November 15, 2019
by: Keely Carter
Beans, eggs, sausage, tortilla, plantain and chile sauce with a sweet cup of coffee. This is how we have started many of our days and day 6 waking up in Coban was no different. We are fortunate to have a hearty start like that when we go to visit communities outside of the cities and hear their stories of land conflict and how they continue to struggle with land rights and to provide just the necessities for their families and community members.
After gathering the essentials we would need for the day ahead, we all hopped into our van and started the journey to go see Choctun Basila and Nuevo Paraiso, two communities currently in one of the most difficult struggles to keep the land that is legally theirs. We picked Lesbia up, a member of CCDA and a supporter of these two communities, along the way.
We continued down the road and made our first stop at Choctun Basila where we were taken to their community centre that they are currently building because no matter what the communities are going through, they still continue to work to improve their lives.
These are communities of Maya Qeqchi’ people and speak their native language Qeqchi’. They also work with CCDA. Choctun Basila has been defending their territory for the past 50 years and members of the community continue to be criminalized for this. They are currently facing eviction from their land, land that they have legally registered and is rightfully theirs.
Not only are they facing eviction from their land, several community members have warrants out for their arrests and some are in jail, simply for defending what is theirs. These community members have done nothing wrong to have this happen.
There used to be green spaces full of trees and they had space to grow food for the community and to provide a source of income. Now the trees have been cut down, natural resources are diminishing and their access to land is so limited that the community struggles to survive. “Repression is a form of murder, they are slowly killing us” is how one community members put it. Community members have to defend themselves from the heavily armed guards and all they have are machetes and farming tools.
The second community we went to go see was just down the road called Nuevo Paraiso. They are also constantly living in fear of having to defend the land and natural resources that are rightfully theirs. Several community members spoke about how it is hard to continue to defend their territory but this is all they have to leave their children. They are all small farmers and this is all they know how to do. Without the land there is no food and with no food these communities will no longer exist.
During these talks, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the children of the community. We took turns drawing pictures of items we could see around us, not being able to say a word to each other, but we smiled and laughed together. You look at these kids and think, we need to do something for them. They need to be proud of where they come from and have their family traditions passed down to them and not forgotten. So what do you do? Exactly what the community members asked us to do, share their stories over and over. They were so appreciative of us coming from so far away so that we could listen to them tell their struggles. By sharing their stories maybe we can make a difference. Included in this post is a picture of the community members. They are all people who deserve to live in peace and not have their lives feel threatened on a daily basis on the land that has been a part of their history.