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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Common Experience event to tackle Guatemalan issues

The Guatemalan genocide and growing struggle to fight government corruption will be explored during a Common Experience film screening this Tuesday.
As an official Common Experience event, “500 Years: Life in Resistance” will be screened 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. March 27 for free in the Alkek Teaching Theater. Afterward, there will be a discussion with award-winning director Pamela Yates and producer Paco de Onís. This final installment of the three-part trilogy documents the legacy of colonialism in Spanish Guatemala and former President Efraín Ríos Montt’s trial. Montt was tried for genocide in the early 1980s, convicted, but never sentenced due to government corruption.
Jennifer Devine, an assistant professor of geography, is the lead organizer of the event and teaches a class on Guatemalan history.
“The struggle for social justice that’s described in ‘500 Years’ is really a struggle for human dignity, for democracy, (and) for hope in Guatemala,” Devine said. “What happens in Guatemala impacts us here.”
Devine said the story of the film is relevant because of the American involvement in Guatemalan history. The film depicts how the 1954 CIA coup d’état that overthrew the democratically elected Arbenz administration put Guatemala on a crash course for government corruption, eventually allowing for a genocide of Mayan indigenous people by Montt’s administration.
“The US government has played a really negative role in the history of Guatemala… putting the country on a path for 36 years of civil war,” Devine said. “That’s precisely the history that’s being challenged, debated and struggled over in this film.”
As a second-generation Guatemalan-American, Shirley Dukmak, international studies senior, has learned about Guatemala’s history at home and in the classroom. Dukmak said this story is important for understanding the future.
“In the future, as a leader, I want to know the history of what we’ve done and not repeat the same mistakes,” Dukmak said. “It’s important to not be ignorant and (to) make sure we make the right decisions in the future. I feel like it helps you with your identity.”
Twister Marquiss, director of the Common Experience, worked with Devine to coordinate the screening and is excited for the rare opportunity to have a Common Experience event that isn’t focused on domestic issues.
“It is one of only a few events that we’ve been able to do that has an international take,” Marquiss said. “We’ve been putting together and planning this event since late last fall.”
The day after the film screening, Yates and de Onís will host a free documentary filmmaking workshop 12:30 p.m. – 1:50 p.m. March 28 in Evans 116. Yates and de Onís will draw from “500 Years” and other films to demonstrate the documentary filmmaking process and how it can be used as a tool for social justice.

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