miércoles, 27 de julio de 2011

Lisandro Guarcax – Instrumental in the Struggle for Mayan Culture

Por John Gustavsen

TROMSØ, Norway -- The reactions to the assassination of Lisandro Guarcax have been strong in Guatemala and Norway alike. The Guatemalan ambassador to Norway, his Excellency Mr Juan Leon Alvarado, has asked that his country´s authorities give top priority to the investigation.

When the news broke of the assassination of Sotz'il artist and school administrator Lisandro Guarcax (32), the Sotz'il Jay Cultural Centre reacted immediately and sharply. A bulletin issued by the Centre stated that Guarcax was both a teacher and an artist at heart, as well as a spiritual leader of his people. As a member of the Cakchiquel group of the Maya, Guarcax spent his entire life as an ardent champion of art and the individuality of indigenous people. The Centre wrote the following about Guarcax:
"With dignity and wisdom, he has promoted and vindicated Mayan art through research, innovation and development in our country. This new bloody atrocity must not end with impunity and fear among those who want to continue working to bring more justice into the world, not least in respect of the culture of Guatemala and the indigenous peoples of the world."
His Excellency Mr Lars Vaagen, Norway´s ambassador to Guatemala, remarked in a comment on 28 August that Guarcax was a deeply appreciated partner in the cultural arena. He made numerous friends in Norway over the years, following up his father Anastasio´s long-standing work with Mayan language and culture.

Ambassador Vaagen refers to the fact that the Sotz'il group has taken part in several culture events in and outside of Norway in recent years, including an ice festival at Geilo/Ål in Hallingdal, the signing ceremony for the new Norwegian-Mayan programme and the Riddu Riddu Festival.
"We at the embassy are deeply moved by the loss of Lisandro, who was a unique individual and an outstanding champion for Mayan culture and rights who gave us hope for the future. We will do our best to honour his memory, and to help facilitate a serious investigation, leading to the apprehension and punishment of the guilty parties. From the first day, right after the abduction of Lisandro, until he was found tortured and murdered the next day, the embassy has been in contact with the police and CICIG (The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala), and we continue to stay in touch with the police and CICIG to ensure that they conduct a serious, thorough investigation that leads to the punishment of the perpetrators."

Extortion and abductions run rife in Guatemala, claiming numerous human lives, and few of the criminals are ever caught and punished. The ambassador also recalls when two others from the Sotzil group were murdered in 2009. For that reason, it is tempting to believe that the murder of Guarcax was intended to put a definitive stop to his hard work for Mayan culture.

His Excellency Mr Juan Leon Alvarado, Guatemala´s ambassador to Norway, tells Gáldu that the Guatemalan authorities are very concerned about the assassination of Guarcax. Ambassador Alvarado met Guarcax many times:
At Riddu Riddu 2009, Ambassador
Juan Leon Alvarado and
Professor Georges Midré.
"I met the very important young man Lisandro, full of life, and full of opinions, aspirations and ideals to develop on behalf of the Maya. I witnessed the Sotzil group´s first-rate performance at the latest Riddu Riddu Festival."
Ambassador Leon also states that as soon as he learned about the horrible murder, he sent a request for more information to the Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He called for an investigation since the practice of impunity is simply not acceptable. The ambassador also talked to Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Raul Morales of Guatemala to emphasise the importance of a timely investigation into the case.

Professor Georges Midré of the University of Tromsø recently returned from a visit to Guatemala. He has a series of visits to Guatemala to his credit over the past decade, and he is intimately acquainted with the conditions for indigenous peoples. Midré, who has also served on the Board of Gáldu, points out that Guatemala is characterised by numerous violent actions every single day: robberies, extortion, murders for financial gain and many examples of people who take the law into their own hands and lynch people they suspect are behind robberies and felonies. However, many murders are motivated by people in positions of power trying to prevent criticism from getting out. In any case, it is unusual for those responsible for murders to be brought to trial.
"As regards the dreadful murder of Lisandro, there is little information available about motive. Since several members of Sotz'il´s circle of family and friends have been killed over the past year, it seems clear that these are targetted attacks and it is difficult not to think that the crimes are related to Sotzil´s work to promote Mayan culture. It seems as though cultural work is dangerous in Guatemala and that culture workers are a vulnerable group."
Elle Sofie Henriksen was one of those who participated in this year´s Riddu Riddu. She attended a performance and a concert by the Sotz'il group. She observes that their work was spiritual, consistent and genuine. They worked on the basis of their ancestors´ science and technology, using spirituality as an agent to reach other levels of reality.
Henriksen got to know Lisandro Guarcax through two weeks of work at KOLT Riddu, and comments:
"I experienced him as a very strong, warm and spiritual person. He was a man of great conviction and he spoke frequently about his people living in extreme poverty, but using music and dance to find depth in their identity as Maya Cakchiquel."
"What is your reaction now that he has been assassinated?"
"I am profoundly saddened and dumbfounded. It is dreadfully unfair. My sympathy goes to his family, the Sotz'il group and friends left in the community, who are certainly experiencing pain and anguish. I sincerely hope that this case will be solved and the guilty parties found."

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