Icons of the past: stories about children born of violence in the Guatemalan and Peruvian truth commissions

Ana Alonso’s research investigates the stories about children born of violence that are present in memorialisation practices, through the analysis of the Guatemalan and Peruvian truth commissions. The stories about these children are told by victims and witnesses in the truth commission’s settings, while talking about sexual violence, during the production of the memory. These accounts offer various perspectives of ways of knowing and remembering the conflict. In this sense, ‘children born of violence’ assume the iconic status of certain kinds of representations and legitimacy, because power relations frame the narratives on these children in order to come to terms with the past. Ana shows how stories about ‘children born of violence’ are constructed and used through the telling and retelling of the memory of conflicts in the Guatemala and Peruvian truth commissions. Reflecting on her fieldwork experience in Peru and Guatemala, she argues that through memorialisation practices the experiences of the ‘children born of violence’ are appropriated by truth commissions and the Nation, and for different purposes. These include: 1. Construction of identities in the memories of the conflict, 2. The homogenisation of memories about the conflict, 3. Reinforcing dichotomous categories related to the conflict as victim/perpetrator, 4. Socio-political construction of who is a legitimate citizen and who is not and the pursuit of justice, as well as the children’s political belonging, Her findings in Guatemala and Peru indicate that while the ‘children born of violence’ as an abstract concept is usually associated with sexual violence, there are differences on how truth commissions have recognised these children. In Peru, this practice of naming and using the identity of the child as a proof was used in the truth commission and trials, to demonstrate the horrific acts committed against the individual woman. In Guatemala, although not made visible through trials, the presence of the children was often used as proof of sexual violence against women and to make the larger claim on genocidal violence. Both cases demonstrate that the children, became icons of the conflicts and were instrumental in their nations’ search for justice.

Ana Alonso is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Political and Social Change. Ana completed her Bachelor Degree in International Relations at El Colegio de San Luis, Mexico. After this she received her Master Degree in Peace, Conflict and Development Studies at Universitat Jaume I, Spain. Prior to pursuing her PhD, she worked in a Mexican NGO focus on Children’s Rights called Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México (REDIM).

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