March 15 Saturday – San Rafael Las Flores and Nueva Santa Rosa
It is the last day of our trip. It is the last day that we as a group will be together. How sad and how unbelievable!
Though it has been less than 10 days together, it feels like we have spent 10 months together. We intentionally created a community that allowed us to be intense and intimate though it was not always easy or comfortable. For the last few days, we have been traveling quite a bit. Our bodies are tired and our minds are almost too full to take in anything more. Yet, at the same time, we are eager to get up and tie our shoes to walk, so to speak, to be on the move to go to the places where our sisters and brothers are fighting for their life.
We got in the van heading to San Rafael Las Flores, where the Canadian mining company, Tahoe Resources, owned 40% by Goldcorp Inc, is destroying mestizo and Inidgenous Xinca communities in their pursuit to extract silver. We were greeted by Oscar Morales, a community leader, along with Erik and Artemio, father and son, who were shot at during a peaceful protest outside the entrance to the mine site. Oscar’s analysis of this illegal mining operation, mining without permit (community’s approval), went right to the root cause of what is happening in Guatemala. These two men’s testimony was powerful enough to unmask the greed of the transnational corporations. Their stories were full of determination, resilience, and grace. Just before they were shot at, they heard the police/army/security guards say, “get rid of this garbage.” In the eyes of the mining company, human beings become garbage. It is absurd and ironic, isn’t it? Who is making this sacred place, our mother earth, garbage? Who is polluting and exploiting the place that people and all creation depend on?
While they looked like ordinary gentle farmers, their speech carried mighty weight, showing the radical activism for resistance. Their tongues were courageous, gracious, and faithful. They said, “it is better to die in struggles than live cowardly. Mother earth gives us life. We live by her. That is why we resist. God gives us strength to continue in this struggle.”
At the end of our discussion, Oscar said, “We are not against Canadians but we are against Canadian mining companies.” His final speech hit right on the mark, sharp and pointy; our hearts were stirred.
Yes, their stories are our stories, because it is we, Canadians, our companies, who are taking advantage of defenseless people and making astronomical profits at the price of Guatemalan’s lives and livestock. We, ordinary citizens of Canada, benefit from this exploitation. The taxes Tahoe and Goldcorp pay build our roads, pay the nurses and doctors in our hospitals, and funds the pensions on which we will retire.
Thanks to our intense yet fruitful meeting with Erik, Artemio and Oscar, we were 2 hrs late to our next appointment which was to meet with the group, CODIDENA at Santa Rosa Roman Catholic church. Celeste Osorio, one of the leaders in this group, along with a few other members graciously and forgivingly welcomed us with smiles. Deeply committed to their Christian faith, and faith in action, they shared their wonderful, witty, subversive stories of mobilizing the communities to lead municipal consultation around mining. Their conscientious and persistent education around the impact and the injustice of mining was so effective that not only theirs but their surrounding communities (almost unanimously, over 98%) voted to reject the mining company proposal to mine near them. Once again, it was very obvious how committed and faithful their work has been.
We are humbled by their courage. We are encouraged by their love of life. Indeed we are grateful for their deep sense of interdependence. We are not alone and Thanks be To God (as a New Creed of the United Church of Canada states)! And thank you, all the folks we met on this journey. You are our teachers. We are privileged to be your companion (literally meaning breaking bread together)!
Read more about the 2014 delegation here.