Tag Archives: Guatemala


“The only thing that is constant is change.”
― Heraclitus

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
― Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Change is scary. No, wait… ghosts are scary. Change is terrifying. Like “Trump as a babysitter” terrifying. Forget butterflies in the tummy, change is like hairy bats in your belly.

Yet change can also be exciting, inspiring, and invigorating. Especially if you’re lucky enough to be the agent of that change. To design it, build it, help it grow. In those circumstances change can even be fun. Fun and terrifying.

Over the past few months I’ve begun the process of creating a new nonprofit organization to support human rights defenders in Guatemala. The official name is The Human Rights Defenders Project, but I imagine that we’ll end up calling it the Defenders Project informally. (For the bilingual among you, we opted for “Proyecto Defensores” instead of “El Proyecto de Apoyo para las y los Defensores de los Derechos Humanos” for reasons that should be immediately apparent.)

It has been a fascinating and exhausting experience so far: the paperwork, the research, the fundraising, the brainstorming, the paperwork. (Yes, I know. It warranted repeating.)  Thanks to the help of generous donors and our super-savvy lawyer, Mollie, we are now a legally-incorporated nonprofit organization awaiting 501c3 tax-exempt status from the IRS!

It’s spring, and change is in the air. For me, this means:

Changing from NY to Guatemala: I’ll be returning to Guatemala City on May 2.

Changing from planning to doing: we will soon be “going public” with the Defender’s Project, and opening the doors of our new office.

Changing the focus of this website: from now on, news and analysis about Guatemala will be on the Defender’s Project website. This site will focus more on my personal stories about work and life in Guatemala, as well as other non-Guatemalany (yes, I made that word up) topics like leadership, meditation, time management, photography, productivity, etc.

I look forward to sharing this journey of change with all of you!

PS: If anyone knows how to rid a belly of hairy bats, I welcome your suggestions.

Why Does Latin America Have the World’s Highest Female Murder Rates?

“The difference in Guatemala between the death of a man and the death of a woman is that the woman is raped before she is killed, she is mutilated … This does not happen to men… It is clear to see how misogyny is present up until the moment of a woman’s death.”
-Thelma Aldana, the Attorney General of Guatemala-

Latin America is the region with the most female murders on earth, a phenomenon partly due to organized crime activities such as human trafficking and gang violence. Just how do these criminal activities increase the victimization of women?

A recent report by a number of international organizations revealed that seven out of the ten countries with the highest female murder rate in the world are in Latin America. El Salvador heads the list with a rate of 8.9 homicides per 100,000 women in 2012, followed by Colombia with 6.3, Guatemala with 6.2, Russia with 5.3 and Brazil with 4.8. Mexico and Suriname are also in the top ten.

Read more at InSight Crime: Why Does Latin America Have the World’s Highest Female Murder Rates? 

Sepur Zarco Article

Guatemalan soldiers face civil war sexual slavery charges in historic trial


For the first time ever, sexual slavery will be prosecuted where the war crime took place, 30 years after 11 Mayan women from Sepur Zarco were raped and enslaved.

It was 1982, one of the bloodiest years of the country’s civil war as counter-insurgency operations against ethnic Mayans intensified under the rule of the military dictator and evangelical Christian, Efraín Ríos Montt.

More than 30 years later, two former military officers will finally face charges of sexual and domestic slavery and forced disappearance in a landmark trial which opens on Monday.

The trial marks the first in the world that sexual slavery perpetrated during an armed conflict has been prosecuted in the country where the crimes took place.

Read more: Guatemalan soldiers face civil war sexual slavery charges in historic trial | World news | The Guardian

Photograph: Jorge López/Reuters

Under Siege

Under Siege: Under Siege: Peaceful Resistance to Tahoe Resources and Militarization in GuatemalaUnder Siege: Peaceful Resistance to Tahoe Resources and Militarization in Guatemala

Author: Luis Solano

Organizations:  International Platform Against Impunity, MiningWatch Canada, the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)

Publication date: 10 November 2015

Size: 29 pages, 1.8MB

Ever since Goldcorp acquired Glamis Gold’s mining rights in 2007, opposition began to surface among residents of communities in the departments of Jalapa and Santa Rosa, who began to peacefully demonstrate against the mining project. Since 2010, under control of Tahoe Resources, community opposition to the mining project grew to include protest marches and municipal referendums in neighbouring municipalities.

The peaceful protest movement, in defense of water and the environment, has been met with repression, criminalization, militarization, and extreme violence… including the killing of local leaders.

Download the executive summary (English)

Download the full report (English)

Mujeres Indígenas: Resistencia y Respuesta

Mujer_Indigena“La violencia que sufren hoy las mujeres indígenas tiene múltiples dimensiones: sociales, políticas, económicas, culturales o familiares, donde la condición de género constituye un agravante.

La elevada conflictividad social que genera la explotación de los recursos naturales en los territorios indígenas, las situaciones de conflicto y pos conflicto, los desplazamientos forzosos, la pérdida de los territorios, la pobreza, derivan en una violencia estructural hacia las mujeres indígenas.

Pero las mujeres indígenas no son únicamente víctimas de la violencia, sino que son también un símbolo de resistencia y de respuesta, hecho que se manifiesta en el liderazgo de las mujeres en el reclamo por de sus territorios.”

– Ponencia de la Sra. Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, Representante Regional del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, durante el VII Encuentro Continental de Mujeres Indígenas de las Américas. Guatemala, 17 noviembre 2015. Lea el discurso completo.