The author, who now lives in the United States, spent six years traveling through Guatemala in order to discover the roots of the oppression and terrorism that has haunted that country. According to Guatemalan human rights groups, since the mid-1960’s nearly 120,000 Guatemalans have been killed and another 46,000 disappeared. Perera recounts the beginning of Guatemala’s present troubles when, in 1959, small bands of guerrillas appeared in rural areas with promises of relief from centuries of exploitation and oppression. In exchange, the guerrillas asked the Mayan peasants to join their rebellion. The government responded by sending the Guatemalan Army on a mission that resulted in an undeclared state of war against the Mayans and rural poor.
The United States, convinced of a communist threat in Guatemala, gave military aid to the government. The engine of state terrorism was thus well-fueled. During the years that followed, murder, assassination, and wholesale massacre became the knee-jerk response to any political disagreement or perceived threat to the government.
Perera interviewed politicians, church leaders, members of the military, farmers, villagers and foreigners in his attempt to capture the sense of terror that has haunted so many Guatemalans. At the same time, his sensitive impressions convey the essence of a country besieged by social, ethnic and cultural divisions. UNFINISHED CONQUEST is the harrowing study of a tragedy still unfolding as the Mayan peoples continue to be threatened with genocide. In telling the story of the oppression of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples, Perera provides readers with an appreciation for their strength and resilience as a people.