A survivor of the “Guatemalan Massacre” shares what they witnessed as a child

More from this show

A series of killings between 1980 and 1982 in Guatemala are known as the Río Negro Massacres. One survivor witnessed the killings as a child and became instrumental in the prosecution of those responsible. Julio Cisneros spoke with this survivor and witness in Guatemala. 

Jesus Tecú is a survivor of the Rio Negro Massacres.

According to Guatemala Human Right’s Commission, the massacres occurred between 1980 and 1982. During the energy crisis in the 1970’s the Guatemalan government unveiled a plan to dam the Rio Negro, forcing communities living near the river to relocate.

The army and the government’s local militia began killing the villagers.

“They illegally captured the men. They tortured them. They used weapons to kill, rape and exterminate communities,” Tecú said (translation).

Tecu remembers a “painful past” of destruction, terror and mass murder. He was eight years old when he witnessed the killings. Soldiers killed Tecú’s parents and most of the men in the village, only women and children remained.

One day, soldiers returned and showed up at Tecú’s home.

“With a kick, he knocked in the door of the house,” Tecú said (Translation). He said he could hear the women and children crying.

Tecú protected his two year old brother, until a patrol man named Pedro Gonzales snatched him. Gonzales wrapped a rope around his brothers neck, smashed him against the stones and he threw his body in the creek, the same way he killed the other children Tecú said.

After killing the women and children, including Tecú’s three brothers and sister, the soldiers threw the bodies into a mass grave.

Tecú was then taken as a slave by Gonzales. Two years later, he was rescued by an older sister. Tecú “bravely” went to court and identified Gonzales as the man who killed his family and enslaved him.

Gonzales received the death penalty in 1999 but later a court reduced his sentence to 30 years in prison.

According to the United Nations Commission members of the Guatemalan army and civil patrols killed more than 5,000 indigenous Maya. Most of the massacre’s occurred under dictatorship of Efraín Ríos Montt.

A court found Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and sentenced him to 80 years of prison but later annulled the sentence. He died of a heart attack of April 2018.

Tecú never recovered his families remains, and even now the sound of the bombs and crying girls torments him.

Jesús Tecú Osorio, Río Negro Massacre Survivor
Victoria Sanford, Anthropologist
Kathy Dill, Plan de Sanchez Forensic Team
Julio Cisneros, Rio Negro, Guatemala

Sebastian Robins and Mona Haydar
airs July 5

The Great Muslim American Road Trip

Baratunde sitting criss-cross in the desert
airs July 5

America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston

Security forces block the entrance after the U.S. President Donald Trump's supporters breached the US Capitol security in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers were set to sign off Wednesday on President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory in what was supposed to be a routine process headed to Inauguration Day. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
aired June 28

WATCH LIVE: Arizona PBS coverage of Jan. 6 Capitol riot hearings

A man stands with his hands raised above his head

The Hunter

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: