This reflection follows a visit to a highway-side encampment in the town of Casillas, Santa Rosa. There we accompany the Indigenous Xinka resistance to one of the largest silver mines in the world. The mine is the Escobal mine––commonly referred to as the San Rafael mine––recently bought from Tahoe Resources (Canadian-American) by Pan American Silver (Canadian), and run by its Guatemalan subsidiary, Minera San Rafael. This short video highlights the mine’s devastating effects on the region:
Over the past several years, the Xinka People have been engaged in a legal battle with the Guatemalan government, fighting first and foremost for recognition as an Indigenous group (as they are far fewer than Guatemala’s more widely recognized Maya population), along with recognition of their ancestral territory. This legal legitimization is important, since both the Guatemalan Peace Accords and the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169, which Guatemala’s government ratified in 1989, recognize the right of Indigenous communities to give or withhold consent––often through community consultations––to policies impacting their lives and land. (Of course, this right is inherent no matter whether it appears in a legally binding document, but it helps if it does.)
In an important victory last year, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court recognized the Xinka People as an Indigenous group with ancestral territory, ruling that their right to a consultation had been violated and suspending mining activity until that consultation takes place. However, this court-ordered consultation will be state-regulated rather than an autonomous process led by Xinka communities themselves, opening up loopholes to exclude the voices of those in resistance to the mine. Nevertheless, for now the Escobal mine is not in operation, and the highway-side encampments maintained by the mine resistance, like the one we visited, help ensure the continued suspension of mining activity until the consultation. (This article further explains the Constitutional Court’s decision, the history and significance of community consultations, and the future of mine resistance.)
It was brutally hot the day we visited the encampment in Casillas. The open structure we gathered under provided some shade as we sat in a large circle talking about soccer, how the night had gone at the encampment, concerns about the upcoming elections, and Xinka structures of self-governance. As we talked, several young men from the group kept their eyes trained on the highway. Any time a truck approached, they would jump up and race out to the road, place down orange traffic cones, and check the truck’s contents to make sure the driver wasn’t transporting materials or fuel to the mine. There is another highway-side encampment set up on the other side of the mine, in the town of Mataquescuintla, blocking off all of the mine's access points.
Communities from the surrounding area take shifts occupying the encampments around the clock. They have been doing so for over two years. The day we visited the encampment in Casillas, the shift on duty consisted of twelve people from a community three hours away. They are, in fact, the community that travels the farthest to reach the encampment. Their shift is comprised of community members of all ages, from the young men I mentioned earlier to several elderly people. I was struck by the coordination and dedication required of so many people to maintain numerous encampments, twenty four hours a day, for years on end.
Just for a minute, pick a place that’s three hours away from where you live. I’m imagining Scranton, PA––just a few hours’ drive from Philly. Now imagine that there is some extractivist project there, like a mine, or a pipeline, or fracking––or even pipes leaking lead into the water, or a disaster caused by climate change lacking a full-hearted government response. Imagine something like this, threatening the environment and the lives of those who live nearby. But again, you live several hours away. And you’re busy, you have a job, errands to run, people to see. However, you feel somehow connected to the people affected by this threat. Maybe you even feel affected yourself. You feel you have a duty to oppose this threat. Maybe you even feel you have no other option. So every month, you travel three hours to this place, and camp out on the side of a highway in protest for twenty four hours. And then you travel three hours home. And you keep it up for two years straight.
Then came a moment that shocked me. One of the organizers of the shift––who had been chosen as the Indigenous authority in his community, forming part of an even larger ancestral governance structure in the region––told us that when he fulfills his commitment to his community, he plans to seek asylum elsewhere. He didn’t specify exactly why, but over the course of our conversation, he mentioned violence in his community and two family members who had been murdered. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that someone so dedicated to the protection of their home could feel even more compelled to leave it.
There are many reasons why people migrate. Violence, poverty, and lack of opportunity, to name a few. Land defenders in particular face an array of threats as they fight the extractivist projects that destroy their homes. The short video below (accompanying this fantastic article) highlights the story of Teresa Muñoz, another land defender resisting the Escobal mine who is currently seeking asylum in the States:
It is also important to note that the effects of climate change––unpredictable rains, rising temperatures, crop failures, and food insecurity––are a major driving force northwards. This article highlights the life and death of Juan de León Gutiérrez, a Maya Ch’orti’ 16-year-old, who migrated to the States due to the impoverishing effects of climate change, only to die in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Ultimately, migrants end up sandwiched between equally violent imperial forces. The graphic below helps me better understand this sandwich, illustrating how “U.S. militarism and economic policies push people north” while “U.S. domestic social policy ignores the root causes of migration.”
