From the focus we had on La Comunidad CDF and their project in the last post, we have been working on a film about land grab this week. Here in Guatemala 80 % of the population doesn’t have land, or they have had their land taken away from them. Eleven people own the majority of the Guatemalan land. The palm oil- and sugarcane plantations are increasing and one of the reasons for this is the increasing demand for bio fuels from Western countries. This was quite a delicate topic to start working with, but we have been lucky. The youths we met during the first week actually invited us to their communities to live with their families so we could see for ourselves how the plantations are affecting them. You can learn more about this when the video is done, and then decide by yourself if bio fuels are as good as you may think.
So on Saturday we said goodbye to civil society and we were brought to Virgilio`s house and to his “small” family. 36 people divided in three houses in the same yard! We had children around us all the time, shouting at us, staring at us and seeking our attention from early morning to late night. They were quite surprised that we, white people, also brush our teeth and that we also go to the toilet (which they could actually see through the holes in the door). Their closest neighbor was a sugarcane plantation so we saw a lot of sugarcane (obviously).
We also interviewed a man working on a coffee plantation and my suspicious thoughts about the muddy water they call coffee here were confirmed. All the good coffee they produce is exported and the local people who can’t afford it are left with nothing but the mere leftovers.
Since Monday we have been travelling to the different communities, and each one was an adventure on its own! In “El Troje”, or the bushes, in particular, we went to get information about the palm oil plantation they have their, which is huge! With our tourist look and our great team of local youths who gladly helped us, we got up at five and started project “enter the palm oil plantation”. After crossing rivers, walking in deep mud, being stung by bees and a lot of phone calls, we actually got in. We got to interview some workers and we were actually picked up in a car and brought all the way to the fabric where they make the palm fruits into oil. All under the cover story that we were just curious tourists.
After a long day we went satisfied to bed at 21! (We have never gone to bed as early as we do here). But our beauty sleep didn’t last that long. “Linda, Linda, put on the light, quick! There’s an animal in our bed, and I had it in my face!!” That was the wakeup call Veronica gave me, and stressed me as hell thinking that it might be a snake in my bed!! So the hunt started. It turned out that we had a mouse wandering around in our bed, which freaked us out quite a lot and we had to spend the rest of the night without sleep, checking all the spiders, mice and geckoes in the room. But although we had some issues to handle, we survived living in the different communities.
In November Linda and Veronica from Spire traveled to Guatemala as part of a pilot project to get to know La Comunidad Con Derecho a un Futuro (CDF) (The Community with the right to a future), a local youth development project. The project has been going on since 2008, funded by Utviklingsfondet and others, and run by ASOCUCH, Utviklingsfondet´s partner in Guatemala.
– Linda Melling, project participant and Spire Trondheim member