My time in Guatemala was partly sombre. Having been raised in the San Francisco Bay Area (where significant attention was paid to atrocities committed by U.S.-backed Guatemalan soldiers during the Central American nation’s civil war), I was aware of the violence that had occurred in locations I visited. In one town, the quiet concrete plaza was well-documented as a site where numerous people were burned alive. A tranquil hillside, the location of a mass grave where massacred guerrillas and townspeople lay heaped together.
During the civil war, the innocuous-looking, concrete-block buildings shown in this photograph were part of a settlement known as a “Model Village” - inhabited by indigenous communities from the countryside, who sometimes sought refuge from the violence of the surrounding areas, but in other cases were rounded up by the military and compelled to relocate. Despite the official explanation that the settlements were established to provide safety, supplies, and a means to integrate communities previously overlooked into modern society, the conditions of “Model Villages” were stark and exit was not an option.
Years after the civil war ended and military oversight of this village was concluded, the physical structures remain in use - only the barbed-wire-fence has been removed from its perimeter. And if one didn’t know the town’s history, it would be indistinguishable from innumerable other Latin American mountain communities.