Living through a civil war is one thing, but being apart of it’s history is another. For one couple, the Guatemalan Civil War brought them to their passion of service for the country and to each other.
Holly Martin Montúfar and Flavio Montúfar presented on their involvement in the Guatemalan Civil War from 1960 to 1996 on April 10 in the Pioneer Reading Room. The lecture was part of the PLACE program.
Holly began the presentation with some general background information about the citizens of the Maya-Mam village of Todo Santos Cuchumatán in Guatemala. The citizens were a simple people who were closed off from most of society, as the village was surrounded by mountains. Holly found herself drawn to the culture as her previous husband and his family were villagers from Todo Santos Cuchumatán.
Todo Santos Cuchumatán was rocked by the Civil War when a massacre occurred, leaving Holly’s husband’s family displaced but alive. She has also worked with multiple organizations to increase the efforts for support for the victims of the war, such as the Institución Mam de Desarrollo Integral (IMDI) and the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG).
After Holly had finished her portion of the presentation, she shared the story of how her and Flavio met through their efforts for justice for those affected by the Civil War. Flavio and Holly met when Holly went to some excavations where Flavio was working in 2001.
After Flavio was divorced in 2006, the two fell in love during a trip to Todos Santos they took together, while accompanied by Flavio’s son, David, and film maker Olivia Carrescia. The couple was married in 2008 and now work together to gain awareness of the conflict in Guatemala.
“I joke that the true test of ability as a partner was how he handled the uncomfortable conditions of Todos Santos,” Holly said. “And he jokes that the real test was meeting my kids… He passed the test.”
Flavio’s portion of the presentation included more involvement with the internal conflicts, and more specifically, the deaths caused by the fighting. He presented his portion of the lecture in Spanish with Holly translating for him.
Flavio explained his initial involvement was the information he learned while working for a radio station in Quiché, Guatemala. He later started working for the Quiché fire department. His primary job was responding to those attacked and injured because of the Civil War. Flavio also worked as the assistant to a medical examiner, putting him directing involved with the conflict. He would respond to different excavation sites and would determine the cause of death of the bodies found all across the country.
Flavio explained that he was not able to write down many of his experiences.
“My paper only has some general explanation of what is in my slide show,” Holly translated. “The explanation I’m going to give is not written in any documents because everything you experience in the middle of a war is written in the stone.”
Kaylyn Peterson/Copy chief
Kaylyn Peterson can be reached at email@example.com.