On December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that legally defined genocide for the first time. The definition included five acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” The fifth act deemed constitutive of genocide was: “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” During the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), the government forcibly disappeared at least 5,000 children. The vast majority of these children were indigenous (Maya). An estimated 500 children were placed for adoption both domestically and internationally through state orphanages, and thousands more were placed through a private adoption system set up in 1977. In a war crimes trial following the conflict, adoption files were presented as evidence of genocidal acts. This talk will consider the systematic separation of indigenous children from their families during the height of wartime violence, 1982 to 1986, as an aspect of Guatemalan state terror.
Image credit: Daniel Hernández-Salazar