Disappeared Memories

Genocides and ethnic cleansings usually make international headlines, captivate the world, and garner social and political responses.  However, such was and is not the case with the Guatemalan Genocide, also known as the Silent Holocaust.  As this latter name implies, the Silent Holocaust was brutal campaign that was born from the Guatemalan Civil War that lasted from 1960-1996 but was seldom reported on and to this day is still not well-known.  Though the whole timeline of the Guatemalan Civil War is complicated and convoluted, what can be definitively parsed out is that the indigenous Maya populations that still inhabit much of Guatemala were systematically targeted by the military government for raids, forced disappearances, tortures, and killings among other atrocities.  Despite a conservative estimation of 42,000 cases of killings and ‘forced disappearances’ (with over 83% of those indigenous Maya) during the worst years of the civil war, the horrors of the Silent Holocaust remain mostly unknown to much of the world.

This was the impetus for Disappeared Memories.  Though not exhaustive, this project outlines the general history of the genocide, focusing on the worst years of the massacres, in an attempt to educate the general public about violent history that should not be silenced nor forgotten.  Primary source documents inform much of the project, giving concrete numbers, statistics, and histories as the result of international investigations.  Some of these histories have been condensed and placed within three different interactive story maps that allow the users to travel through a decade-long period and discover how a culturally, economically, socially, and politically disenfranchised people became the target of a US-backed military government’s malice.  The aim of this project is to inform everyone so that nothing like this happens again.

Jack Biggs 

2017-2018 CHI Grad Fellow Cohort (Senior Returning Fellow)

PhD Student, Department of Anthropology