On February 13, 1982, the Guatemalan army stormed into the remote northern Guatemalan village of Santa Maria Tzeja. The villagers had already fled in terror, but over the next six days seventeen of them, mostly women and children, were caught and massacred, animals were slaughtered, and the entire village was burned to the ground.
Twelve years later, utilizing terms of refugee agreements reached in 1982, villagers from Santa Maria who had fled to Mexico returned to their homes and lands to re-create their community with those who had stayed in Guatemala. Return of Guatemala's Refugees tells the story of that process. In this moving and provocative book, Clark Taylor describes the experiences of the survivors -- both those who stayed behind in conditions of savage repression and those who fled to Mexico where they learned to organize and defend their rights. Their struggle to rebuild is set in the wider drama of efforts by grassroots groups to pressure the government, economic elites, and army to fulfill peace accords signed in December of 1996.
Focusing on the village of Santa Maria Tzeja, Taylor defines the challenges that faced returning refugees and their community. How did the opposing subcultures of fear (generated among those who stayed in Guatemala) and of education and human rights (experienced by those who took refuge in Mexico) coexist? Would the flood of international money sent to settle the refugees and fulfill the peace accords serve to promote participatory development or new forms of social control? How did survivors expand the space for democracy firmly grounded in human rights? How did they get beyond the grief and trauma that remained from the terror of the early eighties? Finally, the ultimate challenge, how did they work within conditions of extreme poverty to create a grassroots democracy in a militarized society?