At the encampment in Casillas, the afternoon clouds rolled in and the heat faded as we continued talking about migration. I thought about the graphic above. I contemplated what threats faced this land defender at home––not the least of which is a North American-owned silver mine, one of the largest in the world, threatening the physical health and social fabric of his village and larger Xinka community. And as I imagined the journey he would take seeking asylum, I reflected on the U.S. government’s response to migration––family separation, further militarization of the border, and economic warfare. As if such responses could possibly alleviate the conditions pushing this land defender to migrate in the first place.
A few weeks after visiting the encampment in Casillas, I spent the day at the Public Prosecutor’s office in Guatemala City accompanying Xinka lawyer Quelvin Jiménez and several members of the Escobal mine resistance as they denounced a recent surge of violence against them. Quelvin in particular has been the target of various threats and attacks. I invite you to act in solidarity with the Xinka land defenders who are tirelessly and bravely mobilizing to protect their communities and territory. You can take action by joining Amnesty International’s letter writing campaign to express your concern regarding Quelvin's situation, and urge Guatemala’s Attorney General to act. And related to themes of U.S. militarism and migration, you can also participate in NISGUA’s campaign in response to the alarming and increased presence of U.S. troops and Department of Homeland Security agents in Guatemala’s northern regions. Thank you!
I also want to extend an enormous thank you for supporting me in the NISGUA May Match Campaign. Over the course of two weeks, we collectively raised $82,836! I am inspired and encouraged thinking about all the international solidarity work, horizontal exchanges, and educational opportunities made possible by this grassroots fundraising. Muchísimas gracias.
Just a quick update from me today!
As I mentioned in my most recent Friends & Family letter, last week NISGUA and Breaking the Silence co-hosted a webinar about the Maya Achí sexual violence case. The webinar featured Paulina Alvarado, a survivor and witness in the case, and Gloria Reyes, a lawyer with the Rabinal Legal Clinic bringing forward the case. Thank you to all who participated in the webinar! And for those who weren't able to, here are recordings in both English and Spanish!
One of Paulina's comments during the webinar stood out to me. She remarked that during the Internal Armed Conflict and the years after, she was ashamed of the sexual violence that she suffered. But now, the perpetrators of that violence are the ones who are ashamed of the crimes they committed. I urge you to watch these recordings, and learn about the Maya Achí sexual violence case firsthand from the incredible women bringing the case forward. Additionally, you can show your support for the Maya Achí survivors through this photo campaign (brief instructions: take a selfie with the message "Sí hubo genocidio y violencia sexual en Rabinal," or "Justice for Achí Women," or a message of your own. Send your photo by email to email@example.com). It means a lot to these women to see the worldwide support for their campaign for justice.
I'm also excited to announce that over the next two weeks (May 15th - 31st), a small group of donors has generously offered to match donations to NISGUA dollar for dollar up to $35,000––meaning a total of $70,000! Grassroots fundraising helps sustain NISGUA's accompaniment program, delegations in Guatemala, speaking tours in the States, as well as other horizontal exchanges that strengthen relationships with our partners in Guatemala. I've created a personal fundraising campaign to help NISGUA reach this goal, and I invite you to contribute! Every dollar counts (and will be doubled)!
You can make a donation here: https://crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/tals-may-match-campaign-for-nisgua
Thank you so much for following my time in Guatemala, and supporting this important work!
In gratitude and solidarity,
There’s a sign by a bus stop that I pass on afternoon runs through my neighborhood in Guatemala City. The sign is sponsored by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG), a non-profit that exhumes clandestine mass graves from the time of the Internal Armed Conflict, working to recover the identities of victims using forensic analysis along with survivor testimony. Additionally, FAFG collects DNA samples from survivors in order to identify and return the remains of their disappeared family members. Having the physical remains of loved ones who were forcibly taken, murdered, and left in unmarked graves allows for their proper burial––often according to traditional Maya customs––and for long overdue healing.
This particular FAFG sign features a picture of a Maya woman receiving a saliva swab, and announces that FAFG has collected the DNA of almost 16,000 survivors and has achieved over 3,000 identifications. Below are some photos I found on the web of similar billboards. They read, Do you have a family member disappeared between 1960 and 1996? With DNA we are identifying them, just a saliva sample is sufficient. After 30 years… we can still find them!
