Guatemalan Lawyer and Activist Jorge Morales is Haverford's First Global Leaders Fellow
Associate Professor of Political Science Anita Isaacs calls Jorge Morales “the Guatemalan extension of Haverford College.” Morales, a Mayan lawyer, activist, and survivor of the genocide to which Isaacs has devoted years of study, has acted as a guide and mentor to the students who have accompanied Isaacs on numerous research trips.
Now, the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) has named Morales its first Global Leaders Fellow. The new program brings scholar/activists from abroad to campus bi-annually at the invitation of a Haverford faculty member, with whom the Fellow will co-teach a class.
A welcoming reception for Morales will be held Monday, September 14, at 4:30 p.m. in the CPGC Café. Throughout the fall, the CPGC will also host a series of forums centered on Morales’ visit, featuring discussions on the development of Guatemala’s post-conflict civil society.
“To be at Haverford is a tremendous privilege and honor,” says Morales. “It’s also an enormous responsibility; I see myself as someone who can tell stories others would want to tell, stories that are common to many communities in Guatemala.”
Anita Isaacs says she is very excited about co-teaching two classes with Morales this semester. One course concentrates on U.S.-Latin American relations and will involve a speakers series bringing U.S. and Guatemalan activists and policy makers to campus. The second class, a seminar on historical memory and genocide, will focus on the pursuit of truth, justice and reparations in postwar Guatemala and other Latin American countries.
“Jorge has worked with me and my students for over a decade, and I’m thrilled to bring him into the classroom on a more sustained basis and have him engage with the community at large,” says Isaacs. “He represents the essence of student-research partnerships.”
Morales’ history with the Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted from 1960-1996, began during his childhood, when he was recruited to join the guerillas. He later broke away from the insurgents and returned to his indigenous community, where, he says, he decided to “fight for our land, equality and dignity in a different fashion.” On the International Day of Conscientious Objection, he declared himself a pacifist in front of the presidential palace in Guatemala City: “I said no to war for ethical and moral reasons.” During the past decade he completed his education (he had only finished a year and a half of elementary school when he was recruited by the guerillas) and obtained a law degree.
He also began a new phase of his life as an activist for indigenous communities, assisting the war’s victims in their quest to receive reparations from the government and ensuring that the 1996 peace accords were implemented. Presently, he raises awareness about and defends citizens’ rights against mining companies seeking to encroach on indigenous lands.
Through his 11-year friendship with Isaacs, Morales has had the opportunity to visit Haverford’s campus several times (most recently in March) and share with students Guatemala’s history of genocide and its struggle to build a lasting peace. During spring break 2009 Morales worked with Isaacs, Rachel Schwartz ’11 and Fabrizio Barbagelata ’10 to interview survivors of the war and assess the progress of the government’s reparations program.
Says Morales, “The College’s participation in these efforts is consistent with its commitment to peace and social justice, and continues the historic relationship between Haverford and Guatemala’s survivor communities.”
Morales, who is grateful to Anita Isaacs and the Haverford students who have traveled to Guatemala over the years, looks forward to his semester at the College. “I hope we continue to deepen our relationship of solidarity and fraternity,” he says. “When we put even our smallest contributions together, we make big things happen.”