Ana (they/elle/ella). Internacionalista 2023 wrote this letter on January 18th, 2024.
Dear friends, family and comrades:
Bernardo Arévalo is president of Guatemala as of Monday in the very early morning. Even though he was elected on August 20th with 60% of the vote (aka landslide victory), that he would be inaugurated was not a sure thing. Since the election, there has been an avalanche of attempts at a golpe (coup) by the corrupt elite.
From the first display of intentions of golpe, the Indigenous Authorities across Guatemala have come together to defend the vote and demand the resignation of corrupt officials carrying out anti-democratic actions, including Attorney General Consuelo Porras. People demonstrated 24/7 for what ended up being 106 days, starting with a full shut down of business as usual across the country in an Indefinite National Strike, and then concentrated on sites in the capital, like the Public Ministry (headed by Porras).
The resistance of the Indigenous Authorities is historic and will continue. The 106 day resistance at the Public Ministry was sustained by 7 organized Indigenous groups traveling from their distinct territories to hold 24 hour turnos (shifts), where they spoke, danced, held ceremony, rested, ate. I can’t put into words how beautiful this space was. I’m not only talking about aesthetic beauty, I’m talking about the energy. People cooking, offering health services, music, and other contributions to take care of each other.
Photo credit: NISGUA Internacionalista. November 30, 2023. During one of the shifts of the Xinka Parliament, people take turns speaking at the microphone at the Public Prosecutor’s Office resistance.
On October 28th, less than a month into the Indefinite National Strike, Noé Gómez Barrera, a Xinka leader and rights defender was assassinated. The Xinka people were one of the 7 groups holding the resistance at the Public Ministry. This is the immediate political context in which Don Noé’s assassination took place. But his participation in fighting for his people’s rights, and for all people and land’s well being goes back many years. The Xinka people have had decades-long struggles to protect their forests, water, and health against the ongoing threat of mines and other extractive megaprojects. Their commitment to life in the face of companies that would rather see them silent or dead has cost them intimidation, criminalization, wounds and assassinations. It is also a call to action to everyone to defend life in the place you are, because it is unacceptable that land/water/life defenders be killed when they are the ones fighting for everyone, and our children, to be able to live.
May we honor the world that was his life. May we grow the seeds he planted – for a world where every community lives with clean water and air.
May we commit and recommit to fight for a world and create with each other a world where Don Noé would have grown old.
There have been so many worlds/cosmovisions that have valued life. Follow Indigenous leadership. Get organized in your community.
Photo credit: NISGUA Internacionalista. Paper with dried rose petals and the words in spanish: “Noé Gómez Barrera, Xinka leader and rights defender, assassinated October 28, 2023. #JusticeForNoé #NoMoreViolence.”
I remember one conversation with a compañero who had to leave his home at 3AM to make it to the 8AM turno at the Public Ministry. It was afternoon already and the bags under his eyes would have you think he was exhausted. However he was smiling bright with pride and genuine ánimos or energy. Pride in taking collective action to defend a just cause with his people – two of his siblings were there, and all the friends he’s made through the lucha. He told me that since he started participating, it has made his life so much better. There is no money in this lucha, that is not what you win.
We also talked about how any mobilization requires at least double the people who physically show up. For one person to show up, there has to be at least one other person supporting them at home, taking care of the goats, the children.
He’s also used to this kind of exhaustion because, like I said before, this is not the Xinka peoples first rodeo when it comes to 24/7 protests. Every month, he has a turno at one of the two resistance movements to the Escobal mine, which have been ongoing since 2017. Yes, 24/7 resistance movements since 2017. The mine was illegally operational for a couple of years from 2014. I say illegally operational because it is on Xinka land, and the Xinka people as an Indigenous group are entitled to community consultations before any extractive project is put on their land. This did not happen with the Escobal mine, owned by the Canadian company Pan American Silver, and the struggle is ongoing. Read more here in an interview of two members of the Xinka Parliament, just published as part of a three-part interview series on the Indefinite National Strike in Guatemala that NISGUA is currently publishing in collaboration with the nonprofit news organization North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)!
Photo credit: NISGUA Internacionalista. November 11, 2023. People gather for the 11th Anniversary of the self-organized Community Consultation of Mataquescuintla in which 98.42% of the people rejected extractive projects, specifically the mine in San Rafael Las Flores.
Photo credit: NISGUA Internacionalista. November 11, 2023. Picture taken near the site of the Escobal Mine in San Rafael Las Flores.
I had a conversation recently with some compañeres here about how important it is to them that the people who come as Internacionalistas/accompaniers with NISGUA have communities at home who are with them – that’s you all. Visible international presence can be supportive in certain contexts, but even more important, the web of relationships and solidarity across borders.
With appreciation for you all ❤️