Central American Women Are Fighting Extractive Industries on their Land—and Winning

Source: Common Dreams

“They’re diverting the rivers that water our food crops into mining, hydroelectric plants and mono-cropping. They break up our communities, and stealing our happiness, because when we work with Mother Earth and with our plants, that connection makes us happy, but they come in with their plans and strategies and separate us from our land and each other.”

A group of Central American women land defenders listened closely as Maria Guadalupe, Mayan feminist and land defender, described the impact of extractive industries on indigenous and peasant women and their families. Many heads nodded in agreement. They all confront—and resist—land and resource grabs that transfer whole territories into the hands of transnational corporations, with the complicity of local and national governments.

The battle to stop the spread of extractive industries pits indigenous and peasant communities against powerful business interests, backed up by politicians who encourage the foreign investments that convert millennial ways of life into cash—for them. These communities employ a broad definition of extractivisim. It’s not only the extraction of minerals, but corporate plantations that occupy huge tracts of land for cash crops, megaprojects that take resources and displace the local people, extraction of traditional knowledge to market it. For the women land defenders, the battle isn’t just over who controls resources for what use. Their culture, future, happiness and life itself are at stake.

Central American women land defenders recently sat down to share their experiences and hear from experts and activists in Antigua, Guatemala. They talked about feeling isolated, being afraid (Latin America is the most dangerous place in the world for land defenders), the risk of exhaustion and despair, but they also talked nuts-and-bolts about how to win.

Continue reading