Friday, March 14    READ MORE BLOG POSTS

Thursday we hiked from Rio Negro to Pacoxom to attend the 32nd anniversary of the Rio Negro massacre where 177 women and children of the Rio Negro community were murdered and surviving boys were psychologically traumatized by being taken as slaves by the military.

It was an emotional night but those of us present for the Mayan ceremony were honoured and privileged to witness the service remembering those murdered at this site on March 13, 1982. The ceremony included prayers, offerings, music and smudging. The service lasted about an hour and a half (starting around 2am) and we witnessed it from the small hill beside the open fire. The loss and strength of the Maya Achi people whose families were massacred here is beyond words and the atrocities unspeakable and yet their strength, love, community spirit and leadership maintains the memory of what happened and the terrible loss of life. We were privileged to be welcomed into this community.

We tried to get some sleep on the mountaintop but adjusting to the cold and the slant of the hill was a bit difficult. Some of us slept outside in sleeping bags and some inside two tents. We slept some and woke to a new day. Some of the families left early to begin the walk home but there were still many left to enjoy the warmth, laughter, and shared breakfast (boiled eggs, beans, tortillas, coffee).

Many of our group decided to hike down early while others decided to stay for the Catholic mass. I found the hike down much easier than the hike up, but it wasn’t easy. We took our time and the temperature was pretty good. The views are fantastic but the path has a lot of loose gravel and is steep so the going down was slow; you realize how high the climb up was by going down. Certainly for me the hike was a very important part of the commemoration because we followed the path of the forced march. Without the clouds, the spirit of my family and the support of my friends I couldn’t have made the summit and yet women and children were forced to follow this path under terrible stress, fear and hunger.

The musicians, cooks and other community members passed us on the way down. We said “Good Morning” and “Thank you” – they were all friendly and much more adapted to hiking the mountain. One dad went down very quickly; with a child on his shoulders! The children were walking more slowly but steadily. I was walking slowly and taking breaks.

When we got back to the Interpretation Centre (Centro Historico Rio Negro) we rested and waited for the rest of our group. Some of the local women came by and sold us their crafts. The rest of our gang arrived about the same time as faculty, staff and students from the New Hope School. I was very happy to visit with the nurse from the school again and honoured to present the caretaker of the centre with a glass inukshuk and calendar as a thank you from our group. It was very generous of the caretaker and tour interpreter to spend time teaching us of the significance of the center and retelling the story of the forced march and massacre.

We left the centre and travelled again by boat to the area near the Chixoy Dam where we had left the van. The drive back to Casa San José was fairly quiet; the driving skill and experience of our driver was greatly appreciated!

We ended the day with a warm shower, delicious pizza and beer and an early night. What an honour and privilege it is to be part of this group; amazing friends with outstanding leadership! Thank you friends!