Mayan communities end a nine day march from Cobán, Alta Verapaz, to Guatemala City in demands for their rights
Many practices, such as gold mining, palm tree plantations for bio-fuels or other agricultural businesses in Guatemala are not only endangering traditional communities’ health but also preventing them from sustainably harvesting their own crops. Also, Mayan families have been forcefully evicted from their homes in favor of those great land owner businesses.
To show their discontent and to demand Guatemalan government to urgently address a reform of land rights, about 1500 Mayans walked 200 km from the town of Cobán to Guatemala City.
Shortly before the group arrived there was a land-wide power cut, which impeded the rest of the organizers waiting in front of the National Palace of Culture (Palacio Nacional de la Cultura) to use their microphones and loud speakers. At about 11 am, though, the power was back.
The march ended at midday in front of the former headquarters of the President of Guatemala known as the National Palace of Culture, which today holds a museum and thus is under the auspice of the Ministry of Culture.
The protesters met with members of parliament and the supreme court and handed out a number of petitions to Otto Pérez Molina, the president of the Guatemalan Republic. These included demands to end forced evictions against rural communities, to reform mining exploration and extraction and to subsidize fertilizer up to 100 % for indigenous farmers.
“If we don’t get concrete answers from the government, we will camp here on the square until we do. We don’t want more promises”, said Billy Ochoa, member of the Colectivo Caja Lúdica. Álvaro Pop, from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told the newspaper Siglo 21: “This is a historic march. The communities’ requests will be of benefit to the whole country, as more than two thirds of Guatemala’s economy depend on agriculture.”
According to Asociación Avivara, an NGO, massive land expropriation from the indigenous population in this central american country has resulted in one of the most unequal distributions in the world: 80 % of the fertile land belongs to just 2 % of the population.
Text & Pictures: Josephine Landertinger Forero