Jean-Marie Simon: A foreign witness to Guatemala’s war

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Jean-Marie Simon lived and worked in Guatemala as a photojournalist between 1980 and 1988, a period of extreme violence and brutality in the country.

Here, she talks about life and work in one of the most dangerous times in Guatemala.

‘What was actually striking in the first few days after the coup was a sense of euphoria and relief. There was a huge rally in the park in front of the National Palace and people waving posters saying “we believe in the army”, “we want peace” because urban repression had been so intense under the previous government headed by Lucas Garcia that people thought – it turned out wrongly – that anyone, even another military man, had to be an improvement on what they had suffered previously.

In fact, Amnesty International published in 1981 a booklet, which I consider seminal “Guatemala: a government programme of political murder” which really said everything about Guatemala under Lucas Garcia, so really the first few days of Ríos Montt were just sheer happiness and then what followed, of course, was a progression of repression, both in the capital and in the countryside.

In the countryside, the level of massacres escalated under Ríos Montt.’

28 COMMENTS

  1. Estimado Sr. Vargas,

    El hecho de que la Sra. Simon esté hablando únicamente de los horrores cometidos por el ejército, y no de los de la guerrilla, no la convierte en una mentirosa. Las atrocidades fueron cometidas por los dos bandos, y por ello, lo que ella está relatando no tiene por qué ser una mentira.

  2. Además, por lo que usted está comentando, pienso que la objetividad de sus argumentos se ve manchada por su propia experiencia, y la de su padre.

    Si lleva usted el debate a una discusión sobre lo que es verdad y lo que es mentira, deje de escribir únicamente con los sentimientos, y hágalo con la cabeza.

    Saludos

    Luis Chang

  3. Lo que yo veo es que en todos los documentales hechos por extranjeros siempre defienden a la guerrilla, ademas en sus propios videos no veo a ningún guatemalteco corriendo y llorando ni siquiera asustado cuando veían venir a los soldados, lo que si es seguro es que hubo abusos por parte de los dos bandos, también lo que puedo asegurar es que no se puede ser imparcial, cuando desde el inicio lo que se trata es de culpar a alguien, lo cierto es que nadie dice nada en contra de la guerrilla.

  4. EXTRAJEROS SIGAN DEFENDIENDO A LOS GUERRILLEROS QUE POR ELLOS Y POR USTEDES HAY DIVISIONISMO EN NUESTRA PATRIA SIGAN QUE CREO QUE ESTAMOS A MERCED DE UNA DESGRACIA MAS GRANDE UN APLAUSO A LOS EXTRAJERON GRACIAS POR SU ESTUPIDA AYUDA ESTAMOS COMO ESTAMOS

  5. fransisco vargas you are correct……it was not just the army….the guerrilla killed, raped stole and I can not believe that the human rights only are targeting Rios Montt ; where is Fidel,, where is everyone involved on all these killings…….

  6. Don Luis, efectivamente, en eso no miente, pero si miente al aseverar que vivió en Guatemala todo ese período. En otra publicación de youtube y en un comentario admite que no vivió aquí sino que viajó innumerables veces a nuestro país a partir de 1980.
    Creo que ella debió ser más objetiva en su informe. Pero esa es MI opinión. Saludos Don Luis.

  7. Don Luis, tiene razón, no soy objetivo. No puedo serlo porque todos en mi familia sufrimos los vejamenes de la guerrilla en carne propia. Si escribo con la cabeza y por eso le digo que estos malos guatemaltecos que nos quisieron someter a la esclavitud de la extinta Unión Soviética y Cuba fueron derrotados, Gracias a Dios, por el ejercito. Lo triste es que en esos 36 años los que perdimos fuimos nosotros. Las potencias pusieron las armas, nosotros los muertos y heridos. No me ofenda si pienso.

  8. It was a very dirty war in Guatemala (And in the world) because of the American security !! Why dont´you do something to prosecute your politics and military Peolple involved ? Our military only followed the US Cold War politics, remember Vietnam? Corea? Cuba? Nicaragua? What do you expect from a Dirty guerilla War ? The real Genocides are you Americans !! Ms Simon Don´t be an hipocryte anymore , Thanks our victims and our Heroes like Rios Montt the US is Free today !

  9. here you have a bunch of right wings rats contradicting the reality of what went on in Guatemala. I lived that war and witnessed the atrocities by the "glorious" army!

  10. Ms Simon You are Incredible, you have been making money from Guatemalan BLOOD
    for more than 30 years. Dont You get tired of making your living from other peoples pain and suffering?

