‘La Puya’ and a Butterfly
By Gabriela Carrera
This was published on the El Salmón website. With thanks to Christina Hewitt for the translation.
‘La Puya’ is a tiny place in Guatemala, not too far from the capital. It is the place where two roads meet, where the buses link two communities. It is a stretch of trees that runs from San José del Golfo towards San Pedro Ayampuc, through the entrance gate to a large gold and silver mine. La Puya has nevertheless become, for many, a sacred place, as Jesus Christ would say.
In 2010 (sic), when the ‘El Tambor’ mining project moved in, two Guatemalan communities decided they would not stay silent. They did not burn machinery, brandish knives, break into the mine or destroy ‘private property’. They did nothing of the sort. They decided to sleep outside the front gate and simply make their voices heard. They decided to take turns in 24-hour shifts and cook for those camping along the path protecting the dream of the mountains, the earth and the trees. Together they have taken a stand against the forces of power, the economic system, the development model, the riot squads, hundreds of patrol cars, a president and the media: these people and their peaceful resistance to decide how they want to live, to choose dignity.
After many, sometimes violent, attempts at removing the men and women camped at their door, on the 26th of February of this year, the company took away their machines. It is an achievement, the result of this community’s struggle. Though it is not the end and they cannot let down their guard, it is an immense ray of light in La Puya. Furthermore, it is an example of the perseverance of a community that has chosen to fight and to resist. Little does it matter that it is not the only path to take, nor the most valid – it has become an example of coherence for the whole of Guatemala.
On Sunday the 2nd of March, two years of peaceful protest was celebrated. People from all over came to celebrate their joy with their peers, to be together, to show their support and solidarity, to remember that we are also united by our struggles. San Marcos, Huehuetenango, San Rafael Las Flores, Santa María Xalapán, El Estor, everyone in La Puya, believing that reality may be different, despite the arrests, murders, defamations and armed attacks, and that after pain and suffering there is always the possibility of good news.
During mass, attended by eight brave priests determined to live in a different Catholic Church, despite not being accepted by all, a butterfly decided to rest on one of their hands. Fragile, tiny, seemingly weak, but fearless; it rested there while he read a Gospel which spoke of living for a just world, and that later, everything else would fall into place – the kind of life lived by this community.
There is much to learn.