Scholarship Partner founders and leaders 

Juan portrait (1)

Juan de Dios García Xajil

Director General of ADIVIMA, Rabinal, Guatemala

Juan de Dios García is Director General of ADVIMA (Association for the Integral Development of the Victims of Violence in the Verapaces, Maya Achí). ADIVIMA is a grassroots non-profit organization formed in 1994  by the victims and survivors of a series of massacres and forced relocations of thirty-three Maya Achí villages in the 1980’s. These atrocities removed local resistance to the construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam in the Río Negro valley.  ADIVIMA works with human rights organizations in Guatemala, North America and Europe as well as foreign governments. Their goals are to obtain justice and seek reparations for human rights abuses suffered by these communities during the genocide of the 1980’s.

Both Juan de Dios and his wife are survivors of scorched earth tactics directed against their familial villages. Juan de Dios led ADIVIMA in civil actions forcing the government to negotiate a Plan of Reparations and subsequent actions including international pressure to force the government to comply. He also played a lead role and testified in the case brought to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the victims of the Rio Negro massacres. 

The negotiations and the legal cases represent the culmination of years of work.  It began with seeking legal authorizations for exhumation of clandestine graves, gathering of forensic evidence, reinterment of remains and building of memorials. Then continued with cases against military personnel involved in the massacres.  ADIVIMA concurrently works on issues of economic opportunities for widows, housing, land acquisition, micro-credit. Other programs involve reteaching lost Mayan cultural traditions, education, leadership development, and empowerment of women and youth.

After Juan de Dios organized an international, non-violent demonstration at the Chixoy Dam in 2004, he was arrested and accused of terrorism in the press. He sued for defamation of character and the national newspapers in Guatemala were forced to publish retractions of the allegations against him and publish articles describing the work of ADIVIMA. Being publicly accused of terrorism in Guatemala goes hand-in-hand with death threats and other forms of intimidation.

Juan de Dios Garcia Xajil has been recognized nationally and internationally for his non-violent advocacy and leadership on behalf of the Maya Achí. He was a finalist for both the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2014 and the Gleitsman International Activist Award in 2015.

© Friends of ADIVIMA 2012