Refugee Camps on the Guatemalan/Mexican Border
An image analysis of one portion of the Guatemalan/Mexican border (Research Location 2, see image 2) based on more simple visual change detection revealed an increase in human activity and settlement, as well as border activity, along the Río Salinas and Río Lacaniúm between 1979 and 1986. This increase of activity is cotemporaneous with the 1980-1986 increase in violence and government sponsored genocide activities in the Department of El Quiché.
The primary changes between 1979 and 1986 are the clearly visual increases of the light to no vegetation areas surrounding the centers of known refugee camps and towns. In all the areas marked by these refugee camps and towns, there is a discernable increase of center-to-periphery growth resulting in a decrease of the surrounding vegetation. This type of center-to-periphery growth is usually evidence of increased human activity and/or population and is corroborated by sources documenting a large migration of Guatemalans fleeing into the region during the 1980-1986 violence.1
The other discernable change to the landscape is the appearance of an international border road in the 1986 image, which is not present in 1979. The appearance of this road probably reflects an increase of both Guatemalan and Mexican military related border activities. The obvious change in the landscape supports evidence of a Guatemalan military build-up in this border region and possible Guatemalan military insurgencies into Mexico, which instigated a Mexican reaction.
1 Manz, Beatriz, Refugees of a Hidden War: The Aftermath of Counterinsurgency in Guatemala. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988.