Paradise in Ashes: A Guatemalan Journey of Courage, Terror, and Hope / Edition 1

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Paradise in Ashes is a deeply engaged and moving account of the violence and repression that defined the murderous Guatemalan civil war of the 1980s. Beatriz Manz, an anthropologist who spent more than two decades studying the Mayan highlands and rain forests of Guatemala, tells the gripping story of the remote village of Santa Maria Tzeja, near the Mexican border. Writing eloquently, Manz shows how the story of this village -- its birth, destruction, and rebirth -- embodies the forces and conflicts that define Guatemala today. She places the saga of Santa Maria Tzeja in a broad framework that encompasses Guatemala's tortured history, the conflicts of the cold war, and the tensions of contemporary globalization. Her vibrant chronicle demonstrates that it is in villages such as this that the difficult struggle for survival is unfolding.

Drawing on her interviews with peasants, community leaders, guerrillas, and members of the paramilitary forces, Manz creates a richly detailed political portrait of Santa Maria Tzeja, where highland Maya peasants seeking land had settled in the 1970s. She describes the villagers' plight as their isolated, lush, but deceptive paradise became one of the centers of the war convulsing the entire country in the 1980s. After the village was viciously sacked in 1982, some desperate survivors fled into the surrounding rain forest and eventually to Mexico, and some even farther to the United States, while others stayed behind and fell into the military's hands. With great insight and compassion, Manz follows their flight and eventual return to Santa Maria Tzeja, where they sought to rebuild their village and their lives. This book provides a remarkably intimate, vivid, and candid account of one village's travails in the midst of civil war.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Studies of genocide, military repression and the victimization of Latin American peasants tend to be ordeals for all but the most dedicated reader, full of stultifying statistics and harrowing violent incidents. But this account of the settlement, destruction and rebuilding of a single Guatemalan village, Santa Maria Tzeja, is as emotionally enveloping as an Isabel Allende novel. Manz, a Chilean anthropologist, did over two decades of field work in the Mayan highlands and rain forests, and her deep familiarity with her subjects allows them to emerge as characters with individual hopes, dreams and sophisticated political goals. Santa Maria Tzeja was founded as a farming cooperative in the 1970s by intrepid Mayan and Ladino peasants seeking to escape the crushing debt peonage of the lowland plantations, but precisely because of its remote highland location, it was caught in the crossfire of the Guatemalan civil war. In 1982, after several years of escalating violence and intimidation, the village was brutally destroyed in an army raid retaliating against villagers' involvement with the guerrillas. From then on, the community was split, and Manz was often the only link among former inhabitants; some had fled to a refugee camp across the border in Mexico, while a remnant submitted to authoritarian "reorganization" by the military. Through interviews (and 23 b&w photos), villagers like Edwin Canil, a young boy who lost his entire family in the 1982 raid, or Rose, whose husband was "disappeared" by the army, reveal their struggles to uphold and return to their ideals of community, honor and independence through land ownership. Manz, a vivid and capable writer, is thoughtful about the contradictions inherent in her chosen discipline of "political anthropology," which turns out to include activism and advocacy as well as the humanization of those who too often suffer anonymously. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Beatriz Manz, born in Chile, is Professor of Geography and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Refugees of a Hidden War: The Aftermath of Counterinsurgency in Guatemala (1988).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi
Foreword xiii
Acknowledgments xvii
Maps xxi
Introduction 1
1 The Highland Homeland 33
2 Setting in the Promised Land 58
3 The War Finds Paradise 91
4 Ashes, Exodus, and Faded Dreams 124
5 A Militarized Village 155
6 Reunification 183
7 Treading between Fear and Hope 224
Notes 247
Bibliography 277
Index 295
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2005

    A very powerful reading I highly recommend

    This is a truly insightful book that redefines the study of anthropology and how much we can affect others through research. Beatriz Manz is an extraordinary woman who courageously took the stories from the burned ashes and turned them into a book that we can all grow from reading.

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