Aside from going on afternoon runs, I’m also in the routine of listening to Up First, NPR’s daily news podcast. There’s a recurring advertisement on this podcast for 23andMe, a company to which you can send a saliva sample and explore what your DNA reveals using 23andMe’s genetic data bank. Such ads announce, Discover how often you might move your arms and legs while sleeping. Explore reports like this with 23andMe’s health plus ancestry service kit. On a less trivial level, 23andMe’s website shares stories of customers who reunited with their birth families, discovered long lost relatives, or learned surprising details about their ancestry.
I’m continually struck by the juxtaposition of these two ads. In the States, 23andMe advertises the fun of exploring your DNA, the joy of building new family connections, and the excitement of learning about your ancestry. In Guatemala, FAFG advertisements highlight the struggle to fill the gaping holes left in Guatemala’s social fabric by a recent history of genocide.
I’m reminded on every afternoon run in Guate that even decades after the signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords in 1996, survivors of the Internal Armed Conflict are still asking these basic questions: where are my parents buried, how did my siblings die, will I be able to give my children a proper funeral? FAFG’s sign reminds me how heavily the past continues to weigh on the present in Guatemala. And how that past is often traumatic, difficult to delve into, and impossible to disconnect from the current political context.
Furthermore, the current political context in Guatemala is incredibly troubling. Over the past several months, the Guatemalan Congress has been discussing a bill to amend the 1996 Law of National Reconciliation, which named genocide, torture, and forced disappearance as unpardonable crimes. However, the proposed changes to the law would grant amnesty to those who have been convicted of these crimes, as well as other grave crimes such as sexual violence. Those convicted would be released from jail within 24 hours. (Read here to see who would go free.) The proposed legislation would also terminate all cases currently underway involving such crimes, and would keep any cases from being heard in the future.
Due to mounting national and international pressure––including a court order by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights––the third and final reading of the ‘amnesty bill’ has not been scheduled. However, the bill has not been permanently shelved either. Furthermore, Congress has since changed tactics, focusing on other initiatives that would ultimately achieve a similar goal. (This article provides a fantastic overview of where the ‘amnesty bill’ currently stands, Congress’ shift in strategy, and the general uncertainty of Guatemala’s future due to upcoming presidential elections in June.)
One of the cases that would be put to a stop with the passing of the ‘amnesty bill’ is the Maya Achí sexual violence case. In this case, 36 women from rural villages around the town of Rabinal are speaking out against the men who raped them in the early 80s. At the time, these men were members of civil defense patrols (PACs) that operated under military command during the Internal Armed Conflict. Notably, up until they were arrested in May of last year, these men continued to live in the same areas as the women now testifying against them. And if acquitted or granted amnesty, they would return to these same communities.
I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the Maya Achí sexual violence case, since we accompany several of the women involved in the case as well as their legal team. This accompaniment entails attending court hearings in Guatemala City, meeting with lawyers in the town of Rabinal, and traveling to the surrounding villages to visit the women in their homes.
In late February, I found myself bumping along a rocky road in a camioneta (colorfully painted old U.S. school bus, a common form of transportation here in Guate) on my way to the mountainous village of Chichupac. I had previously met many of the women from Chichupac at a press conference in Guatemala City, as I mentioned in my last F&F. However, as we hiked up and down the steep hills of Chichupac to reach their houses, I was struck by the women’s courage to take part in legal proceedings so far away––especially considering the dangers they face close to home (the families of the men arrested continue to live nearby). And given that legal proceedings in Guatemala City seem worlds away from the rural reality of the everyday lives of these women, their determination in the face of a looming ‘amnesty bill’ is even more inspiring. Not to mention that this case breaks deeply rooted social taboos surrounding the discussion of sexual violence.
This short clip provides a small window into the world of these Maya Achí women:
Earlier this week, we accompanied the women of the Maya Achí sexual violence case––along with many others who travelled from their villages around Rabinal in solidarity––during two days of court hearings. As we left the courthouse together on the second day, one of the lawyers was struggling with a large duffle bag full of legal documents. Without hesitation, one of the women involved in the case picked up the bag and easily slung the strap across her forehead, the way she would normally carry bundles of firewood at home. This moment stands out to me as a perfect representation of all the strength these Maya Achí women bring to their struggle for justice.
