The struggle between the small and large peoples of Guatemala

by Diana Pastor

In my previous article, I spoke a bit about the Garifuna, one of the two non-Mayan ethnic groups in Guatemala. In this month’s edition, I’m going to tell you a little about the Xincas, who live in eastern Guatemala, occupying parts of Jalapa, Jutiapa and Santa Rosa. A Guatemalan writer states that the Xincas were one of the original inhabitants that gave the greatest resistance to the Spanish invasion of 1524. However, despite their fierce opposition to the Spanish, the Xincas were finally defeated and made into slaves, like the Mayans.

It is speculated that the Xincas migrated to Guatemalan land from South America as it was found that their language has a number of words with similarity to the Andean vocabulary. Unfortunately, today the number of speakers of Xinca is small, with fewer than 300 speakers. But the number of people belonging to this ethnic group far exceeds the number of people who are able to speak Xinca. Even so, over the years – like all other indigenous peoples of Latin America – the Xincan population has been greatly decreased through forced displacements which has led to the dispersion of the group.

Sadly, it has not been only in the past that the Xincas have had to fight for the survival. Right now, their falling population, the little attention given to them by the government, and the pressure of special interest groups have created a multitude of problems for the Xincas. These problems are clearly illustrated in the last serious and major incident that took place on Sunday 17th of last month, when four members of the Xincan parliament (a political space with representatives from all of the communities of this group) were kidnapped at night during their return to the village El Volcanito in the municipality of San Rafael de las Flores, Santa Rosa. Throughout the morning these leaders had participated as observers in a referendum on mining where the majority of those present reiterated their rejection of the mining operations there. A day after the incident, Exaltación Marcos was found dead, who held the position of secretary in the Xincan parliament. Two other members of the parliament were able to escape while the kidnappers were traveling in a car. The last hostage was found very shaken up in a hotel in Chimaltenango

Who are those responsible for such a crime? Suspicions abound. What is evident is that, once again, history repeats itself. Greed, abuse of power and corruption become the enemy of one of the many Guatemalan ethnic peoples who have been forced to defend and to continue defending what has always belonged to them: the right to live in peace and to inherit their land to their children and grandchildren.

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