By Jorge Dan Lopez

I was listening to the alarmed voice of a radio commentator. Once I realized what he was talking about, I began to worry about how long it would take me to get to the location.

Within minutes, all local radio and TV stations were talking about the man who had killed two children inside a school in Tactic and who was lynched by exasperated and outraged villagers. It took me three hours from Guatemala City to get to Tactic. In those three hours, the climate changed several times and so did the language.

While driving I started to remember the stories that are told in this part of Guatemala, in Alta Verapaz and Quiche, where people are predominantly of Mayan descent. Where “the people rule” and Mayan law is applied.

Now, the Mayan law of today has very little to do with the Mayan law before the arrival of the Spaniards. It has adapted to modern times but it is basically the legal order that most members of villages from the area will adhere to.

But lynchings, very common in this area where a suspected murderer can be beaten and set on fire, were never part of Mayan law. Mayans believe in a cosmic order, everything around them is intrinsically related to each other and the mandate is to live in harmony with the earth, and although they did have capital punishment, it was not decided on lightly or as a result of a hysterical mob.