I invite you to stand in solidarity with the women of the Maya Achí sexual violence case––as well as all survivors of the Internal Armed Conflict as they fight for truth, justice, and memory against a government that favors impunity. You can find a list of concrete actions to take against the proposed ‘amnesty bill’ here––such as calling your elected representatives, signing a petition organized by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and joining Amnesty International in a letter writing campaign. And if you’d like to learn more about the Maya Achí sexual violence case, tune in on May 9th at 6 PM Eastern time for a webinar (in English) co-organized by NISGUA and Breaking the Silence, featuring both one of the lawyers and one of the women testifying in the case. You can find more info here, and register for the webinar here.
Wishing a happy holidays to all those who celebrated Easter and Passover this past week.
In solidarity and gratitude,
A warm hello to my family, friends, and mentors (in many combinations)!
Since early October, I have been living in Guatemala City working as an international human rights accompanier with the organization NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala). Along with accompaniers from several other international organizations, we make up a team that provides a dissuasive physical presence at the request of Guatemalan individuals, communities and organizations that are at risk for their activism. This activism typically falls into two categories: justice for crimes of the past, and the defense of life and territory. Essentially, accompaniment work can entail attending court hearings in cases against former military members guilty of crimes committed during Guatemala’s 36-year Internal Armed Conflict, or making regular visits to regions where Indigenous communities are resisting transnationally owned mega-development projects such as mines and hydroelectrics dams. (You can read more about how accompaniment functions here.)
In addition to monitoring the conditions of human rights defenders in Guate, we utilize the platforms available to us to disseminate this information. In doing so, accompaniers can hold the Guatemalan government and private powers accountable to an international audience, as well as educate others around the world about the grassroots movements here. And that’s where this email update––called a “Friends and Family letter”––comes into play. These updates are part keeping in touch, part educational, and part call to action. At the root of it all, I want to keep you in the loop because I care deeply about this work and I care deeply about you.
The Internal Armed Conflict
To understand the current context in Guatemala, it is essential to understand the basics of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict. This conflict––which ended officially in 1996 with the signing of the Guatemalan Peace Accords––grew out of a struggle for land and resources, and was further fueled by Cold War era fears of communism, as well as virulent racism towards Guatemala’s majority Indigenous Maya population.
Let’s begin in the 1950s, when Guatemala’s democratically elected president began a campaign of agrarian reform benefitting hundreds of thousands of poverty stricken Guatemalan campesinos, or rural farmers. In response, the CIA orchestrated a military coup in 1954 to instate a ruler who would protect the United States’ economic interests––mainly, the United Fruit Company's control of the vast majority of Guatemala’s farmland, only a sixth of which the corporation actually used to cultivate. (It’s notable that the U.S. Secretary of State as well as the director of the CIA at the time––brothers John Foster and Allen Dulles––both had extremely close ties to the United Fruit Company.)
An Internal Armed Conflict soon broke out across the country as several left-wing guerrilla groups formed to oppose the new oppressive regime. This conflict lasted 36 years, during which a sequence of dictatorships, claiming to wage war against guerrilla insurgents, unleashed horrific violence against civilians, murdering an estimated 200,000 people. The majority of these victims were Indigenous Maya.
During the most brutal years of the conflict––in the early 80s under the leadership of Fernando Romeo Lucas García and Efraín Ríos Montt––the Guatemalan military implemented a strategy called the ‘scorched earth campaign,’ which supposedly aimed to target guerrillas by cutting off their access to resources. In reality, this meant murdering entire populations of villages, burning houses and crops to the ground, killing livestock, and patrolling the area to prevent the return of any survivors. Torture, sexual violence, and forced disappearances were also common tactics used against civilian populations.
Over the course of the conflict, the Guatemalan military committed 626 massacres across the country, wiping hundreds of villages completely off the map. Furthermore, over one million people were displaced from their homes. By attempting to destroy Indigenous Maya communities and cultures, the Guatemalan military engaged in a policy of genocide. Many of the racist attitudes and practices that fueled these genocides remain relevant today.
Legacies of the Conflict: Continued Repression, Unending Resistance
If you look at a map marking the sites where the Guatemalan military carried out massacres against civilian populations in the 1980s, and then look at a map marking the locations of current mega-development projects around the country (the blueprints of which were elaborated in the 1970s), they are almost identical. Essentially, the desire to appropriate and exploit Guatemala’s land and natural resources, in combination with a total disregard for Indigenous lives and cultures––the same desire and disregard espoused by Spanish conquistadors five centuries ago, and by the United Fruit company only decades ago––led to the murder and displacement of over one million people.
