget.

They burned down my house, they burned down one of my mutts. It’s so sad – my cornfield with the cobs. My cornfield had 20 cuerdas all burned. My bean plants, they were in bloom, burned. My pumpkins, my bean plants in bloom… Oh, God! All my things… I lost my chickens too, now I have nothing.

From the moment they raped me, fear stayed with me. I didn’t want them to visit me again because I was afraid they would rape me again. Because I already understood what the police patrol of the estate did to me. And everything I experienced was painful. I suffered more than an animal because I was pregnant when they did all this to me.

Life is sad, sad, sad … I feel dirty. You know why. I didn’t eat even though dinner was ready. Why eat… And the shooting started. I’m so scared. I fainted, I had such headaches, my nerves… I did, that’s the fear. It won’t go away. It’s the fear. You get skinny and pale. It’s not the same anymore. You don’t feel like eating. I’ve seen some who’ve lost so much weight they’ve died.

I’ve seen my daughter raped by many soldiers. She was only 12 years old. She was torn from my bed. There were four soldiers who raped my daughter. She just said, “Mama help me, Mama help me”. They beat her hard and she wouldn’t stop crying.

They grabbed us and took us to a room in the community center where they raped a group of us women. Several of them committed suicide on me and I suffered bleeding for almost a year…

It was a sergeant who gave orders to the soldiers.

I feel very sad. I’m always sick and I never leave the house… My heart hurts.

They wanted me to sleep with them but I resisted. But then they [almost] beheaded me. There was blood, and then I gave in… I was six months pregnant. Two weeks later my baby was born dead.

I was 10 years old. They took me to the station with other women and tied me hand and foot… They put a rag in my mouth… and started raping me… I didn’t even know how many of them there were… I lost consciousness… And the blood started flowing… Later, I couldn’t get up or urinate…

I was stabbed and scarred. If they raped me, I couldn’t walk anymore and they threw me around like a ball.

There were many women who were taken to the station. They were all raped by the soldiers.

They abused me all night long. There were about 20 soldiers. In the end I lost consciousness.

They slit my daughter’s chest and ripped out her heart. What was my child’s fault?

They took us all. We were all raped in the community hall.

How it hurts, how it hurts to think about it…

I returned home and everything was burned down. They set fire to my house, where my son was. They burned down my house with my baby in it.

The soldiers left me without shame – they left me naked.

It was sad… so much was seen.

The seven-year-old girl was raped by so many soldiers that they tore her in half.

They covered my mouth and said: “You’re pretty, so shut up”.

Humility and respect are part of our culture, so in this way we thank those who finally let us speak.

They came on November 5th – police patrols like soldiers. When they came I was alone, because my father and mother were on the road. We had lunch when they arrived and so I fled with my three months old brother. The other [siblings] stayed at home. I fled with my little brother, but the army ambushed us and shot at me and so I ran away. When we returned home in the evening, they hadn’t killed my brothers and sisters, they had just left them there. On November 20th they came again, but this time they killed my mother. They killed my mother and my four brothers. I hurried away, otherwise they would have killed me. For about 50 meters they looked after me and then shot off, I ran and ran and they couldn’t catch up with me.

What did they do? My father poured corn on it and his father poured earth.

I stayed all alone on the mountain; my house burned, my little brother burned. I never saw him again.

I was there, I saw my brother. He was shot in the neck.
came out of one eye.

My family starved because we were on high mountains. We had nothing to eat but roots.

What the soldiers did…

I regret it very much and it makes me sad. I don’t want to see another war. I don’t want to see another war with my children. My children who survived, and my grandchildren. I say [to myself] they are my children and grandchildren and I want it to stop, I want no more wars and no more deaths. It makes me very sad, because suddenly we couldn’t sleep anymore. We were only afraid. We only thought about it and I don’t want to experience this situation any more. That’s why we came here to talk, because we never want this situation again.

My mother was hit with a stone on her head and died.

We and our mothers got sick and fainted. My brothers also fell ill because there was so much war.

People were in the market. They told [us]: “We will come and visit you”. Later they gathered us together and began to shoot at us. The people withdrew to the forest. Hiding with the animals on the mountain. The army came and ate the animals and threw bombs and bombs and slept in our houses. They stayed for three months. Those who survived, survived among the rocks of the mountain.

There was already a hole. They shot three men and they fell in. In front of the neighbours. They said the ladders were bad people. They told them to take care of the flag. He was very scared because he had seen his cousin die.

Planes came and dropped bombs on the place where the three dead people were. They dropped bombs for half a day. At the end of February, the army came again. They visited the burnt village and started shooting. Five families lived near the village. The army found them and massacred them. Men and women. There were five dead among the elderly and children. There was no more life, no more hope.

These four women… Catarina was a senior whose surname I don’t remember, she was between 70 and 76 years old, she was beaten and left behind. The woman Juana Solís was decapitated. Margarita Velásquez [just] drove an animal to pasture, she was caught up, they left her there. She was cut up like a cow, a piece here, a piece there… Are we animals then?

The army came again and killed my brother. And my grandfather. When I arrived and [saw] the dead, I cried and trembled. I didn’t feel like eating anymore. My father died, so there was no one left to take care of us. The army came… they came to a river. The river carried away his sister’s clothes. The army caught me. When they took me to the La Perla estate, I thought they were going to kill me, but more people came. There were many children, an awful lot of people piled on top of each other. I was crying. My uncle told me to stop crying so that they wouldn’t see that we knew each other and gave me food. One of the sisters, María Santiago Cedillo, took care of me, she fed me. She said she’d go out and bring her mother here. When she went out she was murdered. I saw them kill her. They came for my mother. I didn’t want to go with her because I didn’t think she was my mother. I cried a lot and when I looked they were holding my mother naked on the floor, crying. When my brother came with a ball, my mother was on the floor like an animal. All three were crying because we had found each other. My mother said, “Now that I have found you, I am happy,” and all three were crying because we had found each other again.

They set the first house on fire. They burned the people inside. You could hear the screams of the women and children. They were all burned. They climbed up to the deputy mayor’s house and shot him. The whole family died – they were shot. They were burned. The house burned down. 12 or 13 people died in it.

They grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and my neck broke. They put me in a room of the Catholic monastery, they hung me from the beams of the ceiling, with my hands up. They hanged me around two in the afternoon until 10 o’clock the following morning when they untied me. I could no longer see or hear well. They locked me in a room bigger than this. The hall was covered with blood like a well by the houses. They tied me to a pipe. I was left in the bare blood. I suffered. This pain for my dead brothers. I felt it on my own body. That’s why I say what this gentleman says, that nothing happened, is a lie. I say yes, it happened, it is true, I have experienced this pain, it is the truth.