Speaker: Irma Velásquez Nimatuj,Craig M. Cogut Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies, Brown University
Moderator: Steven Levitsky, Professor of Government, Harvard University
During the Guatemalan armed conflict, which lasted from 1960 to 1996, a UN sponsored truth commission determined that the Guatemalan state committed genocide against the Mayan people and that the army raped thousands of indigenous women. The sexual violence committed against Maya women went unpunished for almost 30 years because of the power held by those responsible. Finally, in 2010, a small group of women from a distant Q'eqchi community called Zepur Zarco, denounced that during the war, after murdering their husbands, the army turned them into sexual and domestic slaves for a period of six years. After an intense legal fight, in 2016, they succeeded in bringing to the national courts two members of the army who were sentenced to more than 100 years of prison for these crimes. This was a historic sentence in the struggle to punish sexual violence against indigenous women and recognize it as a weapon of war in armed conflicts.
Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj, Maya-K’iche’ journalist, activist, and Brown University visiting professor from Guatemala. Dr. Nimatuj is an international spokeswoman for Indigenous communities in Central America and was the first Maya-K’iche’ woman to earn a doctorate in social anthropology in Guatemala. Dr. Nimatuj was also instrumental in making racial discrimination illegal in Guatemala and is featured in 500 Years, a documentary about Indigenous resistance movements, for her role as an activist and expert witness in war crime trials. Dr. Nimatuj writes a weekly newspaper column for El Periódico de Guatemala and has served on UN Women as a representive for Latin America and the Caribbean. This fall, she joined the Watson Institute at Brown, where she teaches courses about Central and Latin American history and culture. She is part of a long line of struggle and resistence in her community since the Spanish invasion in 1524. She is the author of the books: La pequeña Burguesia Comercial de Guatemala: Desigualdades de clasa, raza y género (2003), Pueblos indígenas, Estado y lucha por tierra en Guatemala: Estrategias de sobrevivencia y negociación ante la desigualdad globalizada (2008) y Lunas y Calendarios, colección poesía guatemalteca (2018).