After the Guatemalan Peace Accords were signed in 1996, the Guatemalan government essentially gave foreign companies the green light to begin constructing mega-development projects in territories where Indigenous resistance had now been weakened. Such construction, however, carried out in the name of ‘development,’ violates the inherent right of Indigenous communities to give or withhold free, prior, and informed consent to the building of these projects on their territory––a right acknowledged and guaranteed in both the Peace Accords and the International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 169, which Guatemala’s government ratified in 1989.
For decades, Indigenous and campesino human rights defenders have organized in resistance to such intrusive and destructive mega-development projects. However, this resistance has been met with escalating repression as the Guatemalan government and private powers utilize tactics of criminalization and other forms of violence to curb such activism. Just this past year, “26 members of mostly Indigenous campesino organizations have been killed” due to their work (read or listen to this recent NPR report here). Nonetheless, across the country, human rights defenders continue fighting in defense of life and territory, campaigning for justice for the both the crimes of the present as well as the past.
Making connections: My Experience as an Accompanier
My work over the past few months has deepened and concretized my understanding of these connections between past and present. I’ve had the opportunity to accompany the plaintiffs in a case of transitional justice, as well as accompany Indigenous community leaders who are currently being criminalized for their efforts to protect their ancestral territory. These both have been powerful experiences, full of setbacks and victories, and a wide range of complicated emotions.
Justice for Crimes of the Past: The Dos Erres Massacre Case
During the beginning of my time here, I attended numerous court hearings in the Dos Erres massacre case. This case involves a massacre committed in 1982, during which Guatemalan special forces murdered nearly every inhabitant of the now non-existent village of Dos Erres. (For more information about these events and the subsequent battle for justice, you can read, listen, or watch.)
For several weeks, I regularly made my way to a very tall and imposing building in the heart of Guatemala City, passing through three security checkpoints and climbing thirteen flights of stairs to the courtroom where ex-special forces soldier Santos López Alonzo stood trial for his role in the massacre. He was accused of crimes against humanity, the murder of 171 people, and crimes committed specifically against Ramiro Antonio Osorio Cristales––the young boy López Alonzo abducted from Dos Erres during the massacre, illegally registered as his own son, and subjected to years of abuse.
As I recall my experience accompanying this case, certain moments of the trial stand out to me. I remember sitting behind a row of witnesses––older campesino men who had all lost multiple family members in the massacre––as they playfully tapped each other on the opposite shoulder, chuckling at the confusion that followed, and then trying the same trick on their neighbor. And I remember during long days of heartbreaking testimonies, every few hours one of the witnesses would leave to buy candies, then tiptoe around the room to pass them out. A chorus of plastic crinkling followed by muffled laughter would always ensue. In these moments I reflected on community healing, the importance of moments of levity when reliving trauma, and the solidarity that can be built by navigating the legal system together––no matter the outcome of such proceedings.
I experienced confusing moments too. Such as when the daughter of López Alonzo––who himself is from a poor rural town––testified in his defense. The judge reminded her that as a family member of the defendant, she was not obligated to testify. She responded innocently, Would it help? And I remember the cage-like area López Alonzo was kept in during hearings, and how reporters would press their cameras up against the bars, as if taking pictures of an animal at the zoo. It was incredibly confusing to recognize the humanity of López Alonzo and thus feel sorry for his dehumanization, when he himself had committed the most unimaginable atrocities.
López Alonzo was ultimately convicted of crimes against humanity and 171 counts of murder, carrying a prison sentence of 5,160 years. In fact, he is the sixth person convicted in the ongoing Dos Erres massacre case. He was acquitted, however, of the crimes committed specifically against Osorio Cristales. (For Spanish speakers, here is an article I wrote with more details about the trial.)
López Alonzo’s conviction was ultimately a bittersweet victory. First of all, his guilty verdict lacked justice for Osorio Cristales, now an adult living in Canada for his safety. Secondly, the same court that sentenced López Alonzo to a lifetime in prison subsequently denied the plaintiffs’ principal petitions for reparations. While legal recognition of crimes of the past is hugely important, reparations are arguably even more impactful for massacre survivors who have lost not only family members, but also their homes, their lands, their crops, and all of their possessions. Furthermore, these losses have intergenerational impacts, as it is immensely difficult to recoup after losing everything built over the course of a lifetime.
