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  • Still from Discovering Dominga

    Still from Discovering Dominga

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The Film

When 29-year-old Iowa housewife Denese Becker decides to return to the Guatemalan village where she was born, she begins a journey towards finding her roots, but one filled with harrowing revelations. Denese, born Dominga, was nine when she became her family’s sole survivor of a massacre of Mayan peasants. Two years later she was adopted by an American family. In Discovering Dominga, Denese’s journey home is both a voyage of self-discovery that permanently alters her relationship to her American family and a political awakening that sheds light on an act of genocide against this hemisphere’s largest Indian majority.

On March 13, 1982, Denese Becker was a 9-year-old Maya girl named Dominga living in the Maya highlands, when the Guatemalan army entered the village of Rio Negro. By the time the soldiers left, hundreds of people, including 70 women and 107 children, had been massacred and dumped in a mass grave.

Dominga was one of the unaccountably “lucky” survivors of the massacre at Rio Negro. Placed in an orphanage, she was adopted two years later by a Baptist minister and his wife from Iowa.

But Denese never completely forgot her childhood as Dominga, and was haunted by memories of her parents’ murder. She decided to return to find her remaining relatives. Inexorably, Denese is drawn into the ongoing struggle of the surviving Rio Negro community to find justice. Eventually she becomes a witness in a landmark human rights case brought against the Guatemalan military.

Back in the U.S., she begins speaking about her experiences before school and community groups. For Denese, honoring the truth is morally necessary, but also personally shattering.

The Filmmakers

  1. Patricia FlynnProducer/Director
  2. Mary Jo McConahayCo-Producer