2009-02. Mining Resistance Continues in El Estor: Barrio La Union
February 19th, 2009
Barrio La Union. El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala.
February 15, 2009.
Part I of II.
Issues: Mining / Landless / Resistance
On January 8th and 9th, 2007, the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) ordered the eviction of hundreds of Q’eqchi’ Mayan families from five communities in the municipalities of El Estor, Izabal and Panzos, Alta Verapaz. Nearly 650 members from a combined National Police-Army force carried out the massive evictions in a violent matter while committing numerous irregularities that undoubtedly favored the mining company. CGN claims the disputed landholdings as its property.
For more information regarding the evictions and other related events documenting conflict in El Estor and Panzos caused by metal mining activities, please refer to previous photo essays by MiMundo.org by following this link.
Alfredo Cus, one of the local leaders, comments: “The mining company only came to harm us. The land belongs to us because we are one hundred percent Guatemalan. We were born here and we are never going to leave this land. We live here and we will die here. We are one hundred percent people from El Estor, hence Canadians cannot come here to boss us around. They claim the company is responsible, that it is here to help us and to bring development to the municipality of El Estor. This is a complete lie, totally false. Here, there is no work for us.”
Sixty-five year old Jesusa Juarez Ixtecoc proudly displays a framed poster featuring a photograph of her resisting the destruction of her home during the eviction of January 8, 2007. Juarez Ixtecoc points to the poster and states: “Here I am. I endured all of that. Here is the photo: Me telling them no to disassemble my home. That same evening, we returned around 3 AM. I was the first to enter the grounds again. [To the company], I am like a tick on a cow’s behind. Here I am! I want the company to help us. What is the company thinking? What are they doing?”
The poster, which serves as the main decoration in Mrs. Juarez’ tiny wooden living quarters, was produced by the Peasant and Indigenous National Coordination (CONIC) and it features a photograph from MiMundo.org.
During the January 2007 evictions, Concepcion Kim Tiul couldn’t control the desperation of seeing her home dismantled and vocalized her anger towards those carrying out the eviction. Her rampant display of frustration was captured by Canadian documentary filmmaker Steven Schnoor’s camera and featured in the now famous short video documenting the evictions (please watch the film at the end of the photo essay or follow this link in YouTube). Former ambassador to Guatemala Kenneth Cook accused Concepcion Kim Tiul of being a paid actress (for more information regarding the case against Kenneth Cook, please follow this link).
Standing in her kitchen, Kim Tiul comments: “The company has caused many problems besides the evictions. They say I was paid to act in the video. But this is not so. Necessity has forced us to be here, on this land. And this is our land! It is not the company’s! In addition, the company is threatening me. The company wants to kill me. Why? That is what I want to ask the President of Canada. Have him investigate! I am simply in this struggle because I want a little piece of land where I can live with my children.”
“We want them over there in Canada to help us, to say that this land belongs to us. There is no way they are driving us out of here. Only if the company kills me, then yes, I will leave. But my children will remain and they will keep this plot of land.”
“We need a place to work during the day, to sleep at night, to be with our children. Today, well, we do not have economic resources to obtain a piece of land. The only work we have is fishing, cultivation of corn, beans, and other subsistence crops. This is the reason we have come to this place. Not to seek wealth, but because we are in extreme poverty.” (3)
“They treat us like animals. I hope they can become a bit more thoughtful and they realize the situation we are in. Have them come visit us! Here we need running water, drains, and paved roads – development for the town of El Estor! Fine if they do their mining, but no more evictions. This is why we did not back down after the evictions. We came back that same night since the people of El Estor are united. This is why our community is called La Union. And united we will continue until we achieve our goal: the land.” (4)
The January 2007 evictions video produced by Steven Schnoor with photography from MiMundo.org. Currently, Steven Schnoor is involved in a legal case against former Canadian ambassador to Guatemala, Kenneth Cook, for defamation and other issues.
Cook initiated a campaign of disinformation, advising people that Schnoor’s video is a sham — that the woman featured in the video was a paid actress whom Schnoor hired to “perform” in this manner, and that photographs from MiMundo.org were not actually from the evictions but from the internal armed conflict which officially ended in 1996.
Versión en español aquí.
1 Filóchofo. ¡Tierra, Tierra, Tierra…! Clamor, Lucha y Resistencia Campesina. Guatemala, 2008. P. 174.
2 Interview with Haroldo Cucul Cucul. Barrio La Unión, El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala. Feb. 18, 2008.
3 Op. Cit. Haroldo Cucul Cucul.