From March 6-March 16, 11 members of the 2014 BTS Delegation traveled throughout Guatemala to meet with partners and learn about struggles of the past and present.
As we began the delegation in Guatemala City, we began by learning about the long struggle for justice, and also the struggle to know the truth. The Guatemalan Women’s Union (UNAMG) taught us about their historical struggle, the role of women in the current sociopolitical context, including the role that Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz has played in bringing about change in Guatemala, and the role the organization has had in accompanying women in communities who have faced violence and ongoing assault.
In San Lucas Toliman, we heard of the work at local and national levels to bring about change with the CCDA. The historic struggle for land and agrarian reform remain a prominent goal and struggle for the organization, as levels of hunger and malnutrition continue to be at astonishingly high levels in the Guatemalan interior. While large-scale development projects use scarce resources, families don’t have enough land to produce the crops they need to be able to eat. Despite the overall GDP of the country increasing, children are facing the violence that lack of food proposes. We heard in detail how `trickle-down` development doesn’t work in countries like Guatemala, where corruption and impunity reigns.
In Chimaltenango, we met with the courageous women of Labor de Falla, Cerro Alto and Bola de Oro who face the day to day struggles of survival and resistance, along with the joyful and hopeful Labor de Falla primary school. Like the women we met at Ijat’z in San Lucas Toliman, we witnessed in awe the tenacity that so many Guatemalans have to create a more just Guatemala where everyone has enough to eat, land to produce for their families and opportunities for youth and children to grow and learn in a safe environment.
In Rabinal, we learned about the tireless and creative work of the New Hope Foundation and Inter-Cultural Bilingual Institute, the Rabinal Community Legal Clinic and met with community members in Pacux, a forced resettlement community for the survivors of the Rio Negro Massacres. We also visited the monuments to commemorate the massacres in a region where there was no combat between the Guatemalan army and the guerrilla, but where the indigenous Maya Achi population was targeted through the military strategy to “take the water from the fish.” We met survivors of the Guatemalan Genocide who shared their stories with dignity and with hope for justice and a better world, without violence, for their children and grandchildren. We also met with the energetic Qachuua Aloom, working towards food sovereignty.
In Rio Negro, we had the privilege to walk the pilgrimage from the community of Rio Negro to Pacoxom and attend the commemoration there, where the third massacre to affect the community took place on March 13. Juan Uscap, just a nine year old child at the time, guided us from his community to the place where he saw his grandmother, along with 69 other women and 107 children massacred at the hands of the Guatemalan army and the civil defense patrollers of Xococ. Juan is one of 18 who was taken as a slave back to Xococ where he lived for several years working for the men he had seen slay his community.
Finally, we visited communities affected by Canada’s Tahoe Resources’ Escobal Silver Mining Project in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. We heard about the lack of consultation about the project by local authorities and the company, but also about the incredible spirit of those making the very process possible. We heard about transformation that occurred in community members after they began to witness that the promises of the company were short term and once violence was used as a means to make way for the project. We were reminded that we have a role to play as Canadians invested in this and other mining projects in Guatemala, which are being carried out without wide-spread support.
Read our posts, share with your friends and family and consider participating in a future delegation. Most importantly, work for peace in your community, and in Guatemala, speak out against injustice when you see it and know both sides of the story; we are intimately part of the global crisis which threatens communities, territories and resources. We are also part of the movement for change, solidarity and justice. Do something today to help balance the scales. Jackie McVicar, 2014 Delegation Co-Facilitator