In January, 2020, I was invited to the Alwar International Film Festival in India to share our documentary film The Man Behind The White Guitar, the Life and Music of Brazilian Guitarist José Neto. Here I talk about the film journey in making this international project by artists who gave generously and why. I also share the magic of starting a project and what that can look like for anyone stepping out of their comfort zone to create art, writing or a film project . . . LINK HERE.
We don’t have to look at Indigenous genocide 100 years ago in our country, acts that were not committed by us. We can look at a mere 35 years ago when we supported a US President who joined forces with Guatemala President Rioss Monte and slaughtered men, women and children, Indigenous Mayan, in Guatemala. The years were the 1980s.
President Ronald Reagan called these Indigenous people, the Ancient Mayans, communists, a good trigger word to get support by those afraid of Soviets during the Cold War. But, nothing could be further from the truth. The Mayans have dealt with 400 years of oppression. They tried their best to uprise and say no more to nothing less than slavery these last 60 years. President Rios Montt of Guatemala ruled with an iron fist, gathering support from Reagan and literally wiped out Mayan villages.
What makes the story almost surreal is that Mayan Indigenous workers live amongst us in my community of Marin County, a wealth suburb of San Francisco. The Mayans surrendered to the oligharchy in Guatemala and started a slow stream of immigration to the United States, mainly to work and support their impoverished families back in Guatemala. The family ties are paramount and go deep. The level of respect for the elderly is a value westerners could learn.
Many “illegal” Mayan indigenous are the housecleaners, gardeners, nannies and roofers for the wealthy in Marin, raising an entire generation and adding valuable to what is considered a very wealthy community.
I was one of those people who paid “under the table” to housecleaners. And I would do it again. Because I understand their story. I will support the people before government policies that have destroyed families, communities and countries. I also will be outspoken about President Ronald Reagan and a generation that has chosen not to acknowledge the atrocities of the 1980s and how those unjust policies have contributed to more trauma 35 years later as the Mayan and other Guatemalans struggle to survive.
It’s time for truth, reparation and apologies. It’s time to support Central America as the Bridge Between The Americas. . . the friendship bridge to our brothers and sisters of South America.
Nobel Winner Rigoberto Menchu and her book When The Mountains Tremble, is an account of the genocide. She has been an outspoken leader for over 30 years.