On Wednesday the 12th of October SweFOR observed the March for the Recovery of Ancestral Lands on the International Day of Dignity and Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance. Over 500 people representing numerous different organisations and indigenous people gathered together to march for their rights.
On the 12th of October, the International Day of Dignity and Indiginous Black and Popular Resistence – not by coincidence the same date as the anniversary of the Spanish conquest – human rights defenders from all over Guatemala gathered at the Plaza Obelisco in Zone 9 to march the three-hours walk to the Supreme Court of Justice and the Congress in Zone 1 of Guatemala City to demand the recognition and implementation of their rights. We accompanied an organisation called Comundich, which represents the Maya Ch’orti’ people who have been marginalised, strongly discriminated against, and abandoned by the state of Guatemala, which has led to the loss of their cultural identity. Comundich was founded to reinforce indigenous identity, promote gender equality and youth engagement, and fight poverty and malnutrition in the Ch’orti’ region which today expands throughout the departments of Chiquimula and Zacapa and over to Honduras. When the borders of Guatemala were drawn, the existence and the territory of the original people was not taken into consideration. The comunities forming part of Comundich attain official acknowledgment by statal entities as being indigenous. Comundich operates by strengthening a sense of cultural identity by building a network throughout Ch’orti’ communities, and then claiming their ancestral land rights.
This year, the day of the march, the Ch’orti’ people and three other Mayan groups – Ixil, Kaqchikel and Q’eqchi’ — marched and filed constitutional actions, demanding land rights to which they are entitled. For the first time in history, in Febrary and March of this year two Ch’orti’ communities, Tachoche and Tizamarte, were officially recognised as indigenous communities by the highest court of Guatemala after their inscription as indigenous community had been illicitly revoked by the municipality of Camotan. The shared land of these communities has been registered as their communal property; this, however, has not been respected and the municipality has illicitly authorized the splitting up of communal lands and access to natural resources, . The same disrespect and violation of communal property has been committed in Morola, another Ch’orti’ community in the same municipality of Camotan in the department of Chiquimula. Legal Actions for land restitution were presented in these two cases that day.
It was an impactful moment when the organisations presenting their demands gathered around the Plaza of human rights in front of the Palace of Justice and claimed their rights through loudspeakers while magistrates of the judicial body came outside to meet them. Many reporters accompanied the march and especially this precise significant moment of encounter for the indigenous people – a vast majority oppressed by the white minority. After these legal actions were symbolically handed in directly by representatives of each of the 4 aforementioned Maya peoples, supported by numerous other indigenous groups, such as Maya- Achi, Mam, Q’anjobaal, Quiche and Xinka as well as countrywide organisations such as the CUC and the Assamblea Popular y Social and many more, the march continued to Congress.
In front of the congress a press conference was held and the participants camped-out there for the following two days. The representatives of the people demand the recognition of Guatemala as a plurinational state and the respective reform of the constitution as well as a revision of the water diversion act.
Laura Kleiner, PeaceObserver for SweFor (Kristna Fredsrörelsen) in Guatemala.