By Nancy Sabas
A year has gone by and can not help to fill a cliché and write a conventional blog post with end-of- year reflections. Joy, melancholy and almost-despair with a sudden rise of hope seem to invade every person that intends to look back and think about what they witnessed. That is exactly who i am: a naive witness being constantly transformed by the love received from the poor in the rural communities, the neighbors in a turbulent city and the anger toward an oppressive and unjust system.
As a witness i recall several moments during this last year in Guatemala that had a strong impact in me:
I witnessed the willingness of the work and learn groups to come and step out of their comfort zones to experience what Guatemalans and Salvadorans live day by day. As they learn i have learned and keep learning over again. The work and learn groups have taken me to a journey that went beyond what i could have ever imagined. I am grateful for all of the fleeting friendships made in each tour and for blessing me with their company and their sights. I do believe that every one of them played the perfect part in the perfect place and time in the communities they visited and also in my life.
I witnessed the reactions and commotion that the Ex-president Rios Montt trial brought to Guatemala last March. A country polarized with opinions: some of them claiming for dignity and justice for the genocide victims, others denying any genocide and many others diminishing the importance and/or being indifferent. I witnessed my neighbors, local friends and even the taxi driver carefully listening to the news on the radio last May 10th, the day Rios Montt was convicted for Genocide and crimes against humanity. I saw them celebrating and regaining trust on a Justice system that had disappointed them so many times. I also saw their despair when the media announced that he was released from prison 3 days later with a promise to repeat the trial next January.
I witnessed in a 3 hour hike one of the most stunning natural sceneries: the Sonmentir tzi kaj naab valley, an important source of water for the local community now threathened by goldmining exploration in Nebaj.
I witnessed the courage and determination of the Ixil people to defend their sacred territory and make their communal land rights be respected by the Guatemalan government and foreign goldmining and hydroelectric companies despite threats, human rights violations, political instability and military presence.
I witnessed cross-cultural exchanges and relationships being built regardless of differences. I saw love overcoming culture and status barriers. I saw generous people offering the few they had to strangers. I witnessed people showing solidarity and compassion to a foreign community. I saw people who never had the chance to attend school teaching strong lessons to highly educated people. I saw people advocating in their home countries for a country that is not their own.
I met several children who are separated from their parents when they left to immigrate to North America due to the lack of employment in their communities. I also met people who are working hard on creating alternatives to avoid immigration and develop sustainable communities such as the Catholic Diocese of San Marcos.
As a Honduran, a recent event that impacted me were the elections in my home country, even though I wasn´t a direct witness and had to Inform myself with the news on the media and the testimonies from my family and friends back home. Again (after the 2009 coup), my country is divided by opinions. Strong denounces of fraud and lack of transparency seem to be unheard and denied from the international community while the people are drawn to protest on the streets where they become easy targets for the military. The number of murdered Journalists and left wing activists is alarming. The question we all ask is where Democracy is and how the current government is different from a dictatorship.
In this setting, a new year brings more challenges which can only be approached by becoming more aware and committed to take action. As an American or Canadian citizen you can take action advocating for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras by expressing your concerns to your congress calling, sending letters and articles about these issues, discussing these topics at your local church and spreading the news. These are only a few examples of things you can do.