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  HOME | Central America

Hopes of Finding Missing Guatemalan Still Alive after 34 Years

GUATEMALA CITY – Pedro Marcos went to work in his cornfield and took his 11-year-old son Gaspar with him to lend a hand. That was common enough, a custom among peasant families in Guatemala. But now, more than 30 years later, the search for Gaspar goes on.

It was 1983, the bloodiest year of the armed conflict in the land of Guatemala’s indigenous Ixil people, out of the 36 years the war lasted (1960-1996).

Father and son returned home tired and hungry in the area where the most human rights violations were recorded.

There they discovered that neither Pedro’s wife Petrona Lopez nor their other children – Ana, Jose and Cecilia – were at home.

Everything was thrown on the floor and turned upside down, and the village of Tzijulche where they lived in Quiche province was in turmoil.

The army had marched through, killing people and taking others to the nearest military detachment in Tzalbal. Frightened, Pedro and Gaspar spent two nights in hiding before going to look for their missing family.

On the road, Pedro saw his son-in-low crouched on the ground with his back to them, hidden among the cornstalks. When he touched his shoulder, his body fell over. He had been shot in the back and killed. Terrified, Pedro grabbed Gaspar by the hand and ran to the barracks.

When they got there, the soldiers forced Pedro to get down in a trench with dozens of other people, all alive, while Gaspar was put with a woman in another trench.

That was the last Pedro knew of his son. He never saw or heard from him again, despite an incessant search over the next 34 years.

Pedro spent a night in the trench, after which he was subjected to forced labor. He lived there two months and when he asked where his son was, the soldiers said Gaspar would have a better education where he was and that if he kept asking, they would kill both of them.

When the army pulled out, it installed the peasant in a model village, gave him a house and a small cornfield, though it didn’t make up for the sheep and crop he had lost. A few days later he found his wife and family, and they all went home together.

Between 1983-1985, Petrona kept telling Pedro to ask after Gaspar, but he knew that would mean his execution and that of his son: he preferred to pray. Before moving to Salquil Grande, Pedro got his courage up and went to the detachment to demand his boy, his playful, peaceful boy who always helped with the farmwork.

But it was too late. The troops had moved the barracks to Santa Maria Nebaj, and Petrona knew she would never forget those nights sitting and crying on the edge of her bed, begging her husband to find her son.

Even today, when she is 73 and Pedro is 80, that is something she has never forgiven him, as she told EFE with tearful red eyes and a vacant stare, as her husband looked away.

Despite everything, the Ixil peasant farmer has never stopped looking for his son. He followed traces of him to the capital, but nothing ever came of it.


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