Guyana Marks Jonestown Site on 31st Anniversary of Massacre

Tourism minister says "the wound is not so raw"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Anonymous9000 / Flickr
    An earlier marker of rememberance is seen here in the Florida district that murdere Congressman Leo Ryan represented.

    The 31st anniversary of the murder-suicide tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana passed without much fanfare here in the states on November 18, as local media focused on last year's 30-year mark.

    But in a jungle clearing near the site named by the cult the "Jonestown Agricultural Project," the government of Guyana placed a marker.

    A small plaque was set, reading "In memory of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy, November 18, 1978, Jonestown, Guyana."

    Explaining why the nation chose now to officially recognize the historical event, tourism minister Indranauth Haralsingh told the Associate Press: "There should be something to remember them as people do come."

    Jonestown was formed by followers of the Reverend Jim Jones, a fiery pentacostalist preacher and Indiana native who held an extremely strong grip on the minds and lives of his congregation.

    Jones moved his mixed congragation -- a rarity in Indiana -- to the forests of Northern California, and soon after began to win new converts and political influence at the People's Temple in San Francisco's Fillmore district.

    As Jones grew more paranoid thanks to epic drug and alcohol abuse, he eventually decamped the congregation to the jungles of Guyana in order to set up a utopic society.

    But all was not well, with racial divisions persisting in labor and mangement roles at the camp, and Jones falling farther and farther into delusion.

    When Congressman Leo Ryan arrived as part of a congressional investigation, he took a number of defectors with him, but was chased down by armed thugs and murdered.

    What followed isn't entirely clear, but cyanide-laced Flavor Aid was provided to hundreds, and others were gunned down trying to escape through the jungle, with ultimately over 900 dead.

    A handful did survive the massacre, including current U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, then an aid to Ryan, who represents parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

    Photo by Flickr user Anonymous9000.

    Jackson West is fascinated by everything about Jonestown.