The 36-year-long war between Guatemalan government forces and Marxist rebels reached genocidal proportions in the early 1980s. In 1999, the UN-sponsored truth commission, known as the Commission for Historical Clarification, produced an exhaustive report (an English-language summary of which can be read here), which concluded that state forces were responsible for an overwhelming majority of the violence, and that unarmed Mayan peasants constituted the overwhelming majority of the casualties.

Contemporary human rights challenges in Guatemala are deeply shaped by the legacies of this war, so our course begins by examining the armed conflict and its aftereffects. In addition to reading academic analyses of this period, we examine this history through discussions with Guatemalan experts -- both those who lived through this painful period and share with us their personal experiences, and those who are struggling for justice on their behalf. We also pay a visit to Rabinal, an area devastated by a series of major massacres in the early 1980s. In Rabinal, we have the opportunity to speak firsthand to massacre survivors and the human rights advocates who are working with them to seek justice in national and international courts.
From there, course topics turn to concerns about labor rights in industrial and agricultural production, environmental rights and development, and other areas. For more information on these other topics, follow the links below.
Legacies of a genocide
In Rabinal, students walk to the offices of ADIVIMA, an Achi Maya human rights organization. For more information about ADIVIMA, click here.
Students visit the laboratory of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG). For more information about the FAFG, click here.