I have been in Guatemala 6 amazing months now. I have been in 4 tropical storms, a flash flood, been evacuated from my training town, seen countless landslides, been stranded in Uspantan for weeks due to closed roads, I have seen dogs attack, micro drivers fist fight for passengers, I have been chased around a town square by a drunk man in traje speaking at me in Mam, and as of Friday I can add 'witness to civil unrest' to the list!
There are various mining projects and plans to construct hydro-electric plants throughout Guatemala. One of these hydro-electric plants would be constructed in the northern part of my municipality. There are also a few sites that are being looked at for mining. A large part of Mayan culture is the connection to the Earth...so the prospect of destroying it for profit is not sitting well with many people in Quiche. On Friday a municipal-wide vote was taken to decide whether or not construction of the plant and the pursuit of mining should move forward. Word of this vote spread through the department of El Quiche as well as the country.
Thursday evening the departmental police as well as the national army rolled into Uspantan to prepare. Word on the street was that a large anti-mining group that has been protesting in other areas of Guatemala would be showing up for the vote. This same group took part in a demonstration that ended with the burning of a City Hall in one of the southern departments of Guatemala. Early Friday morning, as the police and army were putting on their riot gear, I got the hell out of town.
Thankfully, there was no violence. I hear the protest went on all day and that Uspantan was overrun with demonstrators but the tention never reached a boiling point. I am back in town and everything seems back to normal. Unfortunately, I do not think anything was solved on Friday and this topic will not be put to rest for some time. I am pretty certain that this issue will plague my entire Peace Corps service.
So as not to end on a sad note, enjoy the wonderful music (and mustache) of Diego Verdaguer: