Harvard Law School graduate Jennifer K. Harbury spoke at the University for the first time Monday about her campaign to find her missing husband, a Guatemalan guerrilla leader.
More than 60 students, Faculty and community members gathered in Hauser Hall to hear Harbury recount her 32-day hunger strike in Guatemala City in October 1994. Harbury staged the hunger strike to pressure the Guatemalan government to reveal the fate of her husband, Efrain Bamaca "Everardo" Velasquez.
Everardo disappeared in March 1992 when the guerrilla group he was leading ran into a Guatemalan Army patrol. When captured, Everardo was the highest-ranking member of the military wing of the United Front of Guatemalan Guerrillas (URNG), a Mayan rebel group.
In her talk, Harbury discussed the reasons underlying 35 years of civil war in Guatemala, Everardo's disappearance and her struggle to locate him.
"[There is] no industry in Guatemala, so if you don't own land, you starve," Harbury said. "Guatemala has one of the highest infant mortality rates, second only to Haiti."
"I'm only 5'3", but taller than most Guatemalans due to poor nutrition," she said. "There has been a peasant uprising every generation for 500 years."
Harbury went to Guatemala to monitor human rights abuses in 1985. At the time, the Guatemalan government considered human rights investigations unwelcome foreign intervention and deported activists, Harbury said.
Based on her experiences, Harbury authored "Bridge of Courage: Life stories of the Guatemalan Companeros and Companera," which was published in 1993 by Vehicule Press.
"[Harbury] has a perspective that is important to be expressed on Cen-
Harbury met Everardo on a mountaintop in Guatemala in 1990 and the couple was married in Austin, Texas, in September 1991.
After spending most of 1991 in Mexico City, Everardo decided to return to Guatemala, Harbury said. "[Everardo] felt he could not live without his companeros," she said.
Everardo was the only person missing after the group of rebels he was leading chanced upon a Guatemalan Army patrol, Harbury said.
At first, Harbury said she accepted the Guatemalan government's claims that Everardo committed suicide to evade capture.
"Because of [Everardo's] position and knowledge, it was logical to commit suicide," she said. "Capture in Guatemala is a terminal event [for a rebel] because no one survives long enough to make it to prison."
Harbury said she became suspicious after examining government autopsy reports.