Written by Natalia Atz Sunuc
Community consultations are an ancestral practice of the Mayan people. Popul Vuh, the Mayan peoples’ sacred book, tells us: “They sat, they met, they brought their ideas and words together, and they agreed.”
In Guatemala, Indigenous women are tied to the land and to Mother Earth, considering that it is women who have a direct relationship to water, are the ones who principally stay on their territories, at home, and interact with the social and community milieu. When transnational mining or hydroelectric companies arrive in Mayan communities, they harm women’s lives and destroy their quotidian and ancestral ways of life.
Over 50% of women participate and make decisions regarding their territory. This reality means that women: feel empowered in terms of their political and social participation; strengthen their participation at the community level; initiate meetings to analyze the impacts of transnational mining and hydroelectric companies on their lives; organize commissions to distribute information among communities; meet with local governments; and decide to hold community consultations—taking into account that the number of consultations that take place coincides with the number of communities in a municipality. For example, if a municipality has 90 communities, 90 consultations are held simultaneously in one day.
Women are key to community consultations given that they support in guaranteeing the order and safety of observers through the hiring of drivers for transport—a modality that is provided for consultations on extraction projects. In each community the consultation is observed. School teachers have supported the writing of community minutes to account for the decision taken at consultations and make these decisions available to the general public.
On various occasions these results have been officially delivered to Western-based authorities so that they become informed on and respect community decisions, particularly since transnational companies, motivated by their economic interests over extractive projects, have questioned Indigenous peoples’ right to community consultations.