Today in Guatemala, terror is often spoken through corpses chopped up and left in garbage bags in the street, female bodies raped and tortured and quartered, and charred gangster corpses placed in certain police-designated locations signaling no need for an official investigation. In the midst of skyrocketing homicide rates, such strategically brutal demonstrations—circulated in the media, infiltrating everyday conversation—take on starring roles in the bloody drama of Guatemala’s postwar order. Jumping off from the quadruple decapitation detailed in chapter 9, this chapter interrogates the ethical scripts, symbolic gestures, and political dialects at play in the production and consumption of spectacular acts of violence. It links such violence to the symbolic power of the marero in the public imagination, traces the postwar “making invisible” of poor youths’ murders, and discusses how myriad actors—from human rights activists to gangs to international terrorist organizations—leverage the power of innocent suffering and selective mourning to gain traction in the public sphere. Ultimately, this chapter argues that in the contemporary world, spectacular violence can make accomplices of “innocent” bystanders and witnesses both distant and near.
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