Today is the 14th anniversary of the assassination of Msgr. Juan Gerardi, the archbishop of Guatemala, who was bludgeoned to death in his residence two days after the publication of Guatemala Nunca Mas, Guatemala Never Again, a compilation of testimonies from the survivors of and witnesses to the genocide of the 1980s. One of my dear friends worked with the project that Gerardi headed, REMHI, which stands for the restitution of historical memory, and although I was not intimately involved with Guatemala in 1998 when Gerardi was killed, his work and his memory are a constant reference point for so many of my friends and comrades. I think of him every time there is an article in the papers, as there was today, about a hearing in one of the many legal cases-in-process.
Today the anniversary of his death was marked by a massive public protest against mining operations in Quetzaltenango. The Mam communities in several municipalities in the department organized a march to the government headquarters in the city of Xela, and according to friends of mine who participated, there were about 8,000 people present. They marched from Concepción Chipirichapa, a town about 10 kilometers outside of Xela on the highway that goes to San Marcos, and presented a set of demands to the government representatives who met them in Xela. The demands included the government respecting the provisions of the ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, especially the provision calling for community consultations; "no" to a training center for the National Civil Police (PNC) in Quetzaltenango; and "no" to hydroelectric dams and mining projects. Apparently the government representatives who belong to the "orange" party (the Patriotas, the party of the current president) were not prepared for a march of this magnitude.
I wish I could have been there, but I had to make do with the photos my friends posted on line, their firsthand reports, and the articles that are now beginning to show up in the newspapers.