A Beauty That Hurts

A Beauty That Hurts

Life and Death in Guatemala

By W. George Lovell



When A Beauty That Hurts was first published in 1995, Guatemala was still one of the world’s most flagrant violators of human rights. If any measure of peace has come to the country, George Lovell contends, it is a peace resembling war. Lovell revisits a seductive but tormented land to reprise, and revise, his classic account of the evil perpetrated by a military-dominated state on its indigenous Maya peoples.

A Beauty That Hurts frames the armed conflict that raged in Guatemala, off and on from 1960 to 1996, in historical, cultural, and political context. It also examines the shortcomings of the Peace Accord signed over two decades ago, concluding that the social and economic inequalities that triggered upheaval in the first place have yet to be addressed.


This is a true Guatemala Guide. George Lovell didn’t choose Guatemala—he was chosen by this land, in a magic way, to tell us about the shining voices that whisper in the heart of darkness.

– Eduardo Galeano, author of Open Veins of Latin America and Memory of Fire

George Lovell is one of the few outsiders who has penetrated to the heart of the hideous tragedy that burns amidst Guatemala’s beauty. He takes us there with style, originality, and calm understanding in this wise and moving book.

– Ronald Wright, author of Time Among the Maya and Stolen Continents


Part I Struggle and Survival
1. Q’anjob ’al Canadian
2. Nobel K’iche’
3. Jakaltek American
4. Doña Magdalena
5. Through a Lens, Darkly
6. Devils and Angels
Part II Blood and Ink
7. The Delivery Man
8. Into the Fire
9. Scorched Earth
10. Futility at the Polls
11. Civilian Rule
12. A Militarized Society
13. The Daily News
14. The Fiction of Democracy
15. Searching for Peace
16. Scarred by War
17. How Was Guatemala?
A Guatemalan Gallery
Part III A Peace Resembling War
18. Arzú (1996–2000) and the Peace Accord
19. Gerardi, REMHI, and the Spectre of Impunity
20. Tomuschat and the Truth Commission
21. Apology, Denial, and the Death-Squad Diary
22. Justice and Representation
23. Portillo (2000–2004) and the Corruption of Power
24. Berger (2004–2008), the Atrocity Archive, and Business as Usual
25. Colom (2008–2012) and the Failure of the State
26. Pérez Molina (2012–2015) and the End of the Line
Part IV History, Archives, and the Enduring Maya
27. The Colonial Experience
28. The Century after Independence
29. Arbenz and the Fruit Company
30. The Archive that Never Was
31. The T-Shirt Parade
32. Indians in the Backcountry
Sources and Commentary