In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

176 / Stoll them would be an abomination. And so the former patrollers became the bad conscience of the peace process—constantly invoked to explain why Mayas have failed to cooperate as planned. The most sophisticated analysis of the civil patrols is Paul Kobrak’s (1997) doctoral dissertation about K’iche’ Mayas on the heights between Aguacatán and Ixil country.These are people who live at the upper edge of habitable altitude , making them very marginal but not particularly land-poor.The EGP organized some of the K’iche’s but antagonized others, creating an opening for the army to force the latter into its patrols. After massacres by both sides, the army drove the EGP from the locality.Ten years later, the civil patrols were not just frightened conscripts being ordered around by army despots. Instead, they were determined local institutions that many villagers regarded as guardians of community solidarity and local control. How could this have happened? How could survivors of army repression view the patrols as their own institution when it was brutally imposed upon them? Kobrak reminds us that solidarity among peasants is an ideal,and sometimes an achievement, but not a sociological given. Peasants compete with each other as well as with outsiders, and the Cordillera of the Cuchumatanes above Aguacatán is one of many places where land conflicts with fellow peasants are more common than conflicts with large landowners.The EGP wanted to unite villagers against external class enemies, but such foes were too far away to be very meaningful. So instead of uniting the population, the EGP factionalized it even more. Once the army demonstrated superior force, Kobrak reports , “the civil patrols helped manage and suppress these divisions by establishing a collective village response to the war”; this is how an army strategy became a community institution (Kobrak 1997:6). By the early 1990s, villagers viewed their patrolling as a form of armed neutrality that protected them from both sides (Kobrak 1997:136). Keeping the EGP away also kept the army off their backs. Contrary to the army versus the people paradigm, which assumed that the more organized a village was the more likely it would be revolutionary, Kobrak’s patrollers felt that the more organized a village was the less likely it would fall victim to guerrillas or soldiers (1997:199). Memory-Redemption versus Moral Economy Like the French sociologist Yvon Le Bot (1995) and my own analysis of Ixil country (Stoll 1993), Kobrak puts the local experience of the violence in sufficient context that guerrilla organizing loses the claim to be a redemptive last resort for a population with no other alternatives. But that subverts the structure of feeling that has drawn so many scholars and activists to Guatemala. And that is patently immoral and dangerous—consider Victoria Sanford’s Harvest of Conviction / 177 (2003) indictment of myself and Le Bot as apologists for genocide, with backcover endorsements from Michael Ondaatje, Ariel Dorfman, Philippe Bourgois , and Arturo Arias. Hence, there has been a warm welcome for several local histories that refurbish the guerrilla movement as a popular struggle— for old-timers, for newcomers, for funding networks, in short, for anyone who feels the need to continue using Guatemala for its now well-established function as a human rights horror story. Daniel Wilkinson has published the most eloquent of these works in Silence on the Mountain (2002). Making up for scholarly neglect of the war in the coffee piedmont above the Pacific coast, he finds survivors who can explain connections between the 1952 agrarian reform, its destruction by the 1954 CIA counter-revolution, and the appearance of the Revolutionary Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA) two decades later. Beatriz Manz (2004), based on long-term contact with the Ixcán colony of Santa Maria Tzejá, documents the rise and fall of EGP organizing and Santa Maria’s rebirth as an NGO-subsidized migration pole to the United States. Greg Grandin (2004) excavates the buried history of labor organizing and the Guatemalan Worker’s Party (PGT) in Alta Verapaz from the 1920s to the 1978 massacre at Panzós. In a dissertation that has yet to become a book, Carlota McAllister (2003) uses her fieldwork in the EGP stronghold of Chupol, Chichicastenango, Quiché, to show that this was a popular struggle—at least in Chupol. By rousting survivors out of hiding and persuading them to talk, each of these scholars has recovered experiences and memories that might otherwise be lost. Each...


Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.