Spanish Embassy, Guatemala City, 1980


Lucas Garcia

The occupation and village massacres by the army in El Quiche province have provoked the people to action. They send 130 campesinos to Guatemala City to raise the issue publicly. No one will listen to them. Out of desperation they take over two radio stations. The government warns that they are guerillas and not to be trusted. Again cut off from raising public awareness, they occupy the Spanish Embassy. Their plan is to occupy the embassy peacefully in order to demand the removal of the army from El Quiche. The dictator, Lucas Garcia, tells his henchmen to take them out.

Guatemalan police surround the embassy, throwing grenades. Inside, the twenty-nine peasants and other visitors take refuge in the ambassador’s office. Lucas Garcia says, Set them on fire. The police lock the door and throw fire bombs.

From the streets below, the people see thirty-nine human beings writhing and dying, burning.

Vicente Menchu, the father of Rigoberta, is burned alive. She says, The only thing left over were their ashes… What hurt me very very much was the lives of so many companeras, fine companeras who weren’t ambitious for power in the least. All they wanted was enough to live on, enough to meet their people’s needs. This reinforced my decision to fight.

Thousands risk death and flood the streets of Guatemala City in the funeral procession honoring the people who died in the Spanish Embassy. Within days a new opposition group is organized called the Vicente Menchu Brigade. Rigoberta joins it. Her father had said: Some have to give their blood and some have to give their strength; so while we can, we’ll give our strength.

Jonathan Fried, et al, editors, Guatemala in Rebellion 204-206, and Rigoberta Menchu, I … Rigoberta Menchu, 185