I had the pleasure of meeting Julio Cochoy on October 27, 2013 at St. Stephen’s United Church in Qualicum Beach. He gave a profoundly moving talk about his experiences as a Mayan survivor of the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996). He was only twelve when he saw dead bodies on the roads in his village. He is 48 now, but the images have branded his memory forever. Soldiers, backed by foreign military powers who didn’t want communism in Central America, massacred hordes of innocent people and treated the Mayan Indians as if they were cattle. Young Julio developed a deep hatred for these soldiers and their leaders, and deeply resented being powerless against their weapons.
He saw too many women losing husbands and other family members and starving because they had no way of making a living in a macho world. Being a university trained economist, he knows how to organize people into cooperatives. Backed by the United Nations, he is helping these vulnerable women make and sell traditional jewelry. The money they receive helps them financially and spiritually because it boosts their damaged self esteem. They feel like worthwhile human beings when someone admires their artistic creations.
He is enjoying his visit to Canada and has made meaningful connections with many First Nations leaders who tell him they don’t want to live a life of hate against the white man any more and want to move away from a hateful life of addiction into a life of hope for reconciliation. Julio has also moved away from hate and into hope. More information on his website: www.worldpilgrim.ca