A Guatemalan boy saw soldiers come into his village and murder his parents along with the rest of the village, was adopted and raised in an abusive household by one of the men who massacred the villagers, and later gave testimony that sent the killer to prison with a 6,000 year sentence

The survivor

After Ramiro Cristales survived a massacre in Guatemala nearly 40 years ago, he eventually embarked on a long quest for justice. It took him to a secret life in Canada and back to Guatemala. Now, The Fifth Estate finds, that lifelong pursuit is at risk of unravelling.

Warning: This story contains disturbing content.

Ramiro Cristales felt a sharp pain as the machete sliced through his fingers, a cut that was meant for his neck but still drew a mess of blood. As he sprinted away screaming, he heard two gunshots follow. Both missed him.

Cristales remembers he was about 14, overworked, underfed and painfully thin — and all he wanted when he arrived home a little earlier than usual that night was something to eat.

The man Cristal… Continue Reading (20 minute read)

8 thoughts on “A Guatemalan boy saw soldiers come into his village and murder his parents along with the rest of the village, was adopted and raised in an abusive household by one of the men who massacred the villagers, and later gave testimony that sent the killer to prison with a 6,000 year sentence”

  1. ncsuandrew12

    That civil war was horrifying. My wife’s family wouldn’t let my brother-in-law leave the house growing up, for fear he would be grabbed and conscripted. I think he would’ve been about 10-12 when the war ended.

    [edit] Also, in American Spanish classes they’ll teach that “catch” translates to “coger”. Not in Guatemala. There, it’s a four-letter word that basically means ~~rape~~ f***. It was the word officers would use when instructing soldiers to grab girls.

    [edit 2] He’s fine. He’s a mechanic and is teaching teenage boys how to be mechanics.

  2. beardslap

    He wasn’t ‘adopted’, he was abducted.

  3. roserouge

    There is a This American Life podcast episode on this event. Even though I listened to it eight years ago, it still sticks in my head. For those interested, check out episode 465 (aired May 25, 2012). Title: What Happened at Dos Erres

  4. X-cessive-leader

    Not going to lie. Honestly thought he was going to grow up and massacre all them. His approach was much more healthy.

  5. Extreme-Flounder

    The Guatemalan Civil War was absolutely brutal. Destroying entire villages was the goal of the military dictatorship. They wanted to “drain the ocean to kill the fish”, or completely devastate the countryside to keep the guerrillas from resupplying.

    After the war, investigators declared that the government was responsible for over [93% of crimes against humanity](https://www.usip.org/publications/1997/02/truth-commission-guatemala) committed during the war, including the genocide of [30,000 Ixil Mayans.](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemalan_genocide)

  6. TheFirstArticle

    If the military loyalty is still to the criminal who was theirs, they are merely paid gangsters.

    The boy is who you protect. If you don’t know that you are honourless and useless. Paid gangsters, destroying your own nation at the bidding of criminals for a pay check and bloodlust.

  7. BoringNameGoesHere

    My dad grew up in Guatemala during this war, his brother was disappeared one day. Just snatched from his house and never seen or heard from again. My dad ended up dropping out of university to fight the death squads, he has only described to me a fraction of the horrors he saw, but those kinds of traumas a person can never get over.

  8. teedeeguantru

    Yeah. My own troubles look pretty pale in comparison.

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