One month ago, criminalized land defender Maria Chub Choc was released on bail. While an important step, the struggle isn’t over. Her trial is set for August 2018. Until then, she must register with the court each month and cannot leave the department of Izabal. On the day of her arraignment hearing, Maria spoke about what happened. Listen to Maria’s powerful words (in Spanish) here or read the transcript in English below:

Maria: My name is Maria Magdelena Cuc Choc.

Interviewer: Can you speak about this case? How is it that everything happened?

Maria: The truth is, I’m surprised by everything that’s happening to me. Truthfully, I’m not the type of person they have branded me as. I’m not what they are accusing me of…I was born in El Estor, Izabal, and the people of El Estor, Izabal know me well, that I am an Indigenous woman, resident of the neighbourhood La Union in El Estor, Izabal. I have worked as a leader in the communities I know. Because of the work I do, I don’t have formal employment, and I don’t receive a salary from anyone. But I’m here with my head held high, before this hearing against me. And I will leave here, also with my head held high. I’m not killing anyone, nor am I attacking anyone. I know my rights as an Indigenous woman. And as an Indigenous woman I will go forward, whatever the cost. No one can silence me. No article in the constitution says they can silence me. Nor can they force me to be silent. Because there is so much violence in our country and so much injustice. This court, that appeals our laws, but these laws are imposed and made to be co-opted by the state. The state has nothing to do with what they are accusing me of. My thoughts are free. I have the freedom of my mind. I am an Indigenous woman and I say that with my head held high. And I will continue working with my head held high in the face of anything that comes.

Interviewer: Where did it happen?

Maria: I have been involved in a case from the community of Rubel Pek, who asked me to come with them as an interpreter. On Wednesday [January 17th], they had a hearing here. But the truth is that they didn’t hold the hearing – they postponed for another day. When I heard this, I said, I have time to buy a few things for my children. So then I went to the bank, but at the bank they said my account was blocked, something that has never happened before in my life. The week before, I received money from my bank account as well, and nothing happened. And it was so odd that this time the account was blocked. My social media was also blocked. I couldn’t receive calls.

All of these threats don’t scare me because I have faith. And I know that the hills and valleys hear me.

Maria Choc - Facebook V2