During the height of the Guatemalan civil war, Tomás Guzaro, a Mayan evangelical pastor, led more than two hundred fellow Mayas out of guerrilla-controlled Ixil territory and into the relative safety of the government army's hands. This exodus was one of the factors that caused the guerrillas to lose their grip on the Ixil, thus hastening the return of peace to the area.
In Escaping the Fire, Guzaro relates the hardships common to most Mayas and the resulting unrest that opened the door to civil war. He details the Guatemalan army's atrocities while also describing the Guerrilla Army of the Poor's rise to power in Ixil country, which resulted in limited religious freedom, murdered church leaders, and threatened congregations. His story climaxes with the harrowing vision that induced him to guide his people out of their war-torn homeland.
Guzaro also provides an intimate look at his spiritual pilgrimage through all three of Guatemala's main religions. The son of a Mayan priest, formerly a leader in the Catholic Church, and finally a convert to Protestantism, Guzaro, in detailing his religious life, offers insight into the widespread shift toward Protestantism in Latin America over the past four decades.
Riveting and highly personal, Escaping the Fire ultimately provides a counterpoint to the usual interpretation of indigenous agency during the Guatemalan civil war by documenting the little-studied experiences of Protestants living in guerrilla-held territory.
Tomás Guzaro played a central role in aiding the Ixil refugees during the Guatemalan civil war and since 1987 has been the administrator of a private hospital in Nebaj, where he served as vice mayor from 2000 to 2004. He currently oversees ninety-six churches within the Church of God.
After moving to Nebaj in 1993, Terri Mccomb and her husband got to know Tomás Guzaro while working with agricultural development programs. They still live in Ixil country, where Terri divides her time between schooling her four children and writing.
1. Exodus: August 1982
2. Son of a Mayan Priest: 1960s
3. Catholicism in Ixil Country: Late 1960s-Mid-1970s
4. The Curse: 1975-1976
5. Conflict of Cultures: October 1976-1977
6. Reconciliation: 1977-1978
7. Protestant Growth and the Guerrilla Takeover: February-September 1979
8. Between Two Fires: October 1979-August 1980
9. Targeting the Evangélicos: September 1980
10. Given a Little More Time: September-December 1980
11. Narrow Escapes: January 1981-February 1982
12. Desperate for a Way Out: February-July 1982
13. The Vision: July-August 1982
14. Escaping the Fire: August 3-4, 1982
15. A Taste of Freedom: August 1982
16. Life in a Refugee Village: September 1982-May 1983
17. Lifting up Ixil Country: June 1983-2009
Afterword. Tomás Guzaro in Historical Context
References and Further Reading
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