The Mam community of Cajola, Quetzaltenango, has welcomed the new year with a success in their decades long struggle for access to land.  On December 19th, 2019, through weeks of squatting outside the National Palace for the second time that year as well as back in 2018 and 2016, they forced the Government of Guatemala to restore their access to land.  The conflict dates back as early as 1911 with president Manuel Estrada Cabrera’s granting of land titles to the community, only to pass a government accord the very next year which would give the same lands to the military.  Under Jimmy Morales’ government, the well organized community supported by the Small Farmer’s Highland Committee (CCDA) began to mount pressure in 2016 to demand access to land.

After weeks of squatting outside of the National Palace on August 2019, as well as meetings with then vice president Jafeth Cabrera, the community was promised financial resources by the Guatemalan Land Fund to acquire a property valued at 70 million quetzales.  This agreement was ignored once communities moved back to Cajolá, thus prompting their return in early December 2019. Given the growing pressure, a land acquisition of 713 hectares worth an estimated 55 million quetzales in Champerico, Retalhuleu was given to them.  According to sources linked to Jafeth Cabrera, part of the funds used to purchase this new land came as a result of another community in the north of Petén refusing to settle another land dispute in Laguna Larga, San Andrés, allegations which were denied by community members in that region.  

The success of Cajolá is a small glimmer of hope in an entrenched conflict over land theft and displacement of farmer communities that stretches over generations.  As the community of Cajolá makes the transition and adjustment to this new land, from the cooler highlands to the hot coastal area, the struggle for many other communities facing eviction and waiting for access to land continues.  In 2020, we will continue to build close relations with partners such as the CCDA and support their struggles for land as a human right.