June 14, 2023

Written by Lenora

[Content warning: Survivor testimony contains graphic and disturbing descriptions of the aftermath of the massacre.]

Three more witnesses from Rabinal gave testimonies today.

Three Witnesses Remember the Family Members They Lost, Demand Justice

The first witness, Paulina Alvarado Ixpatá, is one of the 36 survivors in the Maya Achí Women’s case. Alvarado Ixpatá related that she knows most of the defendants and some were her neighbors. She had gone to the market with her mother on the day of the massacre. That day, she lost her brother, his wife and children, her sister and the sister’s young children, as well as another 15-year-old brother. She described the scene she encountered when she returned to Rancho Bejuco. Alvarado Ixpatá was only able to identify certain members of her family by their jewelry. She left Rancho Bejuco and returned later. Alvarado Ixpatá shared a story similar to what Maria Alvarado and Juan Osorio Tecú related yesterday: all the witnesses saw the bodies of children that had been partially eaten by dogs, often with the children’s heads separated from their bodies. The survivors gathered the children’s heads, retuning each to their body, and then tried to cover the ditch where their bodies had been thrown.

Pedrina Alvarado, Achi witness, seen from behind, gives testimony

Pedrina Alvarado shares her testimony and demands justice, Photo credit: Verdad y Justicia video feed

“I call for justice for the children who went hungry, for my pregnant sister-in-law. What had they done wrong?”

Pedrina Alvarado, María Alvarado’s sister, testified to knowing most of the prisoners, as well. One of the defendants had married into her family. She related that on July 28, the civil defense patrol (PAC) was seen in the area. Alvarado said that her family remained very aware of the military and paramilitary’s movements, as the terror had begun in 1981. PACs had already kidnapped and tortured several members of her family.

On the day of the massacre, Alvarado went to town to purchase corn and other supplies. She waited for her family to meet her, but they never came. Her aunt arrived, crying, asking if the rest of the family had gotten there. When Alvarado returned to Rancho Bejuco in the afternoon to see what had happened, she found only her sister-in-law’s skirt and shoe and her brother’s half-finished plate. Afraid and realizing it was too late to help, she left for Xesiguan. Alvarado returned five days later with others, confirming the sight of children’s partially eaten bodies laying unburied. She recounted covering the grave and marking it to be able to find it later. Alvarado lost her father, her mother, her three teenage siblings, her husband, and her 7-year-old child.

During her testimony, Alvarado shared other stories of the day-to-day violence Achí communities experienced. She spoke of Jorge Reyes, a farmer who security forces questioned and tortured for much of the day, before killing him a short while later.

At times, Alvarado struggled to share her painful testimony and mentioned the psychological and physical effects left by the series  of traumatic events she and her family experienced during Ríos Montt’s genocidal reign. Overwhelmed, she asked for a pause.

Pedrina Alvarado ended her testimony asking for justice for her pregnant sister-in-law, demanding to know what she and her unborn child had done wrong.

PACs Threatened Violence Ahead of the Massacre

The final witness of the day was Nicolas Alvarado. He recounted that one of the defendants had previously told him he was going to kill his father. His testimony fits the pattern discussed on Day 2, in which members of the civil defense patrol often used context of chaos and widespread violence against civilians to settle personal grudges. Civil patrol members had also come to the area and threatened community members prior to the massacre. Pedrina Alvarado and Nicolas Alvarado’s testimonies of previous threats, torture, and violence help us understand how state-controlled forces enacted a reign of terror and genocide on Achí communities.

After the massacre, Nicolas entered the village. From 10 meters away, he could see blood and bodies and the smell was terrible. Frightened, he fled. Alvarado lost his entire family in the massacre.

Read the report-back for Day 3 here.

Read the report-back for Day 5 here.