In April 2015, Concepción Santay Gomez was awarded funds from GHRC’s Voiceless Speak Program to support his project to educate university students and others about human rights issues related to the construction of mega-projects in Guatemala.
Santay Gomez is heavily involved in human rights work in his hometown of Cotzal, Guatemala, where he has advocated for the rights of the local indigenous Maya Ixil community. He is an active member of the Alcaldía Indígena (the group of ancestral indigenous authorities), which promotes Ixil culture and works to defend the region’s territories from mega-mining and hydroelectric projects. Santay Gomez is also a co-founder of Ixil University, a three-year educational program that teaches students about Ixil ways of knowing and indigenous rights.
Santay Gomez organized a speaking tour along the West Coast of the US to share information on his own community’s efforts to prevent mega-mining projects from being constructed in the El Quiche region of Guatemala. He discussed in depth the arrival of the Italian-owned hydroelectric dam Palo Viejo, which was authorized by the Guatemalan government in 2008, despite the fact that local residents were never consulted about the plan. When the dam was completed in 2012, thousands of acres of Ixil land had been seized and numerous neighborhood leaders had been persecuted for standing up against the project. Continue reading