Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hatching plans

Working out a plan for this month has been an exercise in patience. My work has shifted, somewhat, to looking at radio in the context of the indigenous movement -- or rather, radio in the context of several dialectically related trends: intensification of neoliberal policies and projects (mining, other mega-projects), indigenous resistance, and government repression. So, I am going to be focusing in part on radio projects in zones of conflict -- of which there are many. In part the subject has chosen me. I had already visited the radio station in Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango and developed a close friendship with its director, Lorenzo, before the situation in Barillas erupted last year.  In my last visit between the end of 2012 and the beginning of this year, I was able to visit Barillas briefly and at least get some preliminary introductions to community leaders there, and also had the privilege of talking with one of the station's founders, Daniel Pedro, who a few short months later was assassinated because of his involvement in the resistance movement in Barillas. 

I had also been to one of the mining communities, where there had been a radio station that had played an important role in allowing the resistance movement to have a voice. The station is no longer active for a complex of reasons -- some equipment failures, the suicide of the principal announcer, but most significantly, the desire of the director of the host organization (the radio station was housed in the headquarters of a community development organization) to control the station. A human rights attorney who works with the resistance movement and some other friends there and I had started to talk about restarting the radio station, but the attorney, who has become a good friend, has been working with a group of women who are very key players in the resistance movement (although not always acknowledged as such by the male leaders) and we hatched the idea, over emails and Facebook chats, of working with the women and helping them start a radio station of their own. 

However, because of the conflictual situation in the area (San Miguel Ixtahuacán) it has been hard to plan when we would go up there. I haven't met the women directly, and while my role is only accompaniment, we will need to have a fair amount of time to talk, so that they can understand what having a radio station entails, and then hopefully we (mostly me) can put together some fundraising ideas (so, readers of this blog, expect to get some kind of crowd-sourcing solicitation from me in the near future, just saying..) and plans. I also wanted to nominate one of the most outspoken women for an annual award by the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, which means helping her write up her narrative for the application. So I would need a few days there at least.

However, about 10 days ago -- actually, two weeks ago as of tomorrow -- residents of one of the communities have blockaded the highways leading to the mine, because the mine had failed to implement some health and safety measures (I think that's the best translation of "medidas cautelares") that had been agreed to, and the municipal mayor was siding with the company. So, it wasn't clear that it would be possible to travel if the blockade were still in place. However, then my attorney friend told me there was a demonstration planned for Sunday the 14th, so we would go up for that and stay a few days.  That was good, because it gave me at least one starting point around which I could arrange the rest of my schedule. By the time I got to Guatemala City Tuesday night, however, the demonstration had been postponed until the 28th. But before I had time to rearrange things, it seems that it is necessary for the attorney to go up there on Monday through Thursday, so we are back on. Now just to figure out what to do from Saturday afternoon when the conference ends and Monday morning -- the temptation is to cram something else in, like a visit to a radio station, or a trip to Quiché to see friends. My attorney friend suggested that I just hang out in Antigua and relax -- not a likely scenario. I could spend the day sitting in cafés and the hotel writing, or I could see if someone wants to climb a volcano. Another idea is to visit a new friend who lives in another of Lake Atitlán's communities, where there is also a volcano to climb. Stay tuned.

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