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Michael Hyatt's Photography Books
Guatemala: The Face of Innocence & Genocide
by Michael Hyatt
NOTE: The three Michael Hyatt photographs in this book are also available separately as prints in Michael Hyatt's portfolio GUATEMALA.


Guatemala: The Face of Innocence & Genocide by Michael Hyatt reflects on the 36-year Guatemalan civil war: its casualties, survivors and their offspring and repatriation of the remains of those massacred by the army and paramilitary forces.

Guatemala in the 1940s was a leading agricultural center in Central America due in large part to the direct control of foreign interests such as the US-based United Fruit Company. Democratic elections held in 1945 led to ten years of social reforms. Under President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman (1951-1954) land and agrarian reform predominated. Arbenz advocated for land redistribution. Under his Agrarian Reform Law of 1952, uncultivated land on estates larger than 672 acres was to be redistributed to individual families. Arbenz's policies angered foreign business interests and stirred up anti-communist cold war sentiment, resulting in his overthrow, directed in part by the CIA. Army leader Carlos Castillo Armas was installed by "liberation fighters." A decade of socioeconomic, educational, labor and political reforms were immediately reversed. Unions were banned and their leaders "disappeared."

Reaction to repressive policies led to a grassroots leftist movement that spread from Guatemala City into the indigenous Maya highlands. The military government responded with abductions, massacres and destruction of hundreds of communities. Close to 200,000 died, around 50,000 were "disappeared," over 1 million refugees fled, mostly to Mexico, and more than 1 million were internally displaced. Many indigenous Maya escaped to remote regions of the highlands, where they were treated as combatants and subjected to repeated bombardments, military incursions, and crop destruction. Some starved or died of disease before the formal end of the conflict in 1996. Others sought and received sanctuary in Tucson and eventually throughout the U.S.

An outgrowth of the indigenous Maya struggles in Guatemala was the formation of the Communities of Population in Resistance (CPR). The CPRs challenged the establishment and state directed terrorism. Survivors and their offspring now populate numerous resettlement communities in the highlands, including Union Victoria. Life there is a struggle but peace and better living conditions prevail. Limited healthcare is provided by local health promoters working in association with the Guatemala Project, a mission of Tucson's St. Michael's Church established in 1993 by Ila Abernathy.

In Guatemala City "holocaust deniers" attempt to disprove genocide during the civil war but exhumations in military zones and remote areas provide physical and DNA evidence proving otherwise. Since 2000, thousands of Maya families have had the remains of their loved ones returned for formal burial.

DIY book publication by Michael Hyatt (michael-hyatt.com) at Gallery 1331 – 4450 E. Cooper Circle, Tucson AZ 85711


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