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w on March 30, 1985. A small cross stands where his body, missing the tongue, was found. “His face,” said one friend, “was like a blackberry pie.” Rosario Godoy de Cuevas, wife of a disappeared university student leader, was buried shortly after Gomez, along with her younger brother and her three-year-old son. These murders have never been resolved. Despite this, the members of the group continue to meet in a small private house in the capital city. It is a wellintegrated gathering of people; those affiliated with the university crowding close with laborers, young mothers, elderly parents, and Highland Indians speaking their native Mayan languages. Together they discuss the most recent events and map out plans for future efforts. For many, attendance may require up to two days of travel time through difficult terrain and numerous checkpoints. Nevertheless, the rooms of the small house continue to fill on each appointed meeting day with members determined to find their loved ones. At first glance, this determination may prove difficult for outsiders to comprehend. The vast majority of disappeared persons who have been found have been found dead, their bodies revealing signs of torture, from machete and burn wounds to multiple amputations. Despite these grim prospects, and the personal risks involved, the members of the group are unanimous in their determination to continue the search for their relatives. Many are haunted by stories of clandestine prisons; the chance, no matter how slim, that their relatives are alive, in need of help, and perhaps suffering, makes it impossible to abandon their efforts. Others insist that their disappeared relatives were the most valuable members of their clans. To simply presume them dead without pursuing the facts is to many an act of impermissible disloyalty. “I believe my son is alive,” said one mother firmly, “and I will keep my faith until I know he is dead. And then I will ask another question: Why?” “Why?” is perhaps the most difficult question of all. No charges have ever been brought against the victims. They were simply abducted, most of them by large groups of heavily armed men; and they have never re-appeared. Dona Marfa pulls out an enormous file jammed with clippings about her missing son. A brilliant young scientist’s assistant, he was sent twice to Houston to study on company scholarships with letters of recommendation describing him as “intelligent, dedicated, capable, trustworthy and honest” and the “best in years.” Marra describes him as a sensitive man who would return from the rural areas deeply disturbed by the plight of the poor. He would take clothing and toys with him to give away and liked to bring his guitar and sing for the workers in the evening. In the spring of 1983, he was watching the television news at home with his family when heavily armed men forced their way into the house and dragged him away. Marfa and her husband frantically searched for him everywhere, petitioned the courts, and sought the help of numerous human rights organizations, all to no avail. Eleven months passed without a word about her son. When she heard about the formation of the group, she promptly joined and has been a staunch member ever since. “They took him away because he saw the injustice being done,” she said firmly. In a small room she keeps his folded clothes, his mountain climbing equipment, his many books, and his neatly labeled rock collection, all awaiting his return. Dona Ana tells a similar story. Her son, a professor of medicine at the University of San Carlos, was also a supervisor of the rural clinics. He traveled widely, to the Petdn area, to the western provinces, and to the altiplano. Although he loved his work, he too would return to the city, frustrated with his inability to meet the needs of the rural poor and haunted by what he had seen. In the winter of 1982, he and his closest friend, a fellow physician, disappeared. Dona Ana’s face reflects years of pain as she describes combing the mountains, seeking help from the authorities, and, finally, searching the morgues. After a month, the badly battered corpse of the friend was found. No news of her son has ever been received. Dona Gina, a young Indian woman from a distant town, lost her brother, uncle, and cousin all in one night early in 1983. She described her uncle as a real leader in the community. A father of six children, he was the town health educator and played a major role in the building of the local school. Her cousin was also devoted to community affairs. She blinked as she told of her brother, who was 19 years old and only days away from receiving his diploma when he was taken away. “They were looking for me,” said Gina, who is also a health educator. “I wasn’t there, so they took my brother in my place.” Gina also expressed pride in the number of Indian members who regularly attend the meetings of the group. Guatemala is one of the few remaining countries with a flourishing Mayan society; approximately 60 percent of its population is of Indian ethnicity. Yet these people have traditionally been the subject of extreme social and economic repression and discrimination. During the height of the political terror in 1982, the altiplano was the hardest hit, the Guatemalan army massacring entire villages with extraordinary brutality. A recent survey estimated that in three northwestern highland provinces alone, there are 100,000 children missing at least one parent. These people continue to be targeted for the most severe repression. Nevertheless, large numbers continue to make the difficult and potentially dangerous trip to the capital to attend the meetings of the group. During one recent presentation by the group to a visiting human rights organization, the guests at the luxurious Camino Real hotel were startled to see a ragged young Indian woman rush, sobbing, past the poolside. She had come to report the violent abduction of her last surviving brother the night before. IF THE question as to why these victims were singled out for abduction and disappearance remains baffling, the question of the identity of the responsible parties is less so. While the witnesses and surviving family members are often too intimidated by threats to tell their stories, there would seem to be little doubt that the vast majority of the disappearances are THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15