In fact, just the day after López Alonzo’s sentencing, I accompanied survivors of another 1982 massacre committed in the village of Chichupac as they held a press conference to denounce the Guatemalan government’s failure to comply with reparations ordered two years earlier by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. As it happens, the same court produced a similar ruling in 2009 regarding the Dos Erres massacre––a ruling with which the Guatemalan government has also failed to comply. And as evidenced in the case brought against López Alonzo, family members of those who perished in the Dos Erres massacre are still fighting for these same reparations a decade later. It struck me that even as Guatemalan courts hand down guilty verdicts to those responsible for crimes of the past, survivors of violence committed during the Internal Armed Conflict are continuously denied meaningful and comprehensive justice.
Defense of Life and Territory: The Corozal Arriba Case
Shortly after accompanying the plaintiffs of the Dos Erres massacre case, I began accompanying the defendants of a different case. It was the case of several Maya Ch’orti’ men from the town of Corozal Arriba––including two of the village’s Indigenous authorities––who are active in the struggle to defend their ancestral territory against wealthy landowners. This group of men had been sentenced to 6 years in prison for a crime they did not commit, and were thus appealing their sentence.
As I mentioned before, criminalization is a common strategy used to halt the work of human rights defenders. Often, targets of this tactic are accused of crimes that require preventative prison as they await their trials. Those trials are subsequently dragged out and stalled, maximizing the time human rights defenders spend behind bars. Whether they are ultimately convicted on trumped up charges or eventually freed due to insufficient evidence, these activists often spend years behind bars. Meanwhile, their families suffer emotionally and financially in their absence. Furthermore, their criminalization is intended to incite fear amongst other human rights defenders doing the same work.
In this particular case of blatant criminalization, the 6 year sentence of these Maya Ch’orti’ human rights defenders was lowered drastically during the appeals process. Since these men had already spent almost two full years in prison, this new ruling meant their liberation. But again, it was a bittersweet victory. Their conviction was not technically reversed. Furthermore, several other members of their community currently face arrest warrants for the same false accusation, and would likely be similarly convicted once captured and tried. Furthermore, the court failed to acknowledge the systematic purposeful targeting of Indigenous authorities.*
I’m still learning how to utilize the despair I feel when reflecting on the injustices of the world to motivate me rather than immobilize me. And I’m still learning how let myself contemplate the sheer scale of it all, while continuing to value the importance of every step forward. And I’m still learning how to celebrate the bittersweet victories––fully embracing their gains while not losing sight of the work that still needs to be done.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting outside a courthouse with several community members from Corozal Arriba, waiting for a hearing to begin. We had all woken up before dawn to travel several hours to the town where this case was being heard. Elodia, the Indigenous mayor of another Maya Ch'orti' town near Corozal Arriba, prepared us for the disappointing possibility that this hearing would be suspended. She reminded us, it is never a waste of time when hearings are postponed, because time is never wasted on the path to justice. Suspended hearings are just another step on that path. And if we don’t open and follow that path, who will? Elodia’s words perfectly illustrate the perseverance and dedication we all need as we forge the path to create and sustain a more just, conscientious, and transparent society.
In the spirit of celebrating victories, take a look at NISGUA’s end-of-the-year report highlighting accomplishments of 2018 here. And in the spirit of taking action, sign a petition to stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities defending community consultations. (Community consultations are an ancestral decision-making practice used as a consensus-building and organizing tool––often to resist the construction of mega-development projects––which is currently under threat by the Guatemalan government.) Check out more ways to take action in regards to other urgent issues in Guate here. And if you want to share this email with others, feel free to forward it along, as well as this sign-up link for future updates.
I hope 2019 has been off to a fulfilling start, and I’m wishing you continued nourishment in the months ahead!
*A section from fellow accompanier Olivia Pandolfi’s Friends and Family Letter, further elaborating on this issue: Indigenous authorities . . . are already marginalized both in society at large and specifically by the Guatemalan state, which often refuses to recognize Indigenous leaders, decisions, and legal systems. Many Mayan communities have retained ancestral governments and legal structures that operate from a cosmovision of justice, property, and leadership distinct from that of the state system. . . . At times, the state and Indigenous frameworks can exist simultaneously without conflict, but more often, where they overlap, the police and the Ministerio Público (a rough equivalent to the US Attorney General’s office) criminalize the actions of Indigenous authorities rather than recognizing their legitimacy.