Culture

Guest Roast: Mining Companies’ Violations In Developing Countries—Who Is Responsible?

By Grahame Russel

Increasingly, over the past few years, information has been published about serious human rights violations and health and environmental harms being caused in Guatemala by (mainly) Canadian mining company operations: Goldcorp Inc., Radius Gold Inc., Tahoe Resources Inc., Hudbay Minerals, and others.

It is not possible to understand how these violations and harms occur, and will continue to occur, without understanding the political context.  Read More »

Guest Roast: A Native Perspective on Gold Mining in Guatemala

By Cathy Gerrior

My name is Cathy Gerrior. My spirit name is white turtle woman and I am a Mi’kmaq Elder and Ceremony Keeper from TurtleIsland.  I was given an opportunity to visit Guatemala by a group called Breaking the Silence, an organization who works towards justice and fair treatment of the Mayan People in Guatemala.

We joined a delegation in Guatemala led by Grahame Russell with the Rights Action group to learn the truth about Canadian mining companies and what they are doing to our Mayan brothers and sisters in Latin America.  Grahame was very thorough in his teachings around this issue.  At one point I asked him if this work was his passion.  He thought about it for a moment and replied Read More »

Breast Flattening—Barbaric Practice or a Sign of Something Deeper?

What would you do if you were the mother of a young girl born into a social setting where her gender automatically affects her chances of independence, riches and success? Most of us live in such societies as gender imbalances are institutionalised and pervasive the world over. Take the recently exposed gender gap in US election coverage published by 4thEstate.net that showed that even on important issues specifically facing women (such as reproductive health, birth control, women’s rights), the US media consulted the voices of actual women only 12-31% of the time. Read More »

Relevance of Ancient Technologies to Today’s Global Problems

“More and more and higher-level technology” is heralded as the way that the human population will eventually get itself out of the global troubles it has wreaked. Under-researched genetically modified seeds to be sold to poor rural farmers in India; financially, socially and environmentally expensive Three Dams Project in China; and ethically dubious biofuel alternatives made in order to stem the toxic air pollution of the global transport industry. Each high-tech solution has its merits and its downfalls, of course, but do we always need to be looking forward or could we learn something from our ancestors? Read More »

Book Roast: “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human”

Meat made us smarter! At least that is what the mainstream explanation has been for the development of larger brains in humans and our subsequent distancing from other earthly life-forms and eventual domination over our planet.  This is posited to have happened because through eating meat humans were able to consume a lot more calories than the traditional raw plant-based diets of early gathering societies. This, in turn, allowed for our stomachs to shrink as ‘we didn’t need a giant vegetable processor anymore’ (a sort of evolutionary, natural and slow equivalent of today’s stomach stapling) that allowed for more energy to be channelled to building other organs such as the brain. The brain, incidentally, uses an incredible 20 times the amount of energy as typical muscle mass. Real food for thought for those trying to diet, but I digress. Arguably, meat eating also meant that less time could be spent gathering and more time thinking up new and crafty ways to catch pray such as sharpening spears and rock-launching devices. Increasing presence of meat in the human diet from roughly 1.5 million years agois, thus, said to have set in motion the final stage of human evolution to bigger-brained, smarter creatures. Read More »

Guest Roast: “Traditional Birth Assistants: Scapegoats or Potential Miracle Workers?”

Thomas Hart has been called ‘a fine example of a “citizen of the world”’* and an expert on traditional Maya practices having lived, worked and studied in Guatemala for the best part of two decades. Thomas is an anthropologist at heart and has consolidated his vast knowledge in his book “The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya”. He works for a British NGO called Health, Poverty, Action and as a guest roaster shares with us some potential solutions to high maternal mortality rates in Guatemala**.

Comadronas, Guatemala’s Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), are community midwives who are estimated to deliver up to 90% of births in rural Guatemala. Their relationship with the Ministry of Health has been a complicated one. In many communities, they have been derided by health professionals as uneducated (they sometimes are), illiterate (they sometimes are) and even superstitious (for practicing their own indigenous culture). As such they have served as convenient scapegoats for high maternal mortality rates, which are estimated to be twenty times higher in developing nations (1). Read More »

“Waste of Time”: Urban Education Failing Rural Kids in Guatemala

Forty-five, maybe fifty, I don’t remember anymore,” seventy one year old Juan Chúl Yaxon tells me through a warming toothless chuckle that causes his leathery skin to crease around his eyes as we talk about his grandchildren. “If they study, they get lazy and do not want to work. There is no use for someone who has an education title but no land or job… and the women, they should cook and do housework.”

Juan makes his assertions over the noisy hustle and bustle of market day in Sololá, the capital of a district of the same name, half an hour North of the volcano-lined lake Atitlán. The plaza of this small rural Guatemalan city  is overwhelmingly filled with tipica- (traditionally-) clad indigenous faces curiously watching our interaction. In his eyes, his five sons and three daughters are better off working the land on their family finca. He wants his grandchildren to follow suit. Read More »

Guatemala Field Notes: Men of Maize

Until recently, probably like for many of you, my imagination when it came to corn, aka maize, was limited to a bright yellow sunshine goodness, steamy and fresh on the cob soaked in butter and lightly salted, bursting with warm juices with every bite, the remnants of which I discover in my teeth hours after I am done. Or, perhaps, some ready-to-eat tinned sweet-corn kernels added to my jacket potato, tuna, chilli (sin)carne or simply adding a crunch and a juicy burst to my salad plate. In reality corn comes in a rainbow of colours and subtle gradient of tastes and despite one or two varieties being only an occasional dinner or snack companion for many of us in the West, corn or, as it is known in Spanish, maiz, has been the mainstay of the peoples of Central America and many other countries for centuries. Read More »

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