Kab´awil and the struggle for land
In Guatemala, where the
population consists predominantly of indigenous people, land is one of the
most urgent of many problems the country is facing. The Mayas are suffering
most of all from the unjust distribution of land in a country where a minority
owns everything and a majority nothing.
In 1996, after the end of 36 years of civil war between various dictatorial governments aspiring to maintain power and guerillas fighting for political, social, and economical reforms, peace treaties were signed confirming certain accords aimed to improve the living conditions of the poor people in the country. The two main results were:
The first important result was a reform calling for just distribution of land. This is important for Mayans who do not own land, as land is not only important for their survival, but it also carries a religious significance such as its relevance in many religious ceremonies and their central belief that man comes from mother earth.
The second important result was the signing of an accord recognizing the identity and rights of the indigenous people. The hierarchy of society in Guatemala has been based on racism since colonization by the Spanish. Mayans are discriminated against by Ladinos who are descendents of the Spanish. Mayans and peasants have almost no access to political offices, are disadvantaged regarding any form of social or cultural interest, and are forced to live in poverty.
Although the accords have not yet been put into effect, that they exist on paper is already progress and implementation is only part of a process, which will take years to accomplish.
Nonetheless, the Guatemalan government shows no interest in realizing these peace accords but tries only to maintain the existing conditions. Issues such as political participation, a society based on equality, or improving the economical situation of poor people are not being acknowledged.
There are, however, many groups who have made it their aim to monitor and help the fulfillment of these peace accords. Consejo Campesino Kab´awil is one of them. Kab´awil is a non-governmental organization located in the city of Quetzaltenago in the southwestern highlands of Guatemala. Kab´awil supports peasants in their struggle for land, performs developmental work, and represents the political demands of the peasants and Mayans. This organization was established by Mayans and is linked strongly to Mayan cosmology.
The main focus of Kab´awil is the purchasing of land, which is made possible with the help of a fund. Peasants are then able to settle and work collectively on the land that has been won back. At present, Kab´awil and its' respective groups own five fincas.
Kab´awil views itself as a technical and political organization which stands up for the rights of the Mayan people and other oppressed groups in Guatemala