San Marcos Diocese: Rooted in a tradition of liberation theology, since the early 1980s the San Marcos Diocese has been a dynamic actor working for peace and justice in the western highlands, and defender of indigenous rights. The Diocese is located in the capital city of San Marcos and has programs in as many as half of the the 30 municipalities that make up the department. The Diocese’ strategic focuses are alternative and holistic development, social organization and political advocacy.
Transnational Mining: In 1999, the construction of what would eventually become the controversial Marlin Mine, an open pit gold mine owned and operated by the Canadian Goldcorp, was initiated in the Mam indigenous municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán. As soon as 2000, local indigenous farmers and townspeople began raising concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the mine, including the controversial use of cyanide to extract the gold. According to the locals, communities were never adequately consulted from the start. They worry that their water sources have been contaminated. They claim that the mine, which displaced hundreds of families, has contributed to serious health problems, and most troubling has been the nexus social conflict. Since the mine’s inception, hundreds of clashes have been documented between opposing factions, some leading to loss of lives.
Goldcorp from the onset promoted the view that not only do the economic gains of its mining operations outweigh environmental impacts, but also that operations such as the Marlin Mine are legitimate and promising economic strategies for Western Highland communities. However, the historical complaints and local demonstrations against Goldcorp strongly suggests that the “Marlin scenario” was never the development alternative that highland indigenous communities seek.
More than 10 years later, at the end of 2016, after countless protests failed to stop production, the mine ceased to operate. Just this year however, Goldcorp sold the Marlin Mine to another Canadian mining giant, Golden Reign, indicating that the operation will likely resume, and with it the peoples resistance.
Utz K has a longstanding relationship with the leadership of the resistance movement.
Sibinal: The municipality of Sibinal boasts a rich mixture of Mam culture, land-based traditions, sustainable use of natural resources, and cooperative communities with considerable economic potential. Utz K has a longstanding relationship with multiple cooperatives in the region that have alternative visions for place-based development. Through cooperatives, communities have been engaged in very successful development strategies that utilizes available natural resources in a sustainable manner and where local efforts are valued and local people are the primary actors.
Migration: Roughly 85% of working aged men and women in the Sibinal area migrate to Mexico and/or the US to survive. Sibinal is on the route for migrants from all over Central America headed north to work as day laborers on Mexican coffee farms, or pursue the income generating possibilities of menial work in the US.
On a national level, everyday around 150 people from Guatemala leave their families to migrate to the US, in hopes of starting a new life that will help lift their families out of poverty and live a more dignified life.
Utz K is passionate about helping learners to understand the underlying causes of migration, the challenges that migrant faces, and structural and policy considerations that have led to an increase in migration. Above all, Utz K seeks to humanize those who migrate through creative contact.