In November 2013, Lorena Cabnal, accompanied by GHRC, spoke at a School of the America’s Watch Vigil about the Xinka community, their defense of land and women’s rights, and the recent impacts of remilitarization. Her story reflects both the historic struggles of the Xinka people, as well as the transformation of a group of women into a nationally recognized political force.
The Xinka people are not widely known outside Guatemala. And, until recently, the Xinka were not even recognized as an indigenous group in Guatemala; when Lorena was growing up, she didn’t know anything about that part of her heritage. Then, with the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, and after extensive work by Xinka communities themselves, the Xinka people were officially recognized as a non-Mayan indigenous group.
Lorena herself settled in Santa Maria Xalapan, Jalapa, the largest Xinka community — often referred to simply as “the Mountain.” The promises of the Peace Accords, however, didn’t materialize in the Mountain. When the government claimed that Xalapan was not a target for social programs because “no indigenous people lived there,” (the government’s official count was 16,700), the women took the lead in organizing a community census. They showed that there were 85,000 Xinka people on the Mountain, and then organized marches to denounce racism and the “statistical ethnocide” that sought to minimize and disregard the population. Continue reading