Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Picturing Calixta

My longtime friend Calixta Gabriel, a Kaqchikel Maya poet and ajq’ij’, spiritual guide, told me she had decided the time had come to unbury her past. When it finally happened, I discovered things I didn’t know about her. But I also came to understand better an era of extraordinary faith-based commitment to a better life, which was also an era of struggle among beliefs -- during the Guatemala civil war (1960-1996), when some 200,000 persons were killed or disappeared, mostly unarmed civilians at the hands of the military according to a U.N. sponsored truth report. In 2013 Indigenous women testified to war crimes committed under the aegis of General José Efraín Ríos Montt, who would become the first head of state convicted of genocide by his own country’s courts. Day after day I watched women enter from a side door with their woven shawls pulled up to hide their faces, walk past Ríos Montt, some leaning on the arm of a woman professionally trained to provide psychological support, then dropping their shawls to face the judges, keening, or with valor in their voices. They poured out wrenching stories of loss and abuse. Proceedings were broadcast nationally. “I have memories to unbury, too,” Calixta told me after the trial. Whether the example of others had provoked her, or whether she had other reasons, I reckoned Calixta had prayed on the decision, befbecause that was her way. Soon I realized with a shock that the “unburying” would be literal, with Calixta carrying shovel and pick on a journey to somewhere in the countryside, a place only recently repopulating after destruction by wartime fire and violence. Continue HERE: