Category Archives: Guatemalan

“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemala

Ixiles photo

By Jan Lundius

Stockholm/Rome,(IPS) – According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises.

They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor.

The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

“Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/

Guatemalan migrant girl, seven, dies in US border patrol custody *Girl named as Jakelin Caal was arrested after crossing border *Father told US officials his daughter was sick and vomiting

Migrant photo     A US border patrol agent keeps watch on the US-Mexico border

US border control agents have reported an increasing number of large groups of immigrants, many with young children, turning themselves in. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Amanda Holpuch in New York

A seven-year-old girl who crossed a remote part of the US-Mexico border with her father last week died less than two days after being apprehended by the US border patrol in New Mexico, immigration officials have said.

The girl vomited and stopped breathing in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before being transferred to a hospital, where she suffered brain swelling and cardiac arrest, according to CBP.

The CBP commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, identified the girl as Jakelin Caal Maquin. “We welcome the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation and will review the incident operationally to learn from this tragedy,” McAleenan said.

The girl and her father, both from Guatemala, were traveling in a group of 163 people, including 50 children who were traveling without a parent, when they were apprehended at around 9.15pm on 6 December.

Four border patrol agents were on the scene, according to CBP and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, who said it was not unusual for a small group of agents to confront large groups of migrants.

The agents conducted a screening that included a health observation. Her father indicated his daughter was healthy on a form officials said was in English but would have been marked according to a Spanish interview with the father.

They were held in a small facility near the border before being transferred by bus to a border patrol station 95 miles away. At that facility, officials said people had access to food, water and restrooms.

On the bus, just before 5 am, the father told agents his child was sick and vomiting, then personnel at their destination were notified about the medical situation, officials said. Once they arrived, about an hour later, the father told agents his child was not breathing. Emergency medical technicians revived her twice before she was taken by air ambulance to a children’s hospital in El Paso, Texas.

Officials said later that morning Jakelin went into cardiac arrest, showed signs of brain swelling in a scan, was breathing by machine and had liver failure.

She died at 12:35 am on Saturday with her father on the scene, officials said.

“On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” a CBP spokesperson said. “Border patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

The CBP said it will investigate the incident and that an autopsy of the girl is expected.

The girl was suffering from dehydration and shock, according to CBP records seen by the Washington Post. The agency told the Post the girl “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days”. The CBP did not confirm those details to the Guardian.

In response to the death, the White House, CBP and DHS repeatedly emphasized that the journey to the northern border is “extremely dangerous” because of the threat of violence, trafficking, extreme weather and wild animals. They said people should arrive at designated ports of entry instead of at other places on the 2,000-mile border.

But migrant rights groups say the Trump administration is exacerbating those dangers by limiting how many people can present for asylum at designated ports of entry.

Journalists and humanitarian groups have documented the US government limiting how many people can present themselves for asylum each day at ports of entry in a practice known as “metering”.

And in October, the DHS’s watchdog, the office of inspector general, said there were documented incidents of people being turned away at ports of entry and told to return when it was less busy. The report said there was evidence “limiting the volume of asylum seekers entering at ports of entry leads some aliens who would otherwise seek legal entry into the United States to cross the border illegally.”

The Trump administration also tried to bar people from seeking asylum outside ports of entry, but a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the ban because he said the government could not prove it was legal. On Tuesday, the Trump administration asked the supreme court to reinstate the ban.

The White House deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, said the girl’s death was tragic. She said: “If we could just come together and pass some commonsense laws to disincentivize people from coming up from the border and encourage them to do it the right way, the legal way, then those types of deaths, those types of assaults, those types of rapes, the child smuggling, the human trafficking … that would all come to an end.”

Cynthia Pompa, the advocacy manager for the ACLU border rights centre, said the number of migrant deaths had increased last year even as the number of border crossings fell.

“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths,” Pompa said.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/14/guatemalan-girl-aged-seven-dies-in-custody-on-us-mexican-border