Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In 2009, Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice issued the first of a series of controversial rulings on the case of the Acteal Massacre (Chiapas, Mexico) after almost twelve years of its tragic occurrence. Through these rulings, the court overturned the conviction of some of those who had been serving prison terms and who the Maya survivors identify as members of the paramilitary group that perpetrated this massacre. As a consequence, they were released from prison and began to return to Acteal and the surrounding hamlets. This situation reignited a familiar wave of terror in the region. Assassinations, forced displacements, and the burning of crops and houses made the survivors relive the violence continuum that led to the massacre years before. The return of ex-convict paramilitary leaders coincided with the time I began to engage in collaborative research with the survivors of the massacre and their organization, Las Abejas. Fieldwork in this context forced me to reenvision my role as an anthropologist and the contours of my collaboration. While making this violence visible to outsiders was necessary to contain it and pave the path for legal justice, a refusal to render some situations visible was—and continues to be—a requirement for several kinds of survival. In this paper, I will discuss how this paradox became one of the main challenges in trying to make sense of past political violence while developing strategies to confront its new iterations.