(Guatemala) Letter to a Forcibly Disappeared Son

I'm traveling in Guatemala for a few weeks, working on different projects here. One of the sources of insight I turn to often about this place and its history is the work of the very, very talented photojournalist James Rodriguez.

One of the recent posts on his photoblog documents an event carried out to dignify the memory of a Guatemalan man named Oscar David Hernandez Quiroa. He was "forcibly disappeared" in 1984, during the civil war, and was the son of well-known activist Blanca Quiroa. She worked in FAMDEGUA, a group that worked (and still does) to support the surviving families of "desaparecidos," the victims of political assassinations.

Here's a snip from the letter Mr. Quiroa's mom wrote to her son in 2005, two decades after his death.

Oscar, there are so many things I would like to tell you which have happened over these past twenty years. Ever since you were abducted, on that February 23rd 1984, my heart has remained completely void. You know I considered you not just my son, but also my brother, my colleague. You were everything to me and ever since that day I swore I would neither rest nor give up the struggle to find you.

More than twenty years have passed now and unfortunately I have yet to complete the objective I set for myself. If these walls could speak, they would recall everything we once talked about. How many sleepless nights of work we spent! I don't know if you remember the amount of cigarettes we smoked together, the cups of coffee we drank while planning our work. Work intended for that struggle you took upon and eventually involved me in. Despite of it all, I do not regret a thing. If things were to go back as they were in the 1980s, now in 2005, I would do it all over. Even if it meant losing you again because I know everything we have done has been worth it. Unfortunately you were not able to see the progress. I won't lie to you because in truth, most of the changes we set ourselves to make have not occurred. But certain paths have been carved and I am not alone – there are thousands of people who serve as your voices.

Link. Image: James Rodriguez.