By Janette Fecteau

“Like the small crocus I saw in my garden last week, pushing up through the snow,” said Anissa from our BTS delegation of the resilience and hope she sees in Isabel Osorio Tecu, who shared her story with us today. Isabel is a survivor of the March 13, 1982 massacre at Rio Negro, one of 35 massacres in the Rabinal area during the internal armed conflict. Some of us had heard or read the story before, but to hear Isabel tell it in person, in her home, surrounded by her children and niece and other family members, was very special. She told the story in the oral tradition of her Maya A’chi culture, recounting key points in a non-linear way so that we received it with our hearts and minds.


Photo credit: Terri Pridham

Isabel was 10 years old when military and civil patrollers entered her village and over the course of the day killed men, women and children, including her father, aunts and uncles. Isabel survived by fleeing with others into the mountains and living off the land for two years. When hunger forced them out of hiding, the military placed them in the “model village” they controlled, with no access to land to grow their traditional crops. This was Pacux, where our visit took place. “There is blood in the walls of the houses,” said Isabel, because of the many from the area who had died.

When the children ask after their grandfather or aunts and uncles, Isabel tells them about the history, and takes them to see where their family members’ names are written on the monument to the massacre victims. The children looked on, played, laughed or helped while Isabel showed us how she weaves on her backstrap loom, and taught us to make tortillas. The children’s presence and Isabel’s obvious love and care for them was a delight for us, and a testimony to the strength and resilience of this wonderful woman.