  11. 1.- You took thousands of pictures of dead Guatemalan bodies, Men women and children from both side of the conflict, and SOLD them for good money in the 1980's and 90's to newspapers and magazines around the world..

    2.-You wrote a book (Your own personal view) of what happened during the comflict in Guatemala and made lots of more money.

  12. 3.-Now you have a blog in which you promote and sale packages to American Students to come to Guatemala to see Your version of the Soaicla Injustice and the children of the trash sites, so these young students get the wrong idea about our Guatemala, while you make more funds to back up your Diffamatory campaign against our country.

    Whats is Your purpose Ms. Simon ?

  13. Justice, and hungry children in Guatemala is clearly NOt your goal. Is it money Ms Simon? Haven you already made enough at our expense and suffering? or is it that you dream of a Comunist Marxist Guatemala?
    In any regard, If you have ever wondered in your mind, that all you have done have helped Guatemala even a little bit YOU ARE COMPLETELY WRONG!!!!!!!

  14. You have only made things worst for all of us Guatemalans, rich and poor, Spaniards or Indians,
    Army or civilians. You are dangerous to our country. Please stop now. We dont want you or need you. Just never forget that the Humans laws may scape you, but Gods justice will never let you by unpunished.

  15. So if i were YOU, i would find out whats going on and try to get my self a good lawyer. Or at least let everyone know that YOU were NOT a Guerrilla member in those days in OUR country or were YOU?????

  16. One last thing Ms Simon, WHY were you called "Susana" during the armed conflict in Guatemala ? Do You know that YOU are part of a list of WANTED individuals to be prosecuted at the Ministerio Publico. Among other "Ex-Guerrilla" members, who committed crimes, killings and kidnappings during those years in Guatemala.

  17. So this lady was one of the terrorist who destroyed and decimated my country? What is funny to see is the she got balls to came here and cause destruction and suffering…….but lacks the balls to answer the people……..the people of Guatemala whos asking her and pointing her as responsible of criminal activities here….
    O sera que tendre que escribirle en español o que?

  18. She says that US backed army in the 80´s……….such a fool. In the 80´s everybody gave the back to Guatemala. No one supported us against this criminals, included her.

  19. I am a Guatemalan citizen capable of thinking by my own and with the freedom of decide what is good and what is bad, when i knew about the work of Jean-Marie i was amazed, i really admire her and her job is like pure gold, her pictures of the war are a treasure, i believe that the strong should protect the weak and in this war the strong fight the weak, pay no attention to comments like the ones from YSIJODOQUE and Jose Diaz, that's only their point of view, not the whole country point of view.

  20. These are not opinions…. This is the truth documented, so do your research and try not to show your ignorance. The good things is that you only represent a very small minority group who is working hard to destabilize our country and make money at it, that is why you defend this Woman. Anyway Her , her books, and pictures, and You are only a temporary discomfort, just like stomach Flu, that goes away once we shit you out .

  21. Soy de Nebaj, naci en la aldea Acul y viví de cerca el conflicto armado y el modus operandis de los grupos en cuestión, así que no necesito que me traigan cuentos chinos ni mucho menos que extranjeros metiches cuenten la version a su sabor y antojo. Guatemala es de los guatemaltecos y ya basta de la intromision extranjera dejennos resolver solos nuestros problemas y mejor solucionen los de ustedes en su propio pais; recordemos una vez mas que la soberania de cada nacion SE DEBE RESPETAR.

  22. Malditos extranjeros defensorea de DDHH solo vienen a darle dinero a los que les conviene seguir viviendo de la historia. Incluyendo la basura de la ODHA, las viudas huevonas y los buenos para nada de los sindicalistas. El gobierno actuo bajo lo que la ley mandaba. Los delincuentes iniciaron la guerra y el ejercito nos defendio, hoy somos un pais libre.

  23. GRANDE RIOS MONTT!!!
    EL MEJOR LIDER Y GOBERNANTE QUE HA TENIDO GUATEMALA!!
    LO DECIMOS LOS GUATEMALTECOS QUE VIVIMOS EN GUATEMALA!!
    LOS EXTRANJEROS NO PUEDEN OPINAR NI DECIR NADA QUE NO HAN VIVIDO EN CARNE PROPIA AQUI EN GUATEMALA.
    GUATEMALA NO LE PERTENECE A LOS COMINUSTAS, IZQUIERDISTAS.

    VIVIA SIEMPRE RIOS MONTT!!

  24. yo fui al ejercito en 1994 porque mi padre es desendiente de los Quiches el medice primero es la patria porque sos Guatemalteco por eso soy de la fuersasa especiales de Guate

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