We started the morning off with a speaker who taught us about some issues facing Guatemala today. La Puya is a town 30 kilometers outside of the city that has very valuable natural resources. Contractors were trying to come inside this area to extract the minerals, but the people of this town were peacefully resisting. On May 8, 2012 the contractors were able to sneak the machines in without the protesters knowing. Luckily they were very well organized and 2,000 people prevented the machines of doing any harm. The resource in La Puya is gold and that is the most harmful extraction in mining projects. On May 25, 2014 soldiers used force to break up the peaceful protests. Tear gas was used to make the people have to run away so the machines could enter. Now the machines are there. Another problem is femicide, which refers to women who have been victims of extreme abuse and feminicide, which means the killing of women because they are female. In 2013 there were 1,500 cases of assault, trafficking, and other forms of violence. The final problem is child labor. One million children under the age of 14 participate in child labor. Ten thousand of these children work with fireworks, which is a very dangerous job. Here in Guatemala fireworks are very popular therefore these children are working 12-hour shifts per day.
Our next adventure was to the national cemetery and the largest landfill in Central America. The cemetery has very big tombstones that are typically very wealthy peoples. An interesting fact about this cemetery is that you can only have a plot for 14 years and then you have to remove the body and the gravestone.
After that we ventured to the landfill. Immediately we had this horrible smell in our noses that was difficult to get rid of. The dump that we visited is the largest in Central America. The sad part is that many people grow up and live their life in this place. This is a hard concept to understand, but when generation and generation live in the dump it is really hard to leave. The people don’t even want to leave because they believe the dump is their home.
Our final speaker of the day taught us about Mayan culture. We learned all about the different linguistic groups and their languages. One very interesting part of the talk was about the Mayan calendars and how they connect to the human body and the lunar cycle. The one that I found most fascinating was the first calendar, which is a 260-day year, 13 months and 20 days per month. The human body has 13 joints and 20 fingers and toes. 13 x 20 = 260. This connects to the lunar cycle because the earth goes around the moon 13 times in 260 days.
– Cassaundra Davis