The Project

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Guatemala captured my heart during my first visit, in 1977, when I went to study Spanish after college. I’ve lived there on and off during the past 30 years, traveling throughout Central America as a documentary still photographer and filmmaker. As I visited people and communities in Guatemala and El Salvador during and after the civil wars, in the 1980s-90s, I wondered about the experience of the children. That led me to make a documentary film in 1993 called If the Mango Tree Could Speak, featuring ten adolescents from those two countries, telling their stories of growing up in the midst of war.

When We Were Young / There Was A War continues the story of those same people today, who are now adults, many with children of their own. I’ve kept in touch with most of them over the years and filmed them again in 2012. It’s been a joy and privilege to see their accomplishments, coming from such harsh circumstances, while recognizing the profound poverty and struggles that many of them continue to face.

The website is intended to be a starting point for those wishing to learn about the civil wars and their aftermath in Guatemala and El Salvador, with the topics selected because they deepen the stories of our characters. I’ve worked hard to make the website historically accurate even as it naturally reflects both what I’ve seen firsthand and what I’ve learned from so many people as a lifelong student of the recent history and social movements in Central America.

If you have any suggestions for us please send a message via the “Contact Us” tab. Thanks for visiting When We Were Young / There Was A War.

 – Patricia Goudvis

Creators: Patricia Goudvis and Alice Stone
Designer: Jody Lee
Text: Patricia Goudvis and Alice Stone
Spanish Translation: Carlota Margarita Cruz Drake
Photographs: Patricia Goudvis (unless otherwise credited)
Home Page Illustration: Ehren Joseph, based on children’s drawings from El Salvador
Curriculum Units: Justin Sybenga and Teaching for Change

Producer/Director: Patricia Goudvis
Associate Producer: Beatriz Gallardo
Director of Photography: William Turnley, René Soza
Editor: Alice Stone
Sound Recordist: Alejandro Hernández, Edgar Osorio
Music: Oscar Hernández (from “If the Mango Tree Could Speak”)
Production Support: Ana Carlos and Caminos del Asombro
Tz’utujil Translator and Fixer: Mario Ajanel and family
Ixil Translator and Guide: Vicente Chel Bernal

PATRICIA GOUDVIS has worked as a photojournalist and filmmaker in Central America since the early 1980s. Among her productions are: “Under the Gun: Democracy in Guatemala” (1988); “If the Mango Tree Could Speak” (1993); “Dirty Secrets: Jennifer, Everardo and the CIA” (1998); and “Goodbye Baby: Adoptions from Guatemala” (2005). She belongs to New Day Films, a filmmaker’s cooperative of social issue documentary producers. She received her BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1977 and her MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990. She is fluent in Spanish.

ALICE STONE is an independent filmmaker who has worked in a wide variety of genres. Starting her career in Mexico City, she worked for a collaborative of anthropological filmmakers. She produced and directed “She Lives to Ride,” a documentary feature about women bikers, which screened theatrically, was broadcast on PBS, and was nominated for an IDA award. She has directed narrative short films and edited programs for PBS and the Discovery channel. She is currently producing the documentary feature, “Angelo Unwritten,” an intimate portrait of a troubled yet gifted young man’s journey through foster care. She previously collaborated with Pat on “Dirty Secrets” and “Goodbye Baby.”

We are grateful for the support of the following organizations who have helped make this project possible:

The New-Land Foundation
Pathfinder Fund
Samuel Rubin Foundation
Yip Harburg Foundation
Puffin Foundation

To all the characters and their families who graciously welcomed us into their lives.