During the month of December, 2011, the UT Austin History Department website “Not Even Past” featured a multimedia piece with Dr. Virginia Garrard-Burnett, professor of History at UT Austin and long time user and friend of the Guatemalan National Police Archive. The feature includes a lengthy written piece, a 20 minute video interview with Dr. Burnett, and a set of stunning photos by Jean-Marie Simon. Dr. Burnett’s most recent book, Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efrain Rios Montt 1982-1983, examines the ideology of violence in Guatemala.
Here is a brief excerpt from the piece: “My own construction of a history of this period relies heavily on primary sources that, up until this time, have remained relatively untouched. These include the guerrilla documents recently acquired by the Centro de Investigaciones Regionales (CIRMA) in Antigua and a selection of church-related documents having to do with Catholic Action that are housed at the Centro Ak’ Kutanin Cobán, Alta Verapaz. I have also made extensive use of documents from the US State Department and US intelligence services that have been declassified and organized by the privately-run National Security Archive based at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Finally, I used a large collection of documents and “ephemera”—domestic and foreign newspaper clippings, published government decrees and public statements, official copies of legislation, government-run “public service” ads, press releases, human rights reports, guerrilla pamphlets, papers, posters, and propaganda broadsides, and government-generated visual propaganda, including posters and signs; I also utilize covert reports put together by exile groups, transcripts of Ríos Montt’s “Sunday sermons,” and personal interviews that I and others collected when we were living in Guatemala back in the day. This personal collection will eventually find its way into the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.”