Documentary Photographer and Human Rights Activist Jonathan Moller is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From the book/project Our Culture is Our Resistance –  Repression, Refuge and Healing in GuatemalaTo see Jonathan’s body of work, click on any image.





Between 1993 and 2001 I worked as a human rights advocate and free-lance, documentary photographer in Guatemala, principally working with indigenous Mayans uprooted by that country’s long and brutal civil war. I spent much of my time in rural areas, working to support Guatemala’s displaced and refugee populations in their struggle for respect of their basic rights.  In 2000 and 2001 I worked with a forensic anthropology team, documenting the exhumations of clandestine cemeteries.  These images are stories of life and death, of hope and despair, and of struggles for survival, justice, and truth.



My work focuses in large part on the Communities of Population in Resistance (CPR), beginning with photographs that I took between 1993 and 1995 when I accompanied these populations as a human rights observer. The CPRs were born out of the violent repression directed against civilian populations by the Guatemalan Army in the early 1980’s. While tens of thousands of primarily indigenous peasants spilled across the border into Mexico, the survivors who would form the CPRs fled to three remote areas in the mountains and jungles of northwest and northern Guatemala. At first dispersed, they came together and formed highly organized, self-governing communities that silently resisted death and Army control, remaining in hiding until the early 1990’s.  During this twelve year period, they were accused by the government of being guerrillas and were hunted by the Army.



After the signing of the Peace Accords in December 1996, marking the end of Guatemala’s 36-year internal armed conflict, entire communities of the CPRs began to come down from their mountain and jungle refuges to resettle on new lands.  With the support of the United Nations and the international community, they negotiated property rights with the government and purchased new lands.  At the same time tens of thousands of refugees in Mexico began to return to Guatemala.  In 2000 and 2001, I visited the recently settled CPR communities to photograph the people in their new but precarious conditions.



Guatemala’s civil war led to the death and disappearance of over 200,000 civilians and created hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people.  By the Army’s own admission, over 450 villages were completely wiped off the map during its five-year scorched earth campaign (1979 – 1984).  Massacres of women, children, and the elderly occurred on a regular basis.  The UN-sponsored Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH, the truth commission) concluded that “agents” of the Guatemalan government committed acts of genocide against indigenous populations, and it blamed the government and security forces for 93% of the human rights violations that occurred during the four decades of armed conflict.  The CEH also made known that the United States trained and aided the Guatemalan military during its genocidal counterinsurgency campaigns against indigenous populations.  Now, almost 25 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, the country continues to experience a culture of impunity, violence, poverty and exclusion.



Within the context of a country on the path to peace, survivors of the war, including the CPRs, urgently need to begin searching for and reclaiming the remains of their loved ones who were massacred or disappeared.  The exhumations allow the survivors to begin healing, giving them the opportunity to expose the truth of what happened, and in some cases to seek justice.



Over 28 years ago, in those profoundly beautiful mountains and jungles that have been soaked with blood, my passions for photography and social justice were joined.  It is my hope that this work speaks not only to my vision as an artist and an activist, but most especially to the lives of those Guatemalans who survived and resisted death and exploitation, and to those who continue to struggle for dignity, justice and historical memory.



All images and text © Jonathan Moller



Our Culture is Our Resistance

Repression, Refuge and Healing in Guatemala

Book By Jonathan Moller




See also:

Guatemala – Refugees Even After Death (2000/2001)

By Jonathan Moller





Edge of Humanity Magazine is an independent nondiscriminatory platform that has no religious, political, financial, or social affiliations.

We are committed to publishing the human condition, the raw diverse global entanglement, with total impartiality.


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