FRESH AYERS: Andy Carter - "Margarito’s Forest" with Bill Ayers

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Andy Carter discusses Margarito’s Forest. He will be joined in conversation by Bill Ayers.

At 57th Street Books


About the book: Margarito’s Forest is an account of the life of Don Margarito Esteban Álvarez Velázquez as told by his daughter, Dona’ María Guadelupe. It is a story of the Maya Cosmovision of reverence for all of creation being passed from one generation to the next. The story 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, including Don Margarito died in the attacks. Those who survived either fled into the mountains, joined the political resistance, 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 to return to their ancestral lands. In 1998, accompanied by members of 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. Margarito’s Forest is a reflection of this enduring partnership.

During the war years María Guadalupe lost most of her family and was forced to flee from Saq Ja' with her two young children. Following the Peace Accords, she returned to Saq Ja’, where she has continued Don Margarito’s legacy of community and ecological leadership. This book is a commemoration of her courage and the preservation Margarito’s forest. As the devastating effects of climate change become clear, Don Margarito’s life and the Cosmovision of the Maya offer timely wisdom for a planet in peril.

About the author: Andy Carter is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Roosevelt University. He is a founding board member of the Resource Center, serves on the Local School Council at the William Ray School, and is Moderator at University Church. He is a master gardener, a guitar player, and an environmental activist. In April of 2007 he made his first of five trips to the village of Saq Ja’, Guatemala as a delegation member from University Church. On that trip he was struck by the stark contrast between a lush old-growth forest near the village, and the fields and scrub brush that surrounded it. He was told that Margarito, a man with a peculiar love of trees, had planted the forest. On subsequent trips he carried out a series of interviews with Maria Guadalupe, the daughter of Don Margarito, to find out about this Mayan man and his forest. Margarito’s Forest is based on information he gathered from these interviews.

About Bill Ayers: Bill Ayers is a social justice activist, teacher, Distinguished Professor of Education (retired) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of two memoirs, Fugitive Days and Public Enemy.

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E. 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637