On Sunday, September 2nd, the Reynoso Pacheco family accompanied by BTS staff Lisa Rankin, traveled to Coban, Alta Verapaz to present the 2018 Topacio Reynoso Pacheco Award to AJODER (the Association for Development and Social Recovery). As always, the presentation of the award was a bitter-sweet moment, remembering Topacio and the dreams which she herself was not able to see to fulfillment, but also the continuation of her work through other youth groups throughout Guatemala.
AJODER is a youth organization dedicated to the political formation of youth, as well as supporting communities in land conflicts and those affected by the 36 year Internal Armed Conflict in Guatemala. The group plans to use the funds from the prize to purchase a camera to be able to share news from a community perspective.
Reisy Cajbon, member of AJODER stated, “I participate in AJODER because I think that the participation of youth is very important in our society because we need to be the change so that we can know ourselves, and who we are as people who were born in Guatemala.”
AJODER was one of the first politicized groups Topacio had met in Guatemala. During a youth festival in Topacio’s hometown of Mataquesuintla, Jalapa, she shared with event organizers that she also played music and wrote poetry. They then planned to have Topacio open the upcoming youth festival in Quetzaltenango a few months away. However, this never happened. Sadly, Topacio and her father were ambushed in an armed attack on April 13, 2014. Her father survived but Topacio succumbed to her injuries. Her family maintains that their ongoing activism and outspoken criticism of the Tahoe Resources Escobal mine was the reason for the attack. After four years later, no one has been arrested for her murder.
Josue Coy Ac, current coordinator of AJODER stated, “It is an honour to receive something in the name of a person who we knew, who we stood together with and we have had to live with the pain in our souls. Because of this, we continue our struggle, continue to make the dreams Topacio had at that time a reality, which has energized all of us. Just knowing her made us reflect on many common points, and how to strengthen that part [of our work], to help others, and especially young people who are the reason for tomorrow. If today, youth are well-orientated, it’s possible that tomorrow we won’t have a state, a government, a place as corrupt as present-day Guatemala. With these types of people we will start to change the reality.”
The Topacio Reynoso Pacheco Award is made possible with support from the Reynoso Pacheco family, Church in Action of the Maritime Conference of the United Church, the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, MiningWatch Canada, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and the United Steelworkers. Each year it is award to a youth group which uses art and music to raise awareness of protection of the environment, as well as the defense of land and territory.