As the people of Syria live out a protracted nightmare under the abhorrent, murderous ISIS pseudo-state, many Latin Americans are probably reminded of the region’s own recent history with genocide and brutal repression. It wasn’t even a generation ago that Central American campesinos were being slaughtered en masse by military regimes serving shady interests with connections to the U.S. government. In Guatemala, this violence even took on a racialized character when highland Mayan communities were targeted as sympathetic to a growing leftist guerrilla movement.
But as director Tyler Rumph‘s documentary Voice of a Mountain – Life After 36 Years of War in Guatemala can attest, there is indeed life after war. The film focuses on the residents of the communally owned Santa Anita Coffee and Banana Farm, which is run by ex-combatants in the mountains of Guatemala. Relying primarily on archival footage, interviews, and scenes of life in Santa Anita, the documentary also gives us a chronological breakdown of the events that led up to the Guatemala’s 36-year civil ward (1960-1996), including the U.S. overthrow of the democratically-elected president Jacobo Árbenz in 1958, and the tenure of the fanatical military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who was responsible for the lion’s share of carnage during his tenure in 1982-83.
Ultimately, we see that Guatemala is still in many ways racked by the same social injustices that first led to the armed uprising, but the filmmakers and subjects alike suggest that the beginnings of a solution can be found in a sense of community rather than protracted war. Hopefully Guatemala’s slow, tenuous, but determined process of recuperation can serve as a model for other war-torn nations unsure of what future may await them when it’s all over.
Watch the trailer in the video up top and check out the documentary’s website to stream the film and find out how you can support the continued effort of Santa Anita.