The Southern Maine IWW and Southern Maine Workers’ Center will be celebrating International Workers’ Day (IWD) by holding a solidarity film and fundraising event for No More Deaths on May 1st, 6pm at Local Sprouts Café in Portland, Maine.
This event was initially brought together by a call to action by the #BlockTheWall Network to take action, hold demonstrations and show solidarity for organizations that are fighting to reduce harm to migrants and ultimately seek the end of the border its self.
We will be tying together the history of colonial violence in Central America with present day corporate imperialism. This bloody history, throughout the western hemisphere, is incredibly long so we have decided to focus on Guatemala, in particular, as prime example of this. At the IWD event the film we will be watching is El Norte, a fictionalized account of two teenage siblings escaping the brutal repression and genocide from the military of Efraín Ríos Montt a tried and convicted war criminal. His was one of many puppet governments pumped up with cash and a vast US military arsenal.
El Norte is a captivating film that faithfully represents the layer of of oppressions faced by different populations and celebrates their culture and power. The writer/director add in special touches of magical realism and moments of telenovela level dramatics.
So, instead of a revolution, Guatemala endured an almost unfathomably brutal 36-year civil war. The CIA set the wheels in motion in 1954 when they sponsored a coup that overthrewthen-President Jacobo Árbenz in retribution for his attempts to redistribute land. The immensely powerful American-owned United Fruit Company opposed land reform, and the CIA acted on their behalf. Denied any other route to social change, an assortment of indigenous, campesino, student, union, and leftist groups commenced armed struggle against the state in 1960. The conflict was fueled for decades by the financial and military support that the American government provided to a succession of Guatemalan military regimes. These regimes perpetrated a catalog of massacres, disappearances, torture, and other acts of state terror against the civil society of Guatemala, culminating in the “scorched earth” policy of genocide against the Mayan indigenous population during the rule of Efraín Ríos Montt in the early 1980s. Approximately 200,000 civilians lost their lives during the war; indigenous people suffered disproportionately. Armed conflict ended in December 1996 with the signing of the peace accords between the umbrella organization of guerrilla groups (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity or URNG) and the Guatemalan state.
Hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans fled to Mexico and the United States during the 1980s. Most had to do so illegally,since the Reagan administration—which was arming and funding the primary perpetrators of the violence—refused to recognize those exiled as refugees under American law. Many of these refugees and their families established lives in the United States and have been there ever since.
Twenty years later, peace may be worse than war. I’ve actually heard Guatemalans say this. As of 2016, Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere,the fourth highest in the entire world. Chronic malnutrition affects 47% of all children, 55% of all people in rural areas, 69%of indigenous people, and 70% of indigenous children. In some villages, that number rises to 90%.* Food insecurity has been found to be the single biggest factor driving migration from the country, according to a recent report published by the International Organisation of Migration and the United Nations World Food Programme. Based on what I have seen firsthand and heard from Guatemalans, I concur.
We are talking about a country with extensive economic, political, cultural, and military ties to the United States; which is blessed with fertile soil, plentiful water, a favorable climate,and abundant natural resources; whose markets are overflowing with fruits and vegetables, and which exports well over a billion dollars of food to the north every year. Peace in Guatemala is the peace of a graveyard, plundered by thieves and haunted by the ghosts of hungry children.
The decision to hire neoconservative war criminals such as Eliot Abrams, one of the key architects of genocide in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in the Reagan administration, by Donald Trump, is one of the more openly fascist moves of this government. A whole new generation of Central Americans arrive at the increasingly militarized US border to be faced once again with a government, made up of the same people, keen on their very extinction.
We stand with those that resist, that fight back, and work to actively undermine this state violence. It is in this spirit that we are supporting the work of No More Deaths on International Workers’ Day, and we hope that you come out to support them too.
If you can’t make it to the event, please consider donating directly.