Even more gently, I asked the man if I could take a photograph of his shirt. Because the wording on the shirt was in English, I did not assume that he necessarily knew what the shirt said. Since there are many PACAs (stores that sell used clothing that is shipped in bulk from the U.S.), one sees a lot of people wearing t-shirts or jackets with wording in English, and it is fair to assume that many of the people wearing these clothing items just bought them because they liked the color or the design or it was what was available at the time. I cautiously mentioned that I knew about the case of Everardo. In Guatemala, even 15 years after the Peace Accords were signed, I feel as though I should be careful talking to unknown people about the war, about the guerrilla, about human rights issues, unless I can glean something about their sympathies. You never know who might have been in the civil patrols (PACs), which committed a lot of the atrocities (often because they were forced to by the army), or in the military itself.
He gladly stopped what he was doing and allowed me to photograph both sides of the shirt, and then started to tell me about the human rights organization with which he worked. He mentioned the name of Amilcar Méndez, a well-known human rights activist whose son was assassinated several years ago, and whose nephew was assassinated earlier this year in Santa Cruz del Quiché. We chatted a while and I told him that I worked with an indigenous women's radio station, and that I had met Amilcar. We talked briefly about the situation of the many unsolved human rights cases; throughout he was very genial and pleasant and genuinely seemed interested in talking. I was sorry I couldn't stay longer but I was already late for a meeting, but he said that he was there all the time and available to talk.
So, sometimes it pays to stop and talk to a complete stranger, to do something that might seem a little imprudent or forward or risky... it's not always easy to tell when it will pay off, or when it will get one into trouble.