San Mateo Ixtatán Fights for Water

What a tiny town in the mountains of Guatemala has in common with Standing Rock, North Dakota

San Mateo Ixtatan, Huehuetenago, Guatemala, is situated in a cloud forest of the Chuchumantes Mountains just south of the Mexican border. The small town is home to about 30,000 indigenous Chuj people. For decades this area has had an abundance of water, an attribute not shared with neighboring cities in their municipality.

Right now, they are protesting against a Spanish owned hydroelectric plant being built against their will. The plant has been under construction for several years even though citizens unanimously voted against it.

How is the plant moving forward?

The Spanish owned company went to Guatemala City, the country’s capitol to receive permits and went to work. Legally, however, the capitol city didn’t have the right to grant permission. The mayor of San Mateo at the beginning of construction opposed the plant. However, when his term limit was up, the hydroelectric plant funded the campaign of another man, with a similar history with women as our current president in the US. He came to power and has allowed the construction to continue.

San Mateo does have a shortage of electricity, and when citizens have appealed to the government, the government has reminded them of this and told them they have no other options, hydroelectric plant or no electricity at all.

What’s the big deal?

The construction reroutes two rivers affecting farmers and water supply to the town, and citizens have taken every legal route possible to fight it’s construction. They organized meetings, appealed to the capitol, and tried to discuss the situation with their new mayor to no avail.

What is happening now?

In neighboring cities, where similar hydroelectric plants began construction, people destroyed the equipment and halted construction after they ran out of options. This gave the plant in San Mateo reason to place armed police outside of their own site. When people of San Mateo went to the site of the plant in protest, the police opened fire killing one protestor.

This happened last week, and there has been no word of new developments since that time.


One week down

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I’ve been in Huehuetenango for a little over a week. I arrived here after two short flights, a taxi ride through busy Guatemala City, and a long bus ride through switch back turns into the mountains. Since I arrived, I’ve just been relaxing, eating more friend plantains and street food than anyone ever should, attending a couple workshops, and hesitantly approaching teaching materials.

I just finished my first lesson plan, and sent it on to be approved. I start teaching classes in two days, and that will be an entirely new adventure that I am very nervous about. As always, it will work out. Here’s to hoping the students aren’t too mean to me.

There and Gone Again

I returned to the US from my last bit of international travel about a month ago. This past month has been filled with so much love, joy, and… well traveling. There is always an initial rush of excitement when I get to see friends and family after being away for a little while. I enjoy hearing about what they’ve been up to and sharing a couple stories. Then there’s the prolonged loved that I feel for those folks and the places we enjoy in each other’s company.

One of those places is Lexington, KY. I’m always drawn there and never want to leave. Memories of kitchen counter sitting, late night doll house building, eating Thai food in a packed Irish bar, trips to Al’s, Arcadium, and The Breadbox keep me going when I’m feeling lonely rambling around.

I couldn’t visit Lexington without going to Berea. Most of my friends graduated this past semester, but there’s still a few good ones around and plenty of beauty to make it a place worth stopping. We sat around singing and playing cards more than a couple times this past month, any group that will put up with my singing voice is definitely worth keeping around. I was even able to head up to the 144 home of the Parsons family before leaving for a quick jaunt down to Florida with my momma and sister.

Now, I’m sitting in a hotel room lovingly provided by a friend from high school feeling thankful for the kindness of others and the weight of the upcoming journey.

Tomorrow, I head to Huehuetenango, Guatemala. I was there for about a month during the summer of 2015, but this time, I’m returning for 10 months of English teaching in an elementary school and a university, and to be a house mother at the Ixtatan Foundation house. My Spanish skills are pretty seriously lacking at the moment. I’m expecting the next few months to be filled with a lot of learning (quickly, I hope), sharing, a bit of struggle, and TONS of tamales and chuchitos.

I needed this time at home, and it was a wonderful reminder of the love I have for so many beautiful people and the love they have for me. Finding true friends is rare, but there are gems of humans that I’m glad let me hang around them. I’m even more lucky to have the family I do. I stopped by 12 Oaks for a little while and got to spend some much needed time with the Mountain Man. Tearful goodbyes are always the hardest part of embarking on a new adventure, but that always means there’s love to carry with me.