By: Jen Wambolt
Our fifth day was a one of celebration and commemoration since it was Mother’s day and German’s birthday. It was also the 40th day after the death of Hector, Angelica Choc’s nephew, which is the day of the soul’s ascension.
As someone who suffers with PTSD, I know all too well how it feels to return to the places where I’ve experienced trauma. We met at the home of Angelica Choc, a woman who lives beside the soccer field where her husband Adolfo Ich was killed, a field that has since been renamed in his honour.
In the morning, after wishing everyone a happy Mother’s day, we were invited to participate in a candle lighting ceremony before hearing the stories of people affected by the local nickel mine in El Estor.
Guatemalan mining laws only allow for a mine to posses a maximum of 20km of land but the government gave the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) a permit of 200km. CGN restricts the Indigenous people from going on the land to collect their firewood as they have always done. The contamination in their beautiful Lake Izabal has reduced the fish population, taking the fishermen’s livelihoods away. Without consultation, the people are systemically driven into poverty, where they struggle to survive with little time and energy left to fight for their land, their people and their lives.
In the afternoon, we met with the La Bendición Project woman’s group, of which Anglica Choc is a founder. The members told us about their daily struggles and how they’ve banded together in support of each other, realizing they are all in this together and together they have more strength.
We also visited with María Choc, Angelica’s sister, who told us how she has been brought up on false charges and cannot leave her departamento (province). There seems to be no end to the resources available to prosecute her and watch her every move, but there are no resources to pursue justice from the mining company.
At supper, we were joined by German, his partner Estela and his son. German was shot the day Angelica’s husband was killed, resulting in him being paralyzed and in a wheelchair for life. Coincidentally, it was German’s 30th birthday and we surprised him with a delicious celebratory cake and birthday songs. From there, we were invited to attend the customary religious celebration of the 40th day after the brutal killing of Angelica’s nephew, Hector, where we joined many community members singing and clapping to religious music, to honour Hector’s tragic and untimely passing.