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About Friends of FAFG, Inc.,
Friends of FAFG is a 501C3 tax-exempt organization established in the United States since 2011 to support the work of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG). We promote truth, justice and dignity, raising awareness of the application of forensic sciences to the investigations of human rights abuses and war crimes committed in Guatemala and elsewhere.
Friends of FAFG es una organización exenta de impuestos 501C3 establecida en Estados Unidos en el año 2011 para apoyar el trabajo de la Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (FAFG). Promovemos la verdad, la justicia y la dignidad, creando conciencia sobre la aplicación de las ciencias forenses en las investigaciones de violaciones contra los derechos humanos y crímenes de guerra cometidos en Guatemala y en otros lugares.
In the early 1980s, the violence of the Internal Armed Conflict in Guatemala reached the population of Cobán, Alta Verapaz. Mrs. María Luisa Col, Mayan woman Q’eqchí ’, was one of the people affected in this community.
María Luisa Col, survivor of the Internal Armed Conflict in Guatemala
GUATEMALA – On January 13, 1983, Maria Luisa’s husband, Arnoldo Chen Poou, disappeared. He was a catechist and was aware of the persecution suffered by those close to the church in those days, as well as the disappearances that were taking place in the area. Two weeks before his disappearance, he warned his family about a person who came to his workplace to scare him.
On the day of his disappearance, Arnoldo Chen said goodbye with great affection to his children and María Luisa, asking her to please take care of their children. That day later, María Luisa’s father came to give her the news that Arnoldo did not show up for work. Some people pointed out that they had witnessed Arnoldo be run over while riding his bicycle and that the people who caused the accident had taken him and his brother Alfonso, who came to help him, to an unknown destination. That day the two brothers, Arnoldo and Alfonso Chen Poou disappeared.
“Remembering it is sad, the wound inside opens. I was 23 years old, my husband was kidnapped at 25 years old. I was left with four children suffering, unfortunately without money, without clothes, without food “- María Luisa Col
Approximately three or four months after Arnoldo’s disappearance, witnesses from the community told María Luisa and her family that they seen the brothers, wearing hats and with the hands tied, entering a pick-up vehicle at the former military detachment in Cobán. María Luisa reported the disappearance of her husband to the authorities, but no action was taken. It was not until 2012 that the FAFG began exhumations in this place, now known as CREOMPAZ, that a new hope was born for her and her family.
The Chen Col Family, friends and neighbors in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, receive the remains of Mr. Arnoldo Chen Poou to offer him a decent burial. Photo: FAFG Archive (2016). More photos of this event below in the “Her Story in Pictures” section.
On April 5, 2016, 34 years after the disappearance of her husband, Mrs. María Luisa was notified that FAFG identified him through DNA. María Luisa and her children received the news with great surprise and emotion, the family could not believe it.
Months later, on June 17, 2016 (Father’s Day in Guatemala), María Luisa Col, her children, relatives and members of the community, received the skeletal remains of Arnoldo Chen in a solemn commemorative act to dismiss him and give him a decent burial.
I never in my life thought that 20 minutes from my house, my husband was buried within a clandestine grave” – María Luisa Col
María Luisa’s story is part of the FAFG Archive of Visual Stories, in order to preserve her testimony for future generations to see and hear. She has worked with different organizations with community, territory defense and civil society approaches, as well as a translator for FAFG. She is currently the Coordinator of Survivors of the Internal Armed Conflict in Cobán, from where she continues to provide support to many families who continue in the search for their loved ones. María Luisa hopes to find other relatives of hers and all the other people who are still missing.
María Luisa Col shares her experience during the filming of Life Stories DVDs to the survivors of the CAI in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. Photo: FAFG Archive (2016).