Materials at the Archive

Photo courtesy of the Archívo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala

A Collaboration Between the University of Texas at Austin and the Historical Archive of the National Police of Guatemala

December 1-2, 2011

English | En Español

The University of Texas at Austin is honored to host a conference as part of its collaboration with the Historical Archive of the National Police of Guatemala, or the Archivo Histórico de la PolicĂ­a Nacional (AHPN). This interdisciplinary conference celebrates the unveiling of a UT-hosted digital archive that will serve as an on-line digital repository for millions of documents from the Historical Archive of the National Police in Guatemala. The conference will consider how use of the Archive has helped to deepen understanding of Guatemala's history, and to advance human rights, both crucial to strengthening Guatemala's embattled democracy.

The conference will begin at 5:00pm on Thursday, December 1, with a screening of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, an award-winning documentary film that chronicles Guatemala's internal armed conflict, and subsequent efforts to bring the perpetrators of massive human rights violations during that period to justice. Peter Kinoy, one of the filmmakers, will participate in a question and answer session following the film.

Conference proceedings will continue on Friday, December 2. Topics to be discussed during the conference include:

  • Interventions in Guatemala: Syphilis Infection, Military Aid, Development Assistance
  • Technology, Access to Information, and Democracy
  • Archives, Memory, and Human Rights in Latin America

This conference is a core component of a broader partnership between the AHPN and three institutions at the University of Texas at Austin: the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, and University of Texas Libraries. The partners have agreed to exchange technical expertise, cooperate in research, and engage in capacity-building for legal and academic networks.

A chance investigation in Guatemala City in 2005 led to the discovery of millions of administrative police documents dating from 1882 to 1996. The Guatemalan government and police had long denied their existence, particularly during truth commission investigations by both the United Nations and the Catholic Church in the 1990s, during the final years of the country's nearly four decades of armed civil conflict. The Archive is currently comprised of approximately 80 million documents; about 12 million are already digitized and will be available from the University of Texas at Austin website. More documents are being digitized every year and will be added to the University of Texas' digital collection.

Since then, the AHPN has served as a valuable resource for human rights activists and victims, as well as historians and other researchers. It has become one of the crucial elements in attempts to prosecute members of the security forces involved in human rights violations during the internal armed conflict. It has provided valuable information corroborating findings that involve the United States in human experimentation on Guatemalan citizens, in the context of syphilis research in the 1950s. And it has served as a focal point in a renewed debate about Guatemala's recent past.

In January 2011, the three University of Texas at Austin institutions and the AHPN signed a letter of understanding that opened the way for collaboration on shared goals. The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the Law School specializes in work on human rights at the intersection of scholarship and advocacy. The Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies houses a wealth of faculty and graduate student research expertise on Guatemala, and has deep ties to the region. University of Texas Libraries has vast experience in digital scholarly resources, with an emerging focus on human rights archiving.

This digital archive will preserve these documents for the historical memory and legal and scholarly use of the people of Guatemala, particularly relating to the time period of the armed conflict. We also hope that it will bring together previously disparate experiences of personal memory and trauma, and promote public dialogue.