On Sunday, March 2, 2014, ‘La Puya’ — a nonviolent resistance movement against an unwanted gold mine near residents’ homes — celebrated its two-year anniversary.
Photo highlights from the anniversary can be seen here:
Since March 2 of 2012, participants in the movement have maintained a peaceful, 24-hour blockade at the entrance to the mine. Residents are concerned about the health and environmental impacts that the mine would have on their communities; they are also fighting for their right to be consulted about the project, as required under national and international law.
At the anniversary event, community members celebrated their successes in defending their territories, as well as the recent decision by Guatemalan company P&T Contratistas to permanently pull all of their heavy machinery and other mining equipment out of the site.
“We never thought when we started this movement that we would make it to the two-year mark. For us, it is truly a victory and an example for many others,” said Álvaro Sandoval, community leader at La Puya. “The most important thing is to protect the communities’ right to decide for ourselves whether we want this project or not. It’s not up to them [outsiders] to come and impose it.”
GHRC staff members presented La Puya with a banner of recognition as well as a letter of solidarity signed by 25 organizations and nearly 2,000 individuals from over 50 countries. The resistance also formally recognized GHRC, among other individuals and organizations, for accompanying the communities in their struggle and for condemning human rights violations against them at the international level.
The day began with a march to the resistance site, with an estimated 1,000 participants, including a student marching band and supporters from communities across Guatemala. Speakers included Angelica Choc, working for justice in El Estor, Yuri Melini of CALAS, Daniel Pascual of CUC, and Maya Alvarado of UNAMG. All shared words of hope, motivation, and solidarity with those of La Puya. Volunteer cooks prepared lunch for hundreds who stayed throughout the day, and an outdoor mass with live music was held in the afternoon.
During his speech, Daniel Pascual, from the Committee of Campesino Unity, congratulated La Puya on “the victory of the peaceful resistance,” but also issued a warning that “greater repression will come.” Participants recognized that their struggle is still ongoing, and reaffirmed their commitment to continuing the resistance until a long-term solution is found.