Roderico Y. Diaz. Photography and documentary about forced migration and resilience

Roderico Y. Díaz © Forests in the Maya Chortí region, eastern Guatemala, This territory is being reclaimed and restored by the Maya communities.
Roderico Y Díaz. © Maya Q’eqchí women vote in community consultation to decide if a hydroelectric project can be installed in their territory.

Roderico Y. Diaz is an independent photojournalist and documentary videographer who has worked in the areas of photo-documentary, photojournalism, and documentary for fifteen years.  He has focused his work primarily on the path of people from indigeneous communities who search for justice and reparation after surviving the genocide in Guatemala (1960-1996).

This 2013 short documentary addresses the historical trial for genocide against retired generals José Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, as well as the brave and constant struggle of witnesses and survivors of the genocide in various communities of the country to keep the charges against Ríos Montt and Sánchez alive and to continue working for justice. It also shows the impact and reactions generated at the national and international level as a result of the court verdict.

Here, in the artist’s own words, are some of the elements that guide Roderico’s work:

First of all, I am a descendent of an indigenous, Maya Kaqchikel family. My parents and grandparents were ‘mozos colonos’ (indigenous slaves) and workers on coffee plantations. I was born on a coffee plantation, owned by Dutch families, at the end of the 1970’s, and have  experienced directly the effects of colonization and the forced displacement and violence provoked by the genocide in Guatemala.

Secondly, despite the fact that historically indigenous peoples have been subjected to colonization, interference, plunder and inequality of culture and goods within their territories, they have, at the same time, maintained the fight to continue their way of life. For this reason, I have found a tool in photography to make known (from our indigenous perspective- rather than that of others, or of re-victimization) the resistance and resilience of indigenous peoples that is harnessed in order to keep going and heal the traumas and after-effects of war. These after-effects often end up being just as violent or more violent than war itself.

Roderico Y. Díaz © Elder Maya Kaqchikel holds in his hands a corncob that will be used as seed for the next sowing.

Roderico has documented the postconflict in Guatemala, denouncing the ways in which extractivist projects that have impacted the lives and territories of indigenous communities have been implemented in recent times. In this context, the Guatemalan justice system has criminalized social leaders (see the Bernardo Reyes short) and has generated continual forced displacement of campesinos and indigenous peoples. 

The Rivers tells the story of folk singer Juan Aguirre’s visit to Santa Cruz Barillas- the  town where his family is from- who was invited to participate at a cultural festival in solidarity with community leaders who were jailed for their fight in defense of their territory.
Roderico Y. Díaz © Turtles

Roderico has published in various mediums in Guatemala, the United States, Europe and several countries in Latin America. His work has been exhibited in galleries and universities in Guatemala, and the United States (see “Defending Truth and Memory, Roderico Y. Diaz“, at New Mexico State University.) He has also participated with his documentaries in national and international festivals. 

Roderico Y. Díaz © Portrait of a Q’eqchí woman during an occupation of several farms in Cahabon.

Currently, Roderico follows the migrant struggle in the northern triangle of Central America: people are escaping their countries because of violence, organized crime and corruption. For Roderico, the situation for migrants today is similar to that of those who arrived in the United States many decades ago when escaping civil war and military dictatorship (people who are, in fact, refugees in the sanctuary churches in the state of North Carolina to this day).

Roderico is the co-founder and collaborator of the Centro de medios independientes de Guatemala –CMI-GUATE-(The Center for Independent Media of Guatemala)-www.cmiguate.org/ and a correspondent for the newspaper Qué Pasa News in North Carolina. https://www.quepasamedia.com/ (https://raleigh.quepasanoticias.com/)

More about the genocide in Guatemala

500 years. Life in resistance,” by Pamela Yates