The day Vinicio Nicolas found out whether he would be allowed to stay in the United States, and hopefully far from the gang trying to recruit him in Guatemala, he brought along an interpreter.
With the stakes so high, he wanted someone who spoke his native tongue. He had arrived in the U.S. just eight months before, and his English wasn’t good. But neither was his Spanish.
The language the 15-year-old needed an interpreter to wrestle with — for the sake of his future — was an ancient Mayan one called Q’anjob’al, or Kanjobal.
Successive waves in recent years of more than 100,000 immigrants from Central America — many of them boys and girls who came without their parents — have created a shortage of people who can translate Mayan languages, especially K’iché (Quiché) and Mam. This is an especially acute need for arrivals from Guatemala, which is home to more than two dozen indigenous languages, but also from countries such as Honduras.
On August 21st, in Brazil, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa was awarded the silver medal for the Men’s Marathon in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Although this was perhaps one of the greatest sporting achievements of his life, this day will forever be remembered for the political protest he made just before the finish line. While in the global spotlight, Lilesa raised his hands above his head in an ‘X’ formation to stand in solidarity with the Oromo people of Ethiopia, who have suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.
Lilesa is one of the thousands fighting for the rights of the Oromo people. In August 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, called on Ethiopia to allow UN international observers to investigate the excessive use of force by the government’s security forces against peaceful protesters in the Oromo and Amhara regions of the country. There is a strong need for organized international pressure on the Ethiopian government. A credible and independent investigation into this country’s Human Rights offences is long overdue. This will be a huge and very welcome step for the people and the country as a whole.
Honduran Indigenous Activist Wins Human Rights Award for Struggle Against Corporate Destruction of Land
On June 9, Ana Mirian Romero, a 29-year-old indigenous Lenca woman and mother of five from the department of La Paz, Honduras, was recognized by the European human rights organization Front Line Defenders in a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland. Romero was awarded the organization’s annual award for Human Rights Defenders for her work struggling for the recognition of indigenous lands and against the corporate destruction of the environment in Honduras.
“Our struggle is going to continue,” said Romero in a Skype interview from Dublin. “With this prize, it is something that gives us more force, and something that reinforces our struggle; it gives us more value to continue.”
Weavers of traditional ancestral designs argue the Guatemalan government has a responsibility to protect their Mayan culture from outside exploitation
Indigenous women in Guatemala are fighting for collective intellectual property rights over their traditional Mayan textiles in the face of a lack of government will to protect the cultural heritage that represents thousands of years of Indigenous community resistance, Mayan organizations argued in court on Tuesday.
“What we want is a law to protect our textiles because it is something that is ours, we learned from our grandparents how to weave,” said Kaqchikel weaver Marta Puac, one of dozens of women from different communities who went to the Constitutional Court in Guatemala City on Tuesday in support of the initiative.
From January 16-18, 2016, Cultural Survival in partnership with Sobrevivencia Cultural, AMARC, Voces Indigenas Panama, and Fundacion Comunicandonos hosted the first ever Central American Indigenous Community Radio Conference in Narganá, Comarca Guna Yala, Panamá. The conference will gather over 40 Indigenous community radio volunteers from all over Central America to discuss and share their experience with community media in their respective countries. The conference also has the goal of creating a Central American Indigenous community radio network in which community stations will mutually support each other in raising awareness about their work and fighting for the democratization of community media in the region.
By: Ligia María
A 1,600-year-old Mayan stone tablet describing the rule of an ancient king has been unearthed in the ruins of a temple in Guatemala.
The broken tablet, or stela, depicts the king’s head, adorned with a feathered headdress, along with some of his neck and shoulders. On the other side, an inscription written in hieroglyphics commemorates the monarch’s 40-year reign.
The stone tablet, found in the jungle temple, may shed light on a mysterious period when one empire in the region was collapsing and another was on the rise, said the lead excavator at the site, Marcello Canuto, an anthropologist at Tulane University in Louisiana.
By: Ligia Recinos
As a teenager, I joined fellow indigenous activists on Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island, to protest against the Chico dam project. The scheme would have displaced roughly 300,000 indigenous people from their ancestral lands. The leaders of the movement were all men, but women were also on the front line, risking their lives.
These were our lands too, and we women fought to defend them even when our activities were criminalized by the Filipino government. We didn’t give up until the government and the World Bank cancelled the project.