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Escape from Guatemala's hidden war for a while

Treaty of Utrecht
'Hidden War', the theatrical exchange between actors from the Netherlands and Guatemala, is nearing performance. The Guatemalan actors of the company Caja Lúdica have been in the country for a few weeks now. Together with the Dutch actors, they are rehearsing at Fort Nieuwersluis (near Breukelen), where the performance can also be seen from 20 June. Alan Hack (18) is one of the Guatemalans playing in the show. He experiences his stay in the Netherlands as a paradise encounter with freedom[/heading].

Living in a violent city like Guatemala, it is a relief to be able to spend a few weeks in a free country like the Netherlands. It is Alan Hack's first trip abroad. 'I thought I had ended up in a movie,' he says. 'It's so different from Guatemala. When you go out there, you never know if you'll come back alive. Every single day. Something can always happen there. A robbery, for example. Here you feel free. Here there is no violence and you can be whoever you want. I feel and see that very clearly. People are a bit aloof at first, but when you get to know them, they are friendly.'

Alan has been part of Caja Lúdica, the theatre group from Guatemala that aims to offer an alternative to violence and mistrust through theatre, for about three years. For example, he participated in a project for a hospital. The patients there were distrustful of doctors and prescribed medicines. By educating them through music, theatre and dance, people gained confidence, took the medicines and healed.

Strange connection

The eight actors from Guatemala and the Netherlands have been working separately on the performance for the past few months. It was only here that they got to know each other and started working together on the whole thing. 'That was actually not difficult,' says Alan. 'Already the first time we saw each other, there was a strange connection, in a positive sense. There were no egos, but it was brotherhood you felt. That made it fluid. That often happens at Caja Lúdica, that we feel a connection with people we don't know at all.'

In 'Hidden War', he tells his own story and that of two or three others. Through text, but rather with his favourite means of expression: dance. Because he has been dancing since he was three. 'I love to dance, but find it difficult to tell about myself,' he says. 'It's not easy to show your own life, nor that of others. Because when I remember my own history, I see a hard life. Yet I don't want to feel a victim of that, but rather proud of what I have achieved.' Telling about the lives of others he also finds difficult: 'Because these are guys who did the same work as me, but are no longer there. Murdered. In the last three years, five young men from Caja Lúdica have been killed.'


All the memories resurface while playing. The biggest challenge for himself was of a very different nature: his decision to come out for his homosexuality. 'Step one was to realise that I like men,' says Alan. 'I knew that when I was 13 or 14. Step two was to tell that to my family and friends. About three years ago, I came out for that. I had kept quiet about it for a while, but felt trapped by it. Otherwise, I would always be fooling myself and others. When I told my grandmother and aunts, they said I was sick. They took me to the psychologist and the church. So the third step was learning to deal with my family, who did not support me and showed obvious disappointment. They saw it as a disease. My aunt had me tested for AIDS and so on. At one point, I was so desperate that I just made up that I had a girlfriend. Were they proud again. They said, 'You see it was a disease?' His parents don't know: 'My mother lives in Los Angelos and my father in Guyana. They went to America when I was one-and-a-half and later divorced. I have virtually no contact with them. My grandmother raised me.'

Apart from Caja Lúdica, he is also in a 'sexual diversity' group, where homosexuality is negotiable and accepted. 'Of course there are people in Guatemala who accept homosexuality, but not on the streets. There is a lot of homophobia, which stems from machismo. More homosexuals do come out for their orientation, but for fear of reactions there are not many. In the neighbourhood where I live, three boys were murdered who were openly gay.'


Despite this, Alan is not afraid. 'I always say: if I die, I will die in freedom. But my grandmother, with whom I have lived all my life, keeps telling me to be careful. She is scared, I am not. She continues to find it difficult, but by now she sees that I am just like that. A few months ago, I had a heated discussion with her that changed things. She cares about me a lot and she would have liked me to get married and have children. Maybe I will get one, but not with a woman.'

Alan remains optimistic: "We at Caja Lúdica believe in life and also in change. If I can change my own life, so can others. Maybe it's not so much changing your life, but more how you live it. That people look at their lives differently. People have become so used to violence that it is easier to hit someone than to hug them.'

Therefore, he experiences the Netherlands as a paradise and already gets sad at the idea of having to go back in a few weeks. Will he even love his country then? 'That is a very difficult question for me,' he says shyly. 'In Guatemala, my life will soon start again. I'd rather not think about that yet. But: my history is my history. I literally say that in the performance too. It means that I was born there and that my roots are there. Every day I am confronted with it again. Maybe it would be better to stay here. The Netherlands has so many more opportunities. But my grandmother lives there and my family. I will always want to go back to Guatemala anyway.'

Good to know
'Hidden War'. Collaborative project between theatre foundation De Rest and, commissioned by the Treaty of Utrecht. It is part of the Community Arts Lab.

20 tm 23 June at Fort Nieuwersluis, Nieuwersluis.

Interview director Anouk de Bruijn/

Interview Marjolein Jegerings

Hidden War website

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Madeleine Red

Madeleine Rood is a freelance journalist and writes interviews, press releases and texts mainly for websites, newspapers and all kinds of publications. She has her own text agency, Bureau Rood. She worked at regional newspaper de Stentor for 20 years, 15 of which on the arts editorial board. Her specialisation is thus in cultural journalism. She lives together and has three sons.View Author posts

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