Two weeks into our nine week summer partnership with the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, we have begun to delve into the Disappeared archive held at the GAM office in Guatemala City. We are in a unique position as the first undergraduate scholars to be conducting research based on this archive. Our partner organization, the GAM, has entrusted us with the mission of telling stories using documents from this collection in hopes of continuing the work of building historical memory in Guatemala.
Thanks to the efforts of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Chesick Scholars Program, and Haverford Library, we are able to focus on the research component of this project, while Alex Galarza and GAM staff in Guatemala facilitate the digitization process. Due to changes in our summer logistics, we, the four students working on this project, are based out of Philadelphia rather than Guatemala City. These logistics have primarily impacted our ability to directly contribute to the digitization process and interact with the GAM staff. However, we are hopeful that the current process of receiving documents from the archive through the access layer will still allow us to help the GAM advance its mission of remembrance, despite working remotely.
An important component of effectively contributing to this work is following proper archival methods. As such, one of the students involved in the project, Rafael Rodriguez, is working closely with the library’s Digital Scholarship program to process the digitized collection, so it can then be added to a public access layer that will provide visualization of each case. The access layer was created using Django, a Python framework to build web applications. Using Archivematica, another Django application built by the program, bags containing scans of the collection are processed following metadata and archival procedures. This step is indispensable in preserving all relevant information related to the cases, especially as the goal of the organization is to present some of these cases as evidence in trials of human rights violations and deportation cases of Guatemalans based in the United States.
Thus far, our primary focus has been our individual research projects. With the GAM’s mission of promoting remembrance through scholarly work in mind, we have each begun to work on our own research projects based on documents from the collection. Mariana, for example, is interested in indigenous resistance prior, during, and following the internal armed conflict. She has found several documents where the disappeared person was forcibly disappeared in departments that were later found to be sites of genocide. Tania is interested in the different perspectives or understandings that can be gained through a reading of a different genre of documents within the archive. She is hoping to work with letters and personal statements provided by the mothers, wives or sisters of the disappeared in order to understand how these women interacted with their state, as well as bring attention to the voices of these women. Natalia is interested in the effects of US-Guatemala policies during the early to mid 80’s on the citizens of Guatemala. She hopes that while searching through the archive she can tie events recorded in the archive to US-Guatemala relations, in order to give voice to those affected by those policies.
In two and a half weeks, we will be traveling to Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. At Austin, we will be working with Hannah Alpert-Abrams, the CLIR Postdoc Fellow working with the AHPN, and the different archives at University of Texas, Austin that specialize in Central America. In Washington, D.C., we will be working with the National Security Archive, a visit which has been facilitated by Kate Doyle. Through both visits, we are hoping to supplement our research with different archival material as well as through conversations with other members in the Central American scholarship community.
Mariana Ramirez is an incoming junior at Haverford College majoring in Anthropology and Spanish with a concentration in Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies. She is interested in advancing human rights in Latin America and became involved with the GAM Digital Scholarship Companera/os Project after learning about the root causes of migration.
Natalia Mora is an incoming sophomore at Haverford College as a prospective Anthropology major with a concentration in Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies. She became involved with the GAM Digital Scholarship Compañera/os Project due to her own experience growing up in a country in an armed conflict.
Tania Ortega is an incoming senior at Haverford College majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies. She became involved with the GAM Digital Scholarship Compañera/os Project after spending a summer learning about the legacies of violence in Central America through a summer internship with a legal nonprofit.
Rafael Rodriguez is an incoming junior at Haverford college, majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Economics. He is interested in exploring ways how his prospective Computer Science degree can be beneficial in understanding how disadvantaged economic and political conditions present in Latin America affect the people in the region.