An Open Letter to Ms. Yates on Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

3 Oct

Dear Ms. Pamela Yates,

I went to the opening of Granito in Los Angeles.  I am thankful and I appreciate the work, time, and energy you have given to the people of Guatemala. When I went to see the film, I did not imagine that the story would be told in such a personal manner. Most journalists or film makers seem to take the back seat because they are so set on telling the story of others, but your personal accounts weave this story together beautifully.  I really appreciate the humanness you have shown through your film making.

There is something you said in your film describing your commitment and connection to Guatemala:

“Guatemala wrapped its arms around my soul and wouldn’t let it go…”

I get it. Through your film, you shared with us what you had witnessed and there’s no way your soul, your being, could not have been impacted so greatly during your time in Guatemala…

I have seen a number films about Guatemala, including Searching for Dominga, Killer’s Paradise, and La Limonada. The level of violence, suffering, and injustice is so extreme and heavy, that it never stops feeling like you can detach yourself from Guatemala. I want to share with you my connection with Guatemala…

I was born in 1982 in Los Angeles. The first in my family to not have been born in Guatemala. When i was a girl I would turn to the index pages of history books, hoping to find something on Guatemala. But hardly anything was ever accessible to me in that way. Before I turned 15, instead of having a quinceanera, I asked my mom to take me to Tikal, Peten. I haven’t stopped drawing pyramids since…

I was not witness to Guatemala in the 1980’s, the height of the repression, the massacres, the disappearances, the reflection of the devil upon earth. However, since I was a little girl, I knew something was wrong in my mother’s country. During my first visits to Guate as a 5, 7, & 9 yr old,  poverty became a concept i began to understand, i would question why my mom’s country was so poor, children my age were begging for food, why are people living so different??? I tried to comprehend the poverty, the alcoholism, and the oppression. I did not have the vocabulary, but i saw something that made me uncomfortable deep inside. When I went to college at UC Santa Cruz, I naturally fell into Latin American and Latino Studies. I had an intense need to learn about Guatemala and Latin America.  My mind has acquired a historical, economical, and political understanding of what went wrong in my ancestral land, but my spirit still mourns.

It saddens me, to know that so much potential for a more righteous and just Latin America was on the brink of existence during the 20th Century. Cuba was the kickoff, but the dreams of Chile, Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc.,  were over-taken by the CIA, military coups, and U.S. installed dictatorships. Through U.S. tax dollars, war has been funded countless times. And in the 1980’s, dollars manifested into Genocide and Femicide in Guatemala.

Where are we now? Where is Guatemala… how are people living and surviving? One look at the cover of La Prensa Libra will tell you the violence never stopped. And the trauma has not healed. My cousin, a 20 years old, was murdered in Huehuetenango during March of this year. He left behind his wife, a baby girl, and a grieving mother. His baby girl will grow up and find the story of his father in the newspaper, but the newspaper captured a lie. The town will tell her the truth, and she will be filled with fury to learn that men dressed in uniforms, murdered her father. I will tell her about the donuts his father and I use to eat when we were kids. But that is all I can offer…

Where are we now? I couldn’t answer it completely. It makes my stomach turn upside down. My entire family is in Guatemala. I hear lots of stories; good, bad, evil, miraculous… I will be in Guatemala in a few weeks. I will be spending time with my family. We will catch up, I will find my little cousins that are 5-10 inches taller than last year, the kids are becoming teenagers, and the family keeps growing. I look forward to the story telling, it’s always the best! I will share with my family for a moments worth, then i will fly away from that reality… but Guatemala also holds my heart and my spirit in its hands…

I’ve added a little granito here and there for Guatemala. There was a time when I produced a radio program for womyn that aired in Guatemala. I organized film screenings for two Guatemalan documentaries. I created a collective of womyn called Chapinas Unidas to raise awareness about the femicide in Guate. We participated in the women’s march in Los Angeles in 2008 and also held a conference with an all womyn panel of speakers who were survivors of violence in Guatemala. I still write about Guatemala and inform my friends about what I’ve learned and experienced. In the past couple of years, my granito turned inwards, and i began my own healing, including the healing of inherited traumas. I want to add more granitos de arena, if I can contribute to the next steps of the film, I am open to learning more. In the meantime, Ill encourage my friends to go watch the film!

Take care. Know that you are meant to be safe and protected on your journey. The helicopter falling captures that miracle, the access you were granted is of no coincidence. Everyone has a purpose to follow and I thank you for being a messenger of our people, sharing our stories through film,  and having the courage to act on a purpose bigger than yourself. 

Con Amor, Respeto, y Agradecimiento,

Ana Ruth Castillo

For friends who are reading this open letter, please add Granito thru your facebook: http://www.facebook.com/granitofilm and go catch the film at the Laemmle

Granito de Arena = a film and a humble expression of a collective process for change

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