Jonestown was the informal name of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, an intentional community in the northwest of Guyana specifically in the current No. 1 state of Barima-Waini within the region of Guiana Esequiba . Jonestown was made up of the People ‘s Temple a cult American – led Jim Jones (1931-1978). The 18 of November of 1978 , community personnel killed 5 people (including a US congressman) while 909 members committed suicide.
Jim Jones was born on May 13, 1931 in the city of Lynn, Indiana, in an environment of racial segregation and Christian fundamentalism. His father, James Thurmond Jones was ill from the gases he had breathed in the trenches in World War I and seems to be sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan, although there is no record of his membership in that group. His mother Lynetta Jones was a worker who instilled in his son his love for animals, a concern for the disadvantaged and a great imagination. Jones collected animals from the street and it seems that from a very young age he was clear that he wanted to be a preacher because in the garage he already preached sermons to the dogs and the neighboring children. Jones himself said that Pentecostalism to which he had been exposed as a child had been a major influence on his life. As for his childhood circulate anecdotes, whose credibility is doubtful, which already indicated a certain fanaticism like cow pooping in the Bible or pissing in the chalice when he did not agree with certain priests who considered hypocrites. In that environment Jones developed the concern for two areas that accompanied him throughout life: racial integration and socialism.
In 1954, as associate pastor of the Laurel Street Tabernacle, Asembly of God, he already came into conflict with his bosses because he insisted that blacks sit in the front ranks. He soon formed his own church, Community Unity Church, and in 1955 the Wings of Deliverance, which later renamed the Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. Jones’ message was racial equality. He was placed in the ranks of the Indianapolis Recorder, a black newspaper, and in 1961 he was appointed director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission, which is dedicated to the police department, hospitals, banks, loan agencies and telephone companies.
According to his wife, by the time they were married in 1949 Jones was already a committed communist. He considered Maoist but sympathized with Stalin and the Soviet Union. Jones himself spoke of his ideology as religious socialism or apostolic socialism. Subsequently, socialism becomes in its ideology “God Almighty, Socialism.” In 1959 he had his son Stephan Ghandi Jones and adopted other children of diverse races in what he called his “rainbow family”. In 1960 the Temple of the People was accepted into the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.
The creation of the town
The Temple of the People was created in Indianapolis , Indiana ( United States ) during the 1950s . The Rev. Jim Jones and his 140 followers moved to Redwood Valley , Mendocino County, California , believing they would be safe from nuclear attacks from which the United States could be targeted. By the end of the 1960s , members of the Jones congregation had declined to less than a hundred and it was about to disappear, but Jones succeeded in securing an affiliation with the denomination of the “Disciples of Christ” and that made the Temple Survived. Jones’ affiliation with the church elevated the Temple’s reputation and expanded its influence in the West Coast area of the United States.
The congregation returned to its main church in San Francisco in 1971 and opened another in Los Angeles . After multiple scandals and investigations in San Francisco, Jones decided to create a utopian community in Guyana where he would be safe from intervention by US authorities or members with concerned relatives.
In 1974 , Jones leased more than 12 square kilometers of Guyana government land, and members of the People’s Temple began building Jonestown under the supervision of community leaders. Jones returned to California to encourage all his followers to move to Jonestown. The popularity of Jones grew enormously in that period and went from having 50 members in 1977 to having more than 900 members in their moment of apogee in 1978 .
Life in Jonestown
Many of the members of the People’s Temple believed that Guyana would be, as Jones promised, a paradise. Instead, all members (including the children) ended up raising animals and food for the “Pueblo Project” six days a week, from seven in the morning until six in the afternoon, when it was common for the temperature reached 38 ° C .
According to the exintegrant testimony of the sect, the meals consisted of nothing more than rice and legumes , of inferior quality to the foods that received Jones (refrigerated foods), separated from the others. In February 1978, half of the community suffered from medical problems such as severe diarrhea and high fevers.
The members who were considered to have serious disciplinary problems were locked in a wooden box measuring 2.5 x 1 m . Those who tried to escape were drugged to the point of incapacitation. Armed guards patrolled the town day and night to make sure Jones’s orders were followed.
The children, given to communal care, referred to Jones as “Dad” and were only allowed to see their parents briefly during the night. Jones was also called “Father” by adults.
The people around him, including a police officer, told horror stories about harsh beatings and a “torture pit,” a pit where Jones had the non-behaving children thrown in the middle of the night. Jones frightened the children into thinking that there was a monster dwelling at the bottom of the pit, when what was in the background was a man hired by Jones who threw and bent the children’s legs as they descended into the pit.
It is said that the older children were tied naked, and they were electrocuted on the genitals. Guyana officials had attempted to investigate these statements but were barred from entering the community.
With his mental faculties deteriorated, Jones then began to haranguing “traitors”, distant enemies who wanted to destroy his dream and threats of invasion from “the outside.” On the verge of paranoia, once or twice a month he urged his followers to perform, as “tests of loyalty,” simulations of massive suicides, which included the intake of false potions of poison. Jones called “white nights” to those rehearsals.
In an affidavit, Deborah Layton wrote that during one of those nights, people were told to die, forcing them to take unsweetened syrup they thought had poison. The few who hesitated to take the liquid were forced to take it under the threat that if they did not comply with the order, they would be shot.
On November 14, 1978, US Congressman Leo Ryan traveled to Georgetown , 240 km from Jonestown, accompanied by a congressional delegation, journalists and some dissidents from the sect, to see whether the accusations were true. fraud, brainwashing , imprisonment and drug trafficking and weapons .
On November 17, Ryan and his assistant were able to meet with several members of the community group. The visit was carried out in a friendly atmosphere.
The next morning before Ryan returned, the mood changed. Some residents asked if they could leave the colony with him. This triggered the fury of some of the most fanatical and unconditional members. Jones considered it an unforgivable betrayal.
After that, the congressman was mistakenly attacked with a knife.
Around 15:00, Ryan and 14 community deserters, including Larry Layton, were taken to the Puerto Caituma airstrip (11 km northeast ). Once inside the plane, Larry Layton shot the occupants, wounding several. Later, members of the community who had escorted Ryan’s car fired into the plane, killing the congressman, three journalists, one of the deserters, and wounding nine others. After riddling the congressman’s body, they shot him in the face. Survivors of the attack fled to nearby camps during and after the attack.
A couple of hours later, Jones ordered all members of the sect to commit suicide.
According to the documentary Index Maldad by Discovery Channel , Tim Carter says it was not a suicide, but a mass murder, as was Jim Jones who forced his people to drink and injected Cyanide , starting with the children (who would not commit suicide , But were given cyanide mixed with some beverage, while some babies were ripped from the arms of their mothers to be injected) and elderly. Jones said that “death is only transit to another level” and “this is not a suicide , but a revolutionary act.” One of her followers named Christine was opposed to death. But people began to insult her violently. Children, adults and old people died from the potion . The total number of dead was 912.
Jones was found dead among two other bodies. The death was caused by a bullet wound to the head that is not known whether it was inflicted by himself or if he forced another person to murder him.