A few years ago, I had the night shift organizing and editing testimonies from the historic Ríos Montt trial, the first time a former head of state was tried for the genocide of indigenous people in a national court.
Sound bites of unthinkable torture and brutality would play back at night. I remember our director sending the team self help resources for those working in human rights. I wondered what it would be like to face someone as they mustered up the courage to recount such a violent past. Regina Jose Galindo, a performance artist we interviewed today told us she was brought to tears during one of the rape testimonies. An indigenous women turned to her and told her to stop, explaining that this was the time to be strong and continue in resistance.
On our first day of reporting here in Guatemala, I learned that second hand accounts in person can be stronger than first hand accounts through a screen.
McSuina, a rapper who goes by Coco, told my reporting partner Victoria and me about the long line of revolutionary women she comes from. They were all directly affected by the armed conflict. She has a bright two, almost three year old daughter.
What do you want for your daughter?” Victoria asked Coco. “I want her to be happy.” “And when she turns 5 I’ll take her to protests.”
McSuina’s mother encouraged her to take to the streets growing up; she didn’t have to ask twice. Her mother was on the list of “communist” threats who would be gunned down as soon as they were spotted. Many of these student activists were murdered in firing squads at the Verbena cemetery by her house in the “medio roja” zona 7. The Verbena cemetery holds the mass graves of students and victims of the Dos Erres Massacre in 1982. “You could say there’s a lot of energy here,” she explained. Her mother’s best friend was tortured and disappeared in Dos Erres. She reminded us that none of this is in the history books.
Her mother saved both their lives by cutting her hair short one day without thinking about it. She had had long hair and a militar showed her a picture of herself and asked if she’d seen her…
McSuina’s grandmother told her the stories about the Guatemalan army torturing Mayan women, killing babies with a stick, leaving any survivors in flames.
Her great grandmother fled Mexico via the coast. She used to be embarrassed of her Mayan roots, and remembers people telling her she had an Indian nose in school. But in college she learned to be a proud mestiza.
Coco’s blood memory keeps her accountable. Her lucha cotidiana involves creating spaces for young women in hip hop, and she is an example to a new generation. She teaches theatre and breakdancing to youth. She explained that ‘rap consciente’ is transforming the minds of the future of Guatemala, and that it gives kids somewhere turn to besides gangs. She keeps going so that the next generation can be able to speak out against her country’s genocidal past and ongoing corruption, “porque creo que hip hop es revolución.” (Because I believe that hip hop is revolution.)
– Monica Wise
Here’s an excerpt from her work: