Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you were willing to stay up day and night indefinitely to make your dream a reality? The people who live in La Puya, Guatemala know all about that kind of perseverance, and now about the sweet satisfaction that comes with success.
The villagers spent the past four years maintaining a 24/7 peaceful blockade to prevent construction of a large-scale gold mine that would contaminate their land and water. In late June, the Guatemalan Supreme Court unanimously suspended the license for U.S-based Kappes Cassiday & Associates to build the El Tambor mine. The court said the company failed to consult the locals before building the mine and that it violated the people’s rights to the land itself.
This success was made possible by continued opposition from Global Greengrants’ grantees in the local community. Ibis Colindres, our Coordinator in Guatemala, says:
“For me it is great news and certainly a prize for the community of La Puya and for leaders for all their work and efforts to defend their resources.”
Beginnings of the 24/7 blockade
The struggle began in 2011, when residents of the village learned that the American company was seeking a permit to build the open-pit mine. Knowing that the mine would contaminate local water sources and destroy local agriculture, the villagers strongly opposed the construction. In 2012, La Puya resident Estela Reyes pulled her car across the road to block equipment from entering the mine, marking the beginning of a four-year peaceful blockade.
Support from Global Greengrants
In 2013, Global Greengrants granted $3,000 to the Resistencia Pacifica en la Comunidad la Puya, the local resistance group, to purchase food and supplies to support people spending their days and nights blockading the road to the mine. The group purchased solar panels to provide electricity at the site of the blockade, drastically improving conditions for the protestors, who took rotating shifts. Local people used remaining funds to travel to Guatemala City to meet with the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of the Environment, among others, to discuss the situation and advocate for support.
The decision from the Supreme Court has ended the multi-year struggle to protect the land and rights of the local people, a huge success for all involved.
Want to know more? Check out a photo essay about our grantees in La Puya and other communities in Guatemala, and read how Global Greengrants is supporting activists challenging large-scale mining throughout Latin America.