Margarito's Forest is the story of the Maya Cosmovision, passed from one generation to the next. It is set in Saq Ja’, a small, remote village in the mountains of central Guatemala.
Saq Ja’ was settled early in the twentieth century by indigenous Maya who left the highland plains because of deforestation and overcrowding. For many decades the families that settled in Saq Ja’ grew and prospered. And it was there that Don Margarito was born on October 18, 1931.
The peaceful existence of the families in Saq Ja’ began to crumble in 1954, when a military coup overthrew Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, the democratically elected president of Guatemala.
The overthrow led to a series of military dictators and a long dirty war, which included genocide of the Maya. In a series of assaults between 1981 and 1982, the village of Saq Ja’ was destroyed by the Guatemalan military. Many villagers died in the attacks, while others joined the political resistance, fled into the mountains, or went to refugee camps in Central America. Among those who went into hiding was María Guadalupe and among those who fled Guatemala was Virgilio Vicente. In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Sanctuary Movement was formed in the 1980s to welcome Central American refugees into the United States. In 1986 Don Virgilio was taken into sanctuary at University Church in Chicago, Illinois.
After the signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords in 1996, some of those displaced by the war began returning to their ancestral lands. Indigenous-led organizations like Guatemalan Christian Action (ACG) were particularly helpful to displaced Guatemalans as they sought to retain their cultural identity and rebuild their devastated homes. In 1998, accompanied by Garry Sparks from ACG and Dan Dale from University Church, Don Virgilio returned to participate in the rebuilding of Saq Ja’ . With that pilgrimage and Don Virgilio’s wise leadership, a partnership was established between the people of Saq Ja’ and members of University Church. Almost every year since that initial trip in 1998, a delegation from University Church has returned to Saq Ja’.
Margarito's Forest in Saq Ja'
Margarito's Forest is dedicated to Maria Guadalupe, who lives in Saq Ja' and cares for Margarito's Forest
These children created the drawings that were used in the illustrations for Margarito's Forest