Virginia Garrard-Burnett presents an eloquently readable examination of la violencia under General Efraín Ríos Montt and the ways in which the violence that ravaged Guatemala in the early 1980s resulted from contrasting narratives of historical memory and social metaphors. The phenomenon of contrasting historical memory assumes a central role in Garrard-Burnett’s analysis as she examines the apparent sweeping support for Ríos Montt in the years after his fall from power, specifically in the areas most devastated during his 17-month regime. The regime accomplished this chiefly through manipulation of discourse and imagery. Garrard-Burnett effectively emphasizes the transience of historical memory within the context of Ríos Montt resounding electoral defeat in 2003, in the aftermath of the publication of key truth commission reports.

Garrard-Burnett frames the violence of the late 1970s and early 1980s within the context of the Cold War. Significantly, Garrard-Burnett qualifies this...

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