Central America

If you read our last blog post, you´d remember that our week was tiring to say the least. In addition to our regular activities, we also made room for salsa lessons and a birthday celebration (happy birthday to OGGer Anna Marzsalek)! Perhaps the most fun...

Xela, Xela, Xela!* The resounding repetition was our cue to hop on the chicken bus that would take us to quite possibly the cutest city in the whole world. Nine eager, ambitious and passionate participants had joined us just a day prior with a gleam...

Tzibal is a small indigenous village located about two kilometers from Campur in what I affectionately call Guatemala’s “egg carton hills” but don’t try to find it on a map. There are about 380 Q'eqchi' residents who rely on the farming of coffee, cardamom, bananas,...

Having conquered Santa Maria everyone displayed a new determination and the calves to match, and seemed keen to stretch their new legs “off the grid”. So following our week in Xela OGG hooked up with Quetzaltrekkers again to undertake a week long trek across a 70km stretch of the Sierra Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. The walk took us from the Ixil Triangle, a unique and isolated enclave of Ixil Maya, who had endured perhaps the most intense and sustained repression during the civil war, to the colourful Mam Maya community of Todos Santos, where the traditional white and red striped trousers still adorn the men’s legs and the blue ribboned straw hats still sit atop people’s heads.

In 2010, repeated recommendations came from the international community to suspend Goldcorp’s controversial Marlin Mine in the North-Western highlands of Guatemala. The open-pit mine however, continues to operate. Its presence in the indigenous municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa continues to generate allegations of serious human rights violations and fomenting social upheaval.
In February, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommended that the Marlin Mine be suspended for having failed to ensure the right of communities to free, prior and informed consent, a stipulation of ILO Convention 169 and condition of the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords (see the ILO decision). Then on May 20th the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHRC) also demanded that the Guatemalan government suspend the operation so as to ensure the provision of human rights and environmental protection while a full investigation is conducted. On June 18th, the United Nations Special Rapporteur added that “according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, projects that have a significant impact on the rights of indigenous peoples such as the Marlin mine, should not be implemented without the consent of the communities affected Indigenous Peoples.” And “if there is a substantial risk of injury to the health or physical well being of the people due to the mine, the Ministry of Energy and Mines must proceed with the suspension of activities...” (See Rapporteur's Press Release) The Guatemalan government agreed, but has failed to enforce the order.