Juan Jose and a Guatemalan Revolution

FullSizeRender (5)In Guatemala today, there is an uprising.

“We don’t have medicine in the hospitals. The children don’t have books in their schools. And throughout society there aren’t any jobs and the president hasn’t done anything to help. They’ve just stolen from the people,” said Maria Elena Aquino Gomez, 38, as she sold flags in the plaza. “Guatemala is alive. We’re not dead. And we’ll continue fighting for our liberty.”

The parents of many of the organizers warned them not to get involved. “They grew up in the ’80s in Guatemala, when going out to protest meant death,” said Gabriel Wer, a 33-year-old organizer.

They hoped a few people would show up. Thirty thousand came.

I watch safely from afar, read bits and pieces, and know enough to know that I don’t understand.

Juan Jose had a history before he met Jody and me.

Antonio (9), Rosa, and his sister, Ani.

Antonio (9), Rosa, and his sister, Ani.

His grandfather died in 1982 during the civil war and his grandmother was left to raise seven children on her own. She couldn’t provide for all, so when his mother was five years old, she was given to an aunt. The aunt treated his mother very badly so she ran back to her mother’s house. The economic situation hadn’t changed, so his mother had to get a job cleaning houses in Rabinal at age 9.

Antonio was 9 when he met his mother, Rosa, for the first time.

“Did you name Antonio,” was one of my first questions. I so much wanted to show her that we honored her by keeping his name.

“No. The adoption people named him Antonio. I wanted to name him Juan Jose. Juan to honor my father and Jose to honor my grandfather.”

Ever since then when Antonio and I meet someone whose name is Juan or Juan Jose we look at each other knowingly.

During our first meeting with Rosa, Jody and I asked her if we could help her with monthly groceries. She said, “No. I don’t want Antonio to think I sold him.”


Antonio (11) and Rosa

Antonio (11) and Rosa

It was then that I knew the strength and heart of Guatemalans.

Rosa is indigenous and belongs to the Mayan Achi ethnia. She is from Aldea Concul, approximately 10 miles southwest from Rabinal on the Sierra de Chuacus, 5,500 feet above sea level.

Today, she lives in the poorest section of Guatemala City. Taxis won’t drive there. Still, she didn’t want to receive help. More than anything, she wanted Juan Jose’s forgiveness for letting him go.

The Guatemalan uprising resulted in Pérez Molina no longer being President of Guatemala. Perez Molina was a former general who led the most feared branch of a military that routinely massacred citizens during nearly four decades of Civil War. About 200,000 civilians died, one of them being Juan Jose’s grandfather.

I can picture Juan Jose a.k.a. Antonio running the mountain trails in Guatemala. He has the heart of Rosa.

We will be visiting Rosa next year. She’ll be able to see for herself the man Juan Jose is becoming.

This entry was posted in Adoption, Guatemala and tagged , , , , , , , by Elizabeth di Grazia. Bookmark the permalink.

About Elizabeth di Grazia

An artist, I follow the nudge inside of me. This nudge led me to write Peace Corps stories, find the front door to the Loft, and to graduate from Hamline’s MFA program. The story that became my thesis for Hamline is woven into my book manuscript: HOUSE OF FIRE: From the Ashes, A Family, a memoir of healing and redemption. It’s a story about family. And a story about love–for my partner Jody and the son and daughter we adopted from Guatemala. Most days, I can be found working as a Human Resource Manager for a foundry in Minneapolis. When I am not at the foundry I may be volunteering as a Police Reserve Officer for Richfield, MN or kicking butt at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do.

3 thoughts on “Juan Jose and a Guatemalan Revolution

  1. Beautiful spirit – I visited and schooled in Guate in 1979 and I still remember the shirt-off-their-back generosity of the ‘Tecos I met. Someday I hope to go back for another visit. Your news is good!

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