Guatemala’s Anti-Landlord, Indigenous Feminists: “Healing is Political”

New Internationalist

Indigenous feminists in Guatemala encourage women to speak out against male violence, and to heal and defend themselves as they defend their ancestral territory. Frauke Decoodt listens to their stories of resistance.

It is busy in the extended household of Graciela Velasquez Chuj, a Mayan healer. All the women have been summoned to prepare the food for a three-day assembly. Around sunset some 40 indigenous women, mostly activists, arrive from all over Guatemala to the adobe house located in the village of Chotacaj in Totonicapán, a municipality in the western highlands. After a quick presentation round and some food, they go to bed. Tomorrow they need to rise early.

At the crack of dawn the day starts with a ceremonial fire in which an abundance of candles, chocolate, flowers and honey is burned. Ancestors, life and the earth are honoured. Wishes and words of gratitude are whispered to the flames. After breakfast the women make themselves comfortable on the mattresses spread out in the courtyard.

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