This project explores intensifying land and water conflict in Q’eqchi’ territory and its relationship to increasing rates of migration to the United States.
Around a million speakers of Q’eqchi’ Mayan live in regions with some of the highest rates of poverty, childhood malnutrition, and land inequality in the hemisphere. These indicators are getting worse. Climate change is extending droughts and intensifying storms. Massive export crop plantations are expanding, grabbing land and water. Transnational mining and hydroelectric companies are operating without the consent of local communities required by international law.
In response, Q’eqchi’ communities are taking on powerful companies and estate owners to try to hold onto land and water. This is increasingly dangerous as violence and criminalization targeting land rights advocates in Guatemala has reached record levels.
This project examines the perspectives and tactics of communities on the front lines: families facing down death threats to occupy land their parents and grandparents worked as serfs; fishers who blocked a Russian mine and confronted thousands of police and soldiers; farmers on the edge of enormous African palm plantations whose homes have been burned to the ground. It also examines the relationship between these conflicts and migration from the region.
The stakes are high; local organizers call this a critical moment in a centuries-long struggle for control of Q’eqchi’ territory and survival of Q’eqchi’ culture.