Narrative for Twelve Parallel Lives: A Guatemalan Oral History Project

Featured Artists

Jeff Bartow, Konojel Junam Theatre and Dance Group, and Ana Valenzuela.

  • June 3, 1993
  • The Del Prado

Curated by Ruth Horwich, the Illinois Humanities Council, Marjorie Kovler Center, Casa Guatemala Cultural Information Center, Guatemala Human Rights Defense Project, and Taller Mexicano De GrabadoNarrative For Twelve Parallel Lives: A Guatemalan Oral History Project consisted of a series of public readings, presentations, lectures, and discussions, based on the oral histories of Guatemalan survivors of torture living in Chicago. The project was sponsored by the Marjoria Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture, a program of Travelers and Immigrants Aid of Chicago (TIA). The exhibition was also produced by Guatemalan refugees; all of which are survivors of physical, psychological, and/or emotional torture. Traumatized by the torture in Guatemala and harrowing journeys north to the U.S., in constant fear of apprehension due to their often undocumented status, and coping with all the struggles of an uprooted people in a new land, they gathered every week at the Kovler Center to share their experiences, mutual understanding, and support.

This Kolver/TIA-sponsored public humanities project was produced by the survivors of what has been described as “cultural annihilation.” The survivors themselves spoke about their personal testimonies and their community histories, their indigenous cultures, and their determination to maintain the wisdom and beauty of a way of living that goes back 5,000 years at the Center. Telling their life stories proved to be an effective tool to promote not only psychological healing, but also simultaneously laid the foundation for a fascinating ethnographic documentation of the rich Guatemalan cultures, their transitions, and their transformation in Chicago. The testimonies represented one of the vital links to pre-Columbian America, and offered a living humanities resource, an opportunity to rediscover the history and culture of the Americas, as well as to better understand our own evolving multicultural city and state.

After the readings, panelist moderators led a discussion and analysis session for the audience. The project also presented Guatemalan culture and tradition through the Guatemalan theatre and dance group, Konogel Junam. Konogel Junam presented two performances entitled Mayan Dance and The Creation of MAM.

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