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Calling On Ancient Maya Wisdom To Heal Guatemalan Widows

Rosalina Tuyuc Velasquez
David Toro Prensa Comunitaria
Rosalina Tuyuc Velasquez

Twenty five years after Guatemala's civil war ended, human rights leader Rosalina Tuyuc is promoting healing for her people based ancient Maya wisdom.

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The Central American country of Guatemala promotes its indigenous heritage to tourists. At the same time, its government has historically marginalized and discriminated against the Maya, many of whom endured terrible violence during a decades-long civil war. Twenty five years after the war's end, human rights leader Rosalina Tuyuc is promoting healing for her people based ancient Maya wisdom.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged and Guatemala was under lockdown, this remarkable woman told me her story — one that mirrors the long history of struggle of Guatemala's Maya, especially that of its women.

“I’m profoundly grateful to the many elders—men and women who told us it isn’t good to keep on suffering, because we were meant to be happy.”
Rosalina Tuyuc Velasquez

Rosalina Tuyuc Velasquez belongs to the Kakchikel Maya linguistic community. She was born to a family of peasant weavers and artisans some 60 years ago, and was raised as a Catholic.

She heads an organization she founded in 1985 known by its Spanish acronym as CONAVIGUA, the national coordinator of Guatemalan widows.

The organization fights for the rights of women who were raped and widowed during the country’s long civil conflict. Tuyuc says that what led her to organize this organization came out of her own experience.

“I’m still looking for the remains of my father,” she says. ”He was detained, and forcibly disappeared, along with my husband and a number of other relatives.”

Maria E. Martin is an independent journalist based in Guatemala. She's the author of "Crossing Borders, Building Bridges: A Journalist's Heart in Latin America."

This story is part of a series called Sacred Steps produced in collaboration with KALW’s The Spiritual Edge and USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Funding comes from the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Religion Trust.

Cheryl Devall is the Sacred Steps editor, and Tarek Fouda is the engineer. Judy Silber is the executive editor of The Spiritual Edge.