Eduardo Halfon at the NYRB:
We called it El Lago. The Lake. As kids, growing up in the Guatemala of the 1970s, we probably never even knew its name—Lake Amatitlán. Nor did we care. It was only a winding, half-hour drive from the city to my grandparent’s vacation chalet on its shore. We spent most weekends and holidays of my childhood there, jumping off the wooden dock, learning to swim in the icy blue water, digging out old Mayan pots and relics from the muddy bottom, paddling out on long surfboards while little black fish jumped up through the surface and sometimes even landed on the acrylic board. Gently, we’d nudge them back in.
One early morning, we all woke up to find two indigenous men floating face down by the wooden dock. They were naked and bloated. Guerrilleros, my father said, his tone far from compassionate or even sympathetic. Guerrilla fighters, probably from one of the surrounding villages. I was still too young to understand that the military used to dispose of some of their enemies there, dumping the dead and tortured bodies into the water. A few weeks later, my grandparents sold the chalet.