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Latin America Abeja Dispatch

Why Do People Know What They Know
(and Why Don't They Know About THIS?!?)

My eyes ache, my back aches. I've been working all day creating a webpage for the human rights organization I've been working with here, CONAVIGUA. (Check it out and tell me what you think!) It is so important that their work be known and supported, and this seems to be the best thing I can do to help. But it's also the deadline for my Odyssey article. I wanted to write about US involvement in Guatemala, specifically what the CIA (the "spy" organization of the US) has done here. But all the "hard fact data" kind of stuff disappeared off of my computer, which is on the fritz.

Keeping the beat - a protest march in Guatemala City
But it's so important that I get this information out to you! The Commission for Historical Clarity just put out their report, naming the CIA as one of the guilty parties in the horrible civil war here. The US is denying it. "How can they deny this?" I wonder. I feel outraged. This isn't a question, it's history, supported by the declassified CIA documents, among other things!!!

A woman who works in the office cried when she spoke of the Commission's report. "'Memory of Silence' they called it. What silence? It wasn't silence. People were screaming, crying to be heard. No one was listening."

I am here, learning the truth as it is for these women in Guatemala. Women whose entire families have been killed by a US backed military, their officers trained at the infamous "School of the Americas" in Georgia (see our Team dispatch). And I feel this strong need to tell you all about it.

One of the bloodiest times of this war was in the 1980's when I was in High School. "Where was I," I wonder. Why didn't I know about these things? I read the newspapers, now and then. I thought that I was pretty aware.

Keeping the beat - a protest march in Guatemala City

But look at the world now. I know there are armed conflicts happening now. I know that the US government and US companies are involved in most places around the world. But, honestly, I can't name them, or tell you who is involved. I do, however, know more than I care to about OJ Simpson and Monica Lewinsky. Why is it that the press spends so much time and energy on these topics that seem of relatively little importance in the big picture? Is it because it's the dirt we want, or is there a reason we get this other news that distracts us from what is really going on in the world?

I think it was Abe Lincoln who said "Nearly any man can handle adversity, but to truly test a man's character, give him power." My currency, the US dollar, is accepted, and often coveted, everywhere in the world. I speak the English of an educated American, and my skin is the white of all the models on the shampoo and beer ads around the world. I can walk into the places where money and power are without being searched or harassed. I carry a US passport, and can enter and leave almost any country with relative ease.

Rigoberta Menchu stands among the protestors
So I feel this sense of power, this sense of responsibility to speak the truth of the people who don't have this power. And I'm writing articles for you, for the students who will create the world of the future. I want you to hear me. Not because I tell the "Truth" with a capital "T", but because I tell a truth, one that is less heard. I am speaking from my experiences, from my heart.

I want you to learn from me, if nothing else, that all your sources of information on the television, the papers, your teachers, and I, all speak from a certain position. I want you to become aware, to ask questions, to own your power, as intelligent caring beings.

And so I want to hear from you, to know what you think. What are you worries? What are your questions? I fear my dispatches to you are really heavy, but how can I address the themes of human rights or CIA involvement lightly?

Girls marching with the protestors
I will finish this letter to you now, finish my work on CONAVIGUA's website, and then tomorrow Kavitha and I will get on a bus tomorrow and head to El Salvador and then Honduras. Monica, Shawn and our newest Team Member, Kevin, are already in Costa Rica getting ready to meet with the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Oscar Arias. Kavitha and I will meet up with them in Panama City on March 10. (Kavitha sent everyone an e-mail telling them the time and the place. None of us have been there, so she just chose a place from our guidebooks! [Thank you, Lonely Planet!])

Let me know what you would like to learn about Central America and our next destination, Peru! I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Keep the faith that you can make a difference, and know that I and MANY other people around the world are behind you 100%!


Team - The Miseducation of Latin America
Shawn - Environmental Devastation: Who's to Blame and How Can We Stop It?
Kavitha - What's This Oil Doing in My Lake?!?
Kevin - Watch out World!
Kevin - Watch out World! (Kid's Version)
Shawn - A History of Terror in Santiago Atitlan
Make a Difference!
Monica - Greetings
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