Two Mines, Two Countries, Shared Concerns

Miriam Pixtun Monroy lives an hour from Guatamala’s capitol and is fighting a gold mining operation she say threatens her indigenous Maya Kiqchikel community. Pixtun Monroy says the struggle in similar to that of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. It is resisting a proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin.

“It will have an irreversible impact on the environment and the people. There other similarity I see is the level of corruption in both governments – the level of corruption and impunity. In addition, there’s the pact that’s formed between public functionaries and private companies.”

Pixtun Monroy believes her people share a common core value with the Lake Superior Ojibwe, “we will never value money more than life, and they (the companies) must know, that if they’re going to exploit resources in our territory, our people will never be in agreement with them, because we understand our lives are at risk.”

Although her people possess international rights, unlike the Native American Ojibwe, the indigenous people of Guatemala do not hold sovereign territory.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Pixtun Monroy’s group – called La Puye – set up camp outside of the proposed gold mine.

“So we managed to stop the mine for a little bit longer than two years when it wasn’t able to operate, until May of 2014 when there was a brutal repression brought against the movement.”

Pixtun Monroy says one of La Puye’s member’s was shot, “and she’s continued in the resistance movement even though she still carries the bullet in her back.”

Pixtun Monroy admits at times she fears for her life, but is determined not to give up, ““I want to tell you about something that a woman told me on the day of the repression in my community, she said ‘if we face off against the police we could do, however, we know if the mine comes in, we know that we will definitely die – it will just be more slowly; therefore it’s important that we stay here with the hope that maybe we can make the mine leave’.”

Pixtun Monroy’s United States visit included a stop in Reno Nevada. It is home to the company that plans to mine gold in her territory.

“I just want to extend an invitation to all of the people here to lose their fear. To understand, if we lose our fear –  we see that we have rights, especially to live a dignified life. It is important to lose that fear in order to live this dignified life.”

Miriam Pixtun Monroy visited Milwaukee during a tour sponsored by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission based in Washington, D.C.

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