If we understand Alvarez’s decision to tattoo as a direct response to the soldiers’ threats, his story elucidates the limits of state power. Where death squads in Guatemala repeatedly executed civilians and deprived their families of closure, Alvarez’s tattoo might have thwarted such efforts had he died. If the army killed him, or Felipe, or Alberto, their markings might have rendered them more recognizable to their families regardless of the military’s brutality. Their mothers and fathers could then recite the Lord’s Prayer and give them a proper burial. In this sense, Alvarez’s tattoo embodies rebellion against the Guatemalan government’s authority to deprive families of the ability to grieve. His indelible ink, even in death, may have prevented the state from terrorizing his people and denying them this right.
by Vasken Markarian (All photos here are published with the permission of the photographer.) Two young Guatemalan soldiers abruptly pose for the camera. They rush to stand upright with rifles at their sides. On a dirt road overlooking an ominous Guatemala City, they stand on guard duty. This snapshot formed the title page of an exhibit […]
By Vasken Markarian On June 1982, two pages of official letter sized paper marked by the symbol of the Ministry of Finance made their way across a network of various bureaucratic desks of the National Police of Guatemala. A rural farmer and grandfather from Uspantán in El Quiché, Julio Ortiz (this is a pseudonym for […]