This is a special presentation brought to you by a special trip organized through Proyecto Linguistico Quetzaltenango. The following videos represent a part of the story of the Guatemalan people of San Miguel Ixtuacan who were affected by the Marlin Mine in the area owned by a Canadian Company. It is an eye-opening experience to the attrocities that are these peoples daily reality. Im not going to write much this post except for a little background information. Id rather let the video speak for itself – and speak to you directly. I hope these stories are as moving to you as they are to me, and a special thanks for all of you that supported this trip and made this possible. I only hope that things that we learned that day and moved you in that moment, move you to make some kind of action against such globalization. With voices united a lot more can be possible.
Although, mining has historically been limited in Guatemala due to the long civil war. Canada and Canadian owned INCO moved quickly to get their foot in the door during the worst parts of the civil war in the 80s (I described their involvement in my first post). With the Peace Accords of 1996 came sweeping changes for privitization of land and relaxed mining and environmental regulations that swept away the hopes of the revolution for land distribution, poverty alleviation, and social programs. The changes strongly encouraged exploitative mining industries in the country by slashing the royalties paid by foreign companies from 6% to 1% of their profits. The latest information coming from Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mining states that in 2007, there were 322 permits given for mineral mining concentrated in the mountainous areas of four departments in Guatemala. Places where the majority of the people are poor, indigenous, with the least amount of access to formal education, health care, or other fundamental basic rights enshrined by the UN, this is where the majority of the resistance has been gaining strength and where social protests have reached national attention. Now it is time to increase that attention internationally, because what is happening in Guatemala, is an attrocity to human rights and just a glimpse of the reality of what is happening throughout Latin America in the name of Free Trade. A blatant disregard for life, and the wilful contamination of water resources, expropriation of land, and direct threats and assasinations to key leaders of resistance. Unfortunately Canadian companies represent 80% of land concessions made for mining operations in Guatemala currently. As well, due to a favourable mining laws, lax environmental organizations, overseas money laundering schemes, and perhaps a more favourable international reputation than, lets say… the US, upwards of 70-75% of multinational mining companies are now registered in Canada through the stock exchanges of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
Please read a summary provided by McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America. Their description of what is happening in Guatemala is very well researched, factual, and briefly summarized. Please take a look before heading into the videos. It will be very helpful, if you have no background understanding of such mining issues.
The first two videos are being given at the sites of the Marlin Mine with our guide from the organization ADISMI
The third video is an empassioned talk with a Guatemalan woman who was attacked as a result of community politics and her battle to protect her land from the Company.
Thanks for the excellent translation services of the students, paticularly Lena. As well, excuse some of the faulty camera skills I have. I am no expert.
For more information on Canadian International mining activities in Guatemala or throughout Latin America, check out McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America and check out COUNTRY PROFILES
For more Information on Canadas violations of human rights due to mining in Guatemala, check out Rights Action, and if you are compelled to, please get involved or at least sign a petition.
The harsh reality is that if you are a Canadian, unaware of the reality of mining in your country or overseas and its harsh tactics of reppression, violence, threats to life and the environment, you are contributing to these international companies directly solely by being associated with a Canadian bank (even if it is a credit union). Your money finds its way into investments that directly aid companies like Goldcorp. This is especially true if you are the owner of mutual funds, have some money being paid into your Pension. Your Pensions invest heavily in these companies. For more information on this reality, read about the Money Thread, and learn how to stop it!
The Music of Resistance
Heres a video of my favourite hip hop and spoken word artist Ian Kamau. It is a reminder that many of us although from different class systems, can often feel powerless, either due to economic poverty or a poverty of spirit. It seems fitting in a situation like this, where when people learn about the reality of the situation, feel powerless to do anything. This felt like the self-fulfilling prophecy of my upbringing. Hopefully it provides some inspiration your way, that something can be done. If you like his work, be sure to check out his spoken word work also. I believe some of his albums are available on bandcamp for almost nothing.
Ana Tijoux shows the impact of the Shock Doctrine to push through privatization during a perceived crisis usually accompanied by state violence. This seems very fitting for Guatemala where the current government is trying to push through privatization of water, electricity, and health care. A Very well done video. Inspirational to the student protests of Chile. This is what we need too!
For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Shock doctrine. This short video by Naomi Klein illustrates clearly the use of state terror on a national and global scale to push through neo-liberalization and free trade programs. Here is a quick 5 minute video that summarizes her ideas.
Here is a movie about the Marlin Mine called “El Oro o la vida” It provides some excellent background on the issue of gold mining, with emphasis on this case as well. It is in spanish with english subtitles.
And finally, a poem I wrote. A small part of my thoughts and reflections that I wanted to share with you all.
Inside the creation of a mother
A memory game – and life that was lost becomes the consequence of memory loss.
The powerful imagery of classism repeats itself
A lesson of memory and memory lost
One overcomes the “other” by consequently being
From outside the lines drawn upon them
Their bodies being the canvas for the colonizer
Painted in vibrant colours, yet reduced to simplicity
A beauty of nature that naturally couldn’t actualize itself
War needed to remake what couldn’t be done “naturally”
Sometimes scars were scored across their chests
Eyes branded, hair scalped for cultural currency
demarcating the reconstruction of a pliable mold
What couldn’t be accepted would naturally then become sold
Eyes rebranded the colour blue initiating another interpretation of identity
People stripped of their clothing, invaded through holy water
Sins committed in the noblest of principles
To brighten or lighten the canvas – purify the body
Like water cleansed with chemical civility
Flushing the complex chaotic intrecate interconnected rivers
Oceans and skies from their relationships of community, clan and nation
Thousands of years of memory protected through birthright
A mother’s sacred ability to recreate life – the birthplace of
human ingenuity, human creativity – suddenly the site of war
The umbilical cord of life’s sacred balance cut off
the bodies will no longer produce – though they can be
Remolded, Blued, Lightened
Perfected, Blond, Delicate
Dependent, Fragile, Complascent
Consumerism molds over the scars, the wounds
That continue to bleed, the screams cry out as
the body of history’s fragile mask cracks
under the whip of violence – the art
reflecting the thoughts of a civilization lost!
A state of feeling distraught overcomes me
Overwhelmed simultaneously by fear and guilt
Guilt of not helping enough
And fear of not being able to control
Pain and sorrow dropped in torrential downpours
That now seep into the leaves and bark of trees
The water clings to every leaf
Almost like a desire to grow, flourish, be nourished
Love – a desire to absorb and give more life
Unleashing some kind of unconscious energy
A knowledge bred in the womb
The genealogy of beauty, of love!
My deepest seated fears remain that I can’t give all that’s required
I can give all my money away to become destitute
But if humankind requires a profound love beyond the material
There is so much more beyond I – a collective ability to go beyond
Beyond Nationhood and individual identity, go beyond borders and
Chains of Isolation, Expropriation, Dislocation, Discrimination
Where collective eyes regain the knowledge of their roots
That sees freedom from inside a space larger than where we began