The struggle continues: Reflections in times of COVID-19
The setting sun shines through bougainvillea flowers in central Guatemala.
I write to you today from my kitchen table, thankful for the pink-blossomed trees outside and the available resources for digital communications. On behalf of all of us at NISGUA, I want to offer deep gratitude for each of you – volunteers, donors, organizers, tour hosts, partnering organizations, delegation participants. In moments such as this, I am overwhelmed by the vastness of the NISGUA community. Thank you for all you do.
We are deeply aware that this pandemic was preventable. Governments and neoliberal institutions have failed us. We also know that those who are systematically oppressed by racism, xenophobia, transphobia, and classism will be the most impacted by this crisis. At the same time, these same communities, especially those who are disabled and chronically ill, are those from whom we have the most to learn in times of crisis. We are grateful for their instructive leadership, and we are listening.
International accompaniment in these times will look very different. We are working alongside our partners and others with whom we collaborate to make the very best decisions as to how we can prevent the spread of the virus, while finding creative ways to support and accompany our partners. Current volunteers have been calling partners to check in on them and to gain understanding about how this crisis is impacting them and their communities. Many have reported that they are taking precautions by suspending meetings and assemblies, while others report self-determined health and safety protocols that include community-level border closings. Moreover, the Guatemalan state has put into place extensive measures to prevent the spread of the virus. While state-wide precautions are necessary, we have serious concerns around the potential for increased criminalization and militarization during these times.
Signs at the Escobal mine resistance encampment in Casillas.
One example of the unique impact that this situation has upon those defending life, land, and water come from our partners in resistance to the Escobal silver mine. They have been forced to shut down their peaceful checkpoint due to an imposed curfew, which heightens existing fears that Pan American Silver, the company that owns the mine, will be able to take advantage of this crisis to move forward construction.
“At the moment, the coronavirus is deeply affecting communities and the economy. It is very stressful for people in Guatemala, as it is a global virus affecting everyone. In Santa Rosa, the shops are closed, there is no money and people are following the orders of the president and the bishop – taking the necessary precautions to wash their hands, stay home when they can, and not be in contact with other people. Still, the defense of land continues … Communities want the virus to pass so we can continue our activities.”
– Paty Gregorio, Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa, and Jutiapa
In this moment, we must continue to be vigilant and active. Our campaign against the safe third country agreements will continue, and we need the bold engagement of our community throughout these difficult times. We have canceled our spring tour, but will host a virtual presentation of “Ancestral Movements: Indigenous Territory and Migration” on April 16. Please join us!
We remain committed to long-haul relationship building across and beyond borders. Though the work – and the world – has fundamentally changed over the course of the last eight weeks, the struggle for human rights and mutual liberation continues. As we adapt, evolve, grow, grieve, and learn new ways of connecting with each other in the time ahead, please be gentle on yourself and feel welcomed to reach out to the NISGUA community. We are walking this new path with you.
U.S. Operations & Programs Coordinator
With the entire NISGUA team: Sarasuadi, Bridget, and Claire