Carmen Morcos (Guatemala)

Carmen Morcos (Rights Action and ADIVIMA, Guatemala): Carmen graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2000 with a B.S. in Finance. She then worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in their Dispute Analysis & Investigations Group for almost three years. At the time of her fellowship, Carmen was pursuing a joint degree at Georgetown university – a Master of Science in Foreign Service and an MBA with a concentration in international development in Latin America.

My Last Few Weeks

05 Apr

This past week has been a bit frustrating for me. There is so much work to be done, but little that I, personally, can do. The main reason I’ve been staying is for our August 7th meeting, but we haven’t even planned the events of the day so I do not know my role or responsibilities. Annie just had her baby, little Sofia, so she is out of commission and I do not want to disturb her at this moment. Iñaki is coming to Rabinal on Monday so we will have a meeting and hopefully outline some further objectives.

This is the problem with NGOs, the lack of coordination and organization. Annie is a wealth of information, but it is all in her head, and unless you have telepathy, there is no way to extract it. Nothing is written down in terms of work pending. Everyone knows bits of information, but very few know the overall structure of this report being written or all the elements needed. I am not one of those lucky few, and neither is Iñaki. So for now I have to make do with what I have and somewhat create my own work. But I am getting tired and annoyed. Not the way I really want to end my time here.

These past 2 weeks there have been festivals and commemoration ceremonies, as there always are in these villages. Plan de Sánchez celebrated their triumph whereby the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, for the first time in its history, condemned a member state for genocide. The court ruled in favor of the community, citing that the Guatemalan government was directly involved in the massacre of hundreds of its people in 1982.

This massacre involved mainly women and children, all of whom were locked in one of the village buildings and burned to death. 188 individuals were murdered. Plan de Sánchez began its lawsuit back in 1995 and it has taken this long to achieve anything. The government is obligated to pay reparations to the community following a guideline set by the Inter-Amerian Court.

As a result of this ruling, there have been various death threats to individuals and organizations involved in Plan de Sánchez’s efforts. Amnesty International even sent out of world-wide request for immediate action. Apparently one key witness is a former military member who had been directly involved in the massacre. Although the military would never admit guilt, his former partners are the ones carrying out the threats, accusing him of being a traitor.

My work of defending human rights among indigenous people has even extended to my own household. The way my living situation is set up is I rent a room which is set apart from the main house, where a family lives. They give me breakfast every morning, or Doña Juanita the servant does, and any other meal I choose.

Although I get along wonderfully with the family, I still see the vast discrepancy in how they treat Doña Juanita versus how they treat each other, or me. And this bothers me tremendously. Case in point, Doña Juanita arrives to the house every day at 6:30 in the morning and doesn’t leave until 5 or 6 in the evening. She is the only one that cooks, gives all the children breakfast and lunch, leaves some beans and plantains for dinner, cleans the entire house AND my room and washes all the clothes.

And she works EVERY DAY. They do not even give her Sundays off. Her pay is minimal, 450 Quetzales a month, which amounts to less than US $60. So what have I done? I am instigating a domestic uprising, telling Doña Juanita every day that she deserves her Sunday off and that she needs to tell them. Not ask.

Unfortunately, Doña Juanita has been so used to being the submissive servant that she is very scared to say anything, afraid that they will get mad, afraid that they will say no. And I try to give her confidence, tell her that she has every right to demand at least one day off, that she is not anyone’s property but her own.

I say everything I can except outright tell the family myself that she deserves her Sundays off. I don’t know if she will have the courage to eventually say something, and as much as I would love to help her, I feel that it is not my fight. All I can do is give her moral support during the remainder of my stay, and hope that she eventually does say something.

Posted By Carmen Morcos (Guatemala)

Posted Apr 5th, 2007

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