By David Hill
“They took him and poured gasoline all over him. Then they struck a match and lit him.”
Doña A – not her real name, for security reasons – was standing up, arms crossed, lightly leaning against a ladder, and speaking in her language, Maya Mam, while a friend, a relation by marriage, translated into Spanish. There were 20 or so Mams in the room – mostly women, some children, one elderly man – and we were in an adobe-brick house in the highlands of far western Guatemala, not far from the border with Mexico, and just around the corner from an open sky and underground gold- and silver-mine called Marlin.
The Mams had gathered there – at some personal risk – to speak about the mine and how it impacts them. “Her husband was killed by workers of the company,” someone had said suddenly, meaning Doña A, “but she doesn’t speak much Spanish”, although it was quickly suggested she could talk in Mam and a friend would translate for her.
“We heard the screams and the yellings but we didn’t know what was happening,” she continued.
Her husband’s two brothers were with him: they had to run away or would be burnt alive too.
“He didn’t want to die,” she said. “It was the rainy season. There was a little bit of water which he tried to jump into and the fire sort of went away.”
This was 2009: Doña A named the month and the date. Her husband didn’t survive. He was eventually taken to hospital, she said, but died there. Although a formal complaint was filed with the Attorney-General’s regional office, it wasn’t followed up because Doña A was “scared” of the consequences. To read the entire story, click here.