The Solitude of the Ixil People

By Ilka Oliva Corado. Translated by Marvin Najarro 

When listening to Luna de Xelajú, the chirimía and the tum, or when marveling at the gigantic kites of Santiago Sacatepéquez we experience a feeling of nostalgia. When the aboriginal peoples’ multicolored clothes leave us speechless, stunned, suddenly a certain something takes hold of us, akin to a kind of pride for a multicultural Guatemala; it’s what we export: something called folklore.

The indigenous peoples are used for that, to be the folklore of Guatemala before the world. Those designs embroidered on pieces of clothing worn by the indigenous peoples are seen in blankets, napkins, wallets, small bags, tablecloths which we take with us in case we are going to live abroad, or as gifts to visitors from other countries.

The marimba; who has not been touched by the marimba? As unique, we say, of Guatemalans. The postcards of indigenous girls selling bracelets or pieces of clothing of their own towns; the paintings of landscapes of the western part of the country, painted by indigenous hands –that romantic version of a racist Guatemala. 

Beautiful are the postcards of girls who, instead of going to school, sell products on the streets of tourist towns. What does it matter that they do not go to school; the postcards are beautiful!

The atol blanco; who has not enjoyed an atol blanco? So typical of our country, we say. And needless to say when see the Guatemalan athletes representing the country in the Olympic Games, with their uniforms embroidered with the clothing designs of the indigenous peoples; how proud and excited we feel with our eyes filling up with tears! Up to that point everything is beautiful with the aboriginal peoples, but the story is different when they demand their rights.

Then the racist Guatemala explodes with rage; its long arms of impunity try to drown the voices of those who by right are the owners of the land. And those beautiful girls selling their merchandise in the tourist villages multiply and end up as slave labor in private homes; they end up in sweat shops, and tortillerías; those beautiful children who appear on the country’s west paintings, they end up in grocery stores, crop fields; and in markets such as La Terminal picking up rubbish bags.

The less Spanish they speak the better, because this make them unable to know about their exploitation, wages and rights. Then we take them out of folklore and turned them into indios patas rajadas, loafers who embarrass those of us who believe ourselves descendants of Europeans, but darker than a piedra de moler (grinding stone).

And we are the oppressors who spit on their faces, who as masters would like to flog their hardened backs; smash their hands with a hammer; rape the girls and women; enslave them and take possession of their lives –as despotic owners! And force them to tell si, patrón!

No doubt, we would like to be the aboriginal peoples’ masters, of course. Take control of their thoughts, dreams, and lives. Tame them, and make them only to respond to our fingers snap or our blows. Of course, we would like to be the European version of enslavement, resurrect it and stay there as the beneficiaries of submission. We would like to be the oligarchs who due to our cretinism use us for their own benefit.

We are that society lacking identity, our conscience is a floating bubble in a river of raw sewage, without scruples. We have left them to their own fate since time immemorial. They were machine-gunned, raped, dismembered, tortured; they were disappeared, murdered, and we still deny the dictatorship and the genocide. We deny it because of racism, classism, and mediocrity.

We deny it because we want to be on the side of the oppressor, and against the oppressed, because we naively think that by being on the side of the oppressor, we’ll never be oppressed. We believe that we belong to a superior race; that our genes are different; that we are like purified water.

Again, for the second time, a court ratify with well-established facts that there was genocide in Guatemala, and we again, greedy, insolent, insensitive and racists have left the Ixil people to their own fate.

It was an excruciating trial; once again relive the pain, the testimonies, the memories; the hell. And we left them alone. The smart university students they were nowhere to be seen unlike to when they are protesting against corruption trying to attract the media attention to be photographed and interviewed so they can believe themselves to be untouchable and immortal: the best of Guatemala’s youth, and of the country’s history.

They are the puppets who come out to protest against corruption, but who continue to deny the genocide; the amorphous mass that the oligarchy maneuvers at will.

We think we are really special when in reality there’s nothing remarkable about us, just mediocrity. We are not worthy of the native peoples who embellish Guatemala, who are our identity, our roots; who are the lifeblood. We deserve, as an eternal punishment, to undergo what they suffered under dictatorship and that others, like we do today, come and spit on our faces, calling us indios patas rajadas; come to dishonor and to enslave us, saying that because our origin we deserved it, and that it would have been better if they had exterminated us. Perhaps then, we would be sensitive to the pain of the other and make it our own, and in the process rising up in indignation aware that we are one, and that the enemy is not the aboriginal peoples, but those who have tried to divide us.

But, alas, that would be too much to ask of a rotten, self-centered, racist and pestilent society.

Categories: Guatemala, Opinión, Política