WWW: Beyond Guatemala through the Lens of Jorge Uzon

An indigenous woman carries flowers during a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the Atitlan massacre,This week we bring you a resource to complement our earlier discussions about Skila Brown’s Caminar, the young adult novel-in-verse set during Guatemala’s civil war in a fictional village.  Although Brown evocatively conveys what the young protagonist, Carlos, must have felt amid the tumult and violence, it nonetheless is somewhat difficult to imagine his surroundings in detail.  So, we found photography that will give you glimpses into the context of the novel. Without further ado we present the photography of Jorge Uzon.

There is a lot to work through when delving into the Western University (Ontario, Canada) student-created blog, Guatemala beyond the Civil War: Through the Lens of Jorge Uzon.  Designed as a virtual, online photographic exhibit, each of five sections contains one of photojournalist Jorge Uzon’s startlingly poignant photographs, complete with a contextual description accompanying each photo.  Take your students on a tour of each section, and with each picture the concise, yet thorough commentary helps to provide a simple, yet highly informative framework; the photos come to life in the eyes the students’ as the context is explained, even briefly.

For example, let’s look under the tab titled “GUERILLA PEOPLE”, under the photo Guatemala 12”.  Instantly, this photograph is sharp and captivating, caught in mid-movement, full of action, yet at the same time somewhat calm and pastoral.  This juxtaposition of the slow, rural life mixed with the heavy action of competitive combat is central in the lives of the men captured in this shot, as well as the historical moment in which this photo was taken: these amateur soccer players are soldiers, labeled as rebels, insurgents and guerrillas by the oppressive Guatemalan government; they are enjoying their time off from fighting; it is December 16, 1996, less than two weeks before the signing of the peace accord that would formally end more than four decades of bitter and violent conflict.  These conflicts were marked by, and are remembered by women such as the subject of “Guatemala 39” found under the tab titled “INTRODUCTION”.  Her sad eyes and long stare, along with her traditional dress, suggests another juxtaposition central to this time and place: indigenous cultural traditions and the systematic massacre of rural Guatemalans, including women and children (see “Remembering the Disappeared”, “Children & Violence”, “People & Traditions”).

Finally, check out the About Jorge Uzon tab to learn more about the photographer, a photojournalist who documented the ends of the conflicts and the lingering effects from 1996-2000.  He has an eye for photographs that encapsulate a large amount of historical and social context into a single image.  The students who manage the blog are involved in research and field work in Guatemala and seek to highlight the amazing work of Uzon, as well as bring to light and further public attention the horrific atrocities that were committed by the military and the government against non-violent, often indigenous subjects.

Image: “Guatemala 39” by Jorge Uzon reposted from http://uwo.ca/modlang/guatemala/ 

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