Guatemala, our small neighbor just to the south of Mexico has a long and violent history, yet many people are unaware of Guatemala except as a tourist destination, a place with colorful native peoples, active volcanos, incredible pre-Columbian ruins, and beautiful textiles and handicrafts.
Right now many of the refugees crossing our border are Guatemalan. Why do they come? Why have they crossed through Mexico illegally and at great personal risk for a chance to enter the United States? Why have they come here hoping to stay?
Many come hoping for a new and better life for themselves or their children, and they bring their culture and its problems with them.
Did you know that from 1960 through 1996 colorful Guatemala was torn apart by a violent civil war? Did you know that more than 200,000 people were killed over the course of the 36-year-long civil war? More people were killed in Guatemala that were killed in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, and Argentina combined. Unfortunately most people are unaware of the extent of the violence that took place in Guatemala.
And the violence continues there today in the form of gang violence, drug violence, and common criminality.
Did you know that 83 percent of those killed in the civil war were Mayan Indians (according to a 1999 report written by the U.N.-backed Commission for Historical Clarification titled “Guatemala: Memory of Silence”), and yet the Mayans for the most part tried to avoid violence and maintain their way of life?
Did you know that the U.S. was involved in the Guatemala in 1954 when the CIA backed, trained, and funded the overthrow of an elected president?
Shaman Priest, a novel set during Guatemala’s brutal civil war gives a human face to the violence and suffering that occurred during that time. In the story a young Mayan shaman’s family is murdered and he leaves his beloved mountains making his way to Guatemala City where he becomes a Catholic priest. There he meets Maria, daughter of wealthy landowners, and Earl Smith, an American working for the United States Aid in International Development (USAID) program. This powerful story of Guatemala is told through three fictional characters as they struggle with love and loss, violence, death, and a desire for justice and revenge.
Shaman Priest, by Karen Hopkins will be available in paperback on Amazon beginning July 7, 2014.