Guatevisión: The interview that nearly wasn’t...

By Andrea Noble Posted March 10, 2015

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This is me on Guatemalan national television. Or rather, this is a blurry screen-shot of an interview I did on Guatevisión, a news broadcast that goes out nationally three times daily from Monday to Friday, and once at the weekends. The interview took place at the Museo de los Mártires del Movimiento Sindical, Estudiantil y Popular in Guatemala City on 24 February 2014. I was at the Museum as part of the fascinating field trip, organized by the photographer Daniel Hernández-Salazar, for participants at our Cold War Camera conference that was due to start in Antigua the following day. The Museum is dedicated to the memory of the union activist, Amancio Samuel Villatoro, who disappeared on 30 January 1984, and whose remains were identified 19 years later by the Fundación de Antropología Forense (FAFG). Villatoro’s son, Néstor Villatoro, had just been giving us a guided tour, culminating in the final room of this small museum, where the skeleton of his father rests in a glass case alongside the jeans he was wearing when he was disappeared. The film crew arrived and took shots of some of our group viewing the exhibits and then pulled me outside for a quick interview, consisting of some simple questions: how many were in our group? Where did we come from? What was the conference about, and why had we chosen Guatemala to host the conference? I’ve only watched the clip once because it makes me cringe – I hear my accented Spanish and see my hands flailing about. But I’m so glad that I did it. I nearly didn’t.

We’d arrived at the charming Hotel Panamericano in downtown Guatemala City the day before, where my research collaborator Thy Phu and I had sat down to discuss final details for the field trip and conference. It was stressful enough organizing a conference in a country we barely knew. Even more so when word reached us from a source that I can’t name here that we should be very careful about the press activities we had planned to draw attention both to our activities and our interest in Guatemala. The source warned us that speaking about the Cold War in Guatemala might have undisclosed consequences… We turned this over and over between us; we worried; we didn’t sleep well. But in the end, I did the interview. It was a very small, simple thing. But it was important to show our presence in, and solidarity with Guatemala, a country in which, as we discovered, Cold War politics still play out…