A Beauty that Hurts

A Beauty that Hurts

Life and Death in Guatemala

Fourth edition

By W. George Lovell


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When A Beauty That Hurts first appeared in 1995, Guatemala was one of the world’s most flagrant violators of human rights. An accord brokered by the United Nations brought a measure of peace after three decades of armed conflict, but the country’s troubles are far from over. George Lovell revisits Guatemala to grapple once again with the terror inflicted on its Maya peoples by a military-dominated state.


“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

“Like the experience of many people who have journeyed to the country, in Guatemala I saw numerous contradictions of beauty and violence that captivated and mystified. In A Beauty That Hurts, George Lovell eloquently contemplates these contradictions by addressing how a visually stunning, culturally diverse, and resource-rich region could be embroiled in political violence that has lasted for centuries.”

– Curtis D. Holder, The Professional Geographer

“When anyone asks me to recommend a book to bring them up to date on Guatemala, the only book I can recommend is A Beauty That Hurts….It is the only book that provides readers with an understanding of Guatemala’s complex colonial history and the continued struggle for survival in twenty-first century Guatemala.”

– Matthew J. Taylor, Journal of Latin American Geography

“George Lovell is one of the few outsiders who has penetrated to the heart of the hideous tragedy that burns amid 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