Model village of Bichibila 1964/1991

Model village of Acul 1964/1991

Model village of Atzumbal-La Pista 1964/1991

Model village of Rio Azul 1964/1991

Model village of Ojo de Agua 1964/1991

Model village of San Felipe Chenla 1964/1991

Model village of Xix 1964/1991

The Earth Scorched

Development: Model Villages Program

One of the most elaborate and extensive poles of development was installed in the Ixil territory.


The original plan included the reconstruction of at least sixteen communities: Acul, Tzalbal, Juil-Chacalté, Pulay, Xolcuay, Ojo de Água, Santa Abelina, Bichibalá, Salquil Palob, Atzumbal, Jua, Ilom, Chel, Xemal-Xepatul, Amachel, and San Felipe Chenlá13.


Model villages were the key “cell” within the military’s developmental strategy. Their rigid urban geometry facilitated the concentration of indigenous communities that before the violence used to live in dispersed villages scattered in the mountain valleys. The territorial logic they sought to enforce reproduced strategies of control of indigenous populations whose origins date back to the colonial method of “reductions.” The so called “Indian reductions” were towns established since the middle of the sixteenth century by the Spanish colonizers to which indigenous populations scattered throughout larger territories were displaced, and where they were controlled and enslaved.


Between 1983 and 1985, at the height of the implementation of the poles of development, the CEH estimated that between fifty and sixty thousand people lived in model villages14. After 1985, when the highlands were nearly “pacified,” the Guatemalan state gradually abandoned investment in the program.  

Model Villages Aerial Images