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.
Not Even Past asked the UT Austin History faculty to recommend great books for Women’s History Month. The response was overwhelming so we will be posting their suggestions throughout the month. Here are some terrific book recommendations on women and gender in the United States. Penne Restad recommends: Jill Lepore, The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014). […]