Thursday, July 02, 2009
This post will only have pictures of our walk to this fascinating town, and none of the town or people themselves.
Acul is a tiny village about a bumpy hour outside of Nebaj. The original village was destroyed by the army during the civil war, and then the locals were forced to rebuild it. It was the first "Model Village" in Guatemala-designed by the army to control people. The houses are tiny and uniform, with very small yards. Many Maya with different languages were forced to live there, and the village was designed so that people could not congregate or hold secret meetings. The people were placed deliberately so they would be with others who they could not communicate with. All the residents had to build, cook and work for the army in exchange for food rations. Many of the women were widows from the violence, and many residents were raped, tortured, and killed. For more information (and my source for some of this information) you can find Buried Secrets by Victoria Sanford.
The army controlled Acul from 1983-1996. The people here lived through a lot, and are understandably wary of strangers. A group of white foreigners walking through the town (cameras put away) was quite a sight, and they are probably still talking about it.
A note on the huge beautiful white house outside of Acul: It is owned by Italians and they make cheese there. It is NOT indicative of a high standard of living elsewhere in the area!
So, that was Acul. It was powerful and eerie to visit, and the more I read about it, the more often World War II and concentration camps come to my mind, though obviously not to the same horrific scale.
I have one more heavy post to write, and then I think I'll move on to volcanoes and beaches...