Dignity will flourish: exploring the efforts of Ixil victims and civil society to preserve historical memory in post-conflict Guatemala

Presentation by Gretel Mejía Bonifazi at the Memory Studies Association 7th Annual Conference: Communities and Change from 3-7 July, 2023, Newcastle University, UK.

In Guatemala, victims of the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) have participated in various transitional justice spaces to seek redress. They have testified in official and civil society led truth commissions, taken part in criminal trials as witnesses and civil parties, and mobilized to demand integral reparations from the state. In these traditional spaces, local and national civil society organizations play a crucial role in facilitating participation through legal, psychosocial, and political accompaniment. Moreover, this synergy between victims and civil society can also be observed in memory efforts undertaken to seek recognition of the harm and to honor the memory of the victims; work that becomes particularly important in the face of dominant narratives of state denial and the lack of political will to enable social dialogue about the past. Drawing on qualitative findings from field research in the Ixil region, the paper discusses three particular ways in which local civil society organizations and victims engage in memory work at the local level:1) exhumations of victims in clandestine graves and subsequent reburials; 2) demands of memorialization before state institutions as part of collective reparations claims, and 3) mobilization efforts to build a museum for the dignification of the memory of the victims and survivors of the Ixil genocide. For the actors involved, these efforts serve multiple purposes: from preserving historical memory and educating future generations, to promoting Ixil cultural heritage and rebuilding the social fabric by highlighting the links between past and current violence. By exploring these topics, this paper aims to contribute to key debates on victim and civil society alliances in transitional justice, particularly in contexts of deep polarization and increasing deterioration of democratic spaces.

Date & Time

July 4, 2023



Organized by Memory Studies Association