Protected by the rugged topography and dense forests of the Cuchumatanes Mountains, the Ixil territory is a terrain difficult to map and navigate. In the late ’70s, as was the case for much of the western highlands, this region was practically cut off from the urban centers of Guatemala.
The military defined the Ixil country as a specific zone of combat, which they named the “Ixil Triangle” after the three major local municipalities: Santa Maria Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal, and San Gaspar Chajul.
From the point of view of military strategists, the territorial and cultural autonomy of the Ixil people was a threat in itself, making the region a potential seedbed of subversion. Nationalist ideology, the closing of the national frontier, and the counterinsurgency became entangled.
Starting in the late ’70s, as guerrilla groups set up bases within the forests of the Ixil country, the region was put under siege. Troops occupied the major towns, transforming public buildings into centers of command and churches into detention chambers, where people were routinely tortured. Task forces were then regularly dispatched to patrol the remote peripheries, unleashing terror and mayhem throughout village communities.
Locations of military bases and the five most frequently reported cases of human rights violations perpetrated by state security forces in the Ixil Triangle between 1978 and 1984. CEH and CALDH reported 416 human rights violations between 1978 and 1984 in the region.
Source: CEH Database, CALDH, ODHAG