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Mapping massacres: GIS and state terror in Guatemala

Citation: Steinberg, M.K. et al. 2003. Mapping massacres: GIS and state terror in Guatemala. Geoforum Volume 37, Issue 1. January 2006, Pages 62-68.

This paper employs GIS (geographic information systems) technology to visually display the locations of massacres associated with Guatemala?’s civil war. While there have been other, more general maps published depicting the spatial dimensions of violence in Guatemala, few other maps depict this information at the department level, nor have they included information on indigenous populations and physical geography.

These maps are part of the emerging field of human rights GIS. For example, over the past two decades, maps have become tools of empowerment in Central America and elsewhere, maps usually made with GIS technology. Indigenous groups in many countries in particular have embraced GIS technology and have begun to use maps as tools in their fight for land and marine resources, as well as greater political autonomy. In the case of massacres in Guatemala, displaying exactly where violent acts took place is one way to educate the Guatemalan public regarding the terrible violence of the recent past. Knowing the name of a specific town where a massacre took place is more concrete, potentially leading to perception of place and people, rather than simply being aware of violence in the countryside.

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