Today was a day filled with some hard truths about Canadian Mining. Our group travelled to the community of San Miguel, located near the Marlin Mine which is run by a Canadian company. We met with two Sisters there who were more than willing to share with us the way the mine has impacted their community. We had to use a translator to communicate with the Sisters, but is was clear to us on how the Sisters thought of the mine; they despised it. Both sisters were apart of the resistance group that was protesting against the mine and want it out of their community. The mine is not only affecting the land but the company has also lied to the people since the beginning.
Back when the mine first showed interest in mining the gold there, the company came to all of the surrounding communities and invited everyone to a big meal where the company would pitch its plan. The people listened and took into account what was said and some became excited with the idea of all the new jobs that would come with the mine and also what the mine could bring to their communities. After the meal took place, papers were passed around to collect signatures of all who was there; this was a common practice in these communities to see how much was spent on the meal. The mine had other ideas for the papers and used them to indicate that the communities were in favour of bringing the mine in. That fast tracked the process and soon the mine was purchasing land and employing people. The mine was almost set but it still needed to buy the last bit of land from a woman who did not want to sell. To get the woman to sell the company offered her ten times the amount everyone else received. That was the moment the first deception came out. The people were enraged and began protesting. The Marlin Mine then offered the rest of the people the same amount of money but as soon as the protesting stopped, they took back their word and refused to pay. After the second deception, more came pouring out and the community felt that something needed to be done. The final straw was when the children and the elderly began to have spots on their skin. The spots did not go away and when it was brought to the doctor the doctor said it was due to uncleanliness, but it is believed that the mine paid the doctor to lie. The communities all know that the Mine has contaminated the water which has caused the skin conditions and in severe cases left children without the ability to walk. Desperate for change, the community of San Miguel and surrounding communities started up the resistance.
The resistance began speaking out and encouraging others who were affected by the Mine to join and spread the word. Marlin Mine wanted to shut down the group and has done everything that they can to shut it down. They have used bribery to prevent others from joining the resistance and to deal with people in the resistance, they have used threats. The mine also has control of the authorities, doctors, and teachers so that is often how they get people to not join or quiet down in the resistance. The leaders of the resistance have been frustrated with this and continue to seek different ways to stop the mining. After the Sisters finished sharing, our group asked if there is anything we can do to help and the response was to spread the word and raise awareness. On that note, we left the Sisters and headed to the Marilyn Mine itself. We were not allowed in, but a man who has entered the mine on two separate occasions drove us to three different locations overlooking the mine. It was sad to see how much destruction the mine had done to this beautiful land and how close it was to civilization. After taking a few pictures, our group left and headed to Sibinal for night.
I cannot speak on behalf of the whole group but I know that I felt sad and frustrated with this mine and how it treated the communities. I also felt a sense of shame knowing that it is a Canadian company that is causing all of this heartbreak and disease throughout Guatemala. I no longer wonder why Canadians are hated so much in Guatemala because we have caused so much grief and division in the land. I think the worst part of it all is realizing how oblivious the average Canadian citizen is when it comes to the Canadian mines that are dispersed throughout different countries. I know that before I went on the trip I knew nothing about what the Canadian mines did and how they treated the people. It was a huge eye opener for me and I know that I would like to know more and no longer be oblivious to this issue that we have with the way Canada mines.
To end on a lighter note, the highlands of Guatemala are so incredibly beautiful. The best way that I can think of describing it is that it is a more tropical version of the hilly country side in BC. I think maybe that is why I adored it so much, because it reminded me of some of the good in my home country. Another highlight of the day and also the whole trip so far would have to be the food, it is amazing! I would highly recommend if anyone plans to travel to Guatemala in the near future to try the traditional food, it is so satisfying and also it is not spicy, which is a bonus. I cannot handle spicy food so we’ll see how I handle Mexico. On that note I will end the blog here today and I hope that you can take this information to heart like I did.
Hope to talk to you all soon,