Help Guatemala’s Archives

Mike points us to a worthy cause:

The Historical Archive of the National Police (NP) was discovered by chance in July 2005.  Tens of millions of documents, including papers, books, photographs and floppy disks, were piled from floor to ceiling, filling entire rooms of an abandoned police compound. They contained critical information about the activities of the Guatemalan National Police, covering a period from the late 1800s and including the period of the civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996.
The participation of the National Police in the commission of human rights violations during the internal armed conflict was documented by the Historical Clarification Commission (CEH). In its report Guatemala: Memory of Silence[], CEH affirms that the NP was an operative body for army intelligence, serving as the facade of the G-2 intelligence agency, and acted on its orders in the majority of cases. 

During the CEH investigation, state entities repeatedly denied the existence of any archives or documentary materials that would assist an investigation into human rights violations. The National Police was disbanded after the Peace Accords and replaced with the National Civil Police.
In seven years since their discovery, the documents have been painstakingly preserved, digitised and catalogued, and made accessible to the public, particularly individuals and organisations seeking justice for human rights violations, an end to impunity and progress on the path towards truth, justice and reconciliation. Evidence from the Archive has been instrumental in achieving some of the country’s first convictions for human rights crimes such as forced disappearance.
Currently the Historical Archive of the National Police is facing financial difficulties. The archives have progressed to where they are today thanks to international support and the work of the men and women who work in the archives. Unfortunately, the Guatemalan government has not assumed the financial responsibilities that correspond to it.
To be able to complete its planned work this year – which includes providing evidence in 20 prosecutions for forced disappearance, as well as the ongoing work of digitising and cataloguing, which is far from complete (it aims to have made 15 million documents publicly accessible by the end of the year) – the Archive is seeking to raise US$250,000.
It is asking for donations of any amount and anyone interested in making a donation should contact:
Avenida La Pedrera  10-00,  Zona 06
TEL(00502) 22690628  FAX(00502) 22702098

Suffice to say, this collection is massively important not just to historians of Guatemalan history, but to human rights activists, those interested in military politics and human rights abuses, those interested in the US presence in Latin America in the 20th century, and many other scholars across multiple disciplines. That it offers so much into the civil war era alone would make the archive invaluable; that it can offer insights into state-building processes that are often misunderstood or understudied in Guatemala throughout the post-independence period only adds to that value. Even if it’s only a small sum, please consider contributing. If you are interested, the contact info (as mentioned in the original post is below. Any amount will help scholars, researchers, activists, and most importantly, Guatemalans, improve our understandings of Guatemalan history in the global context.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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