As this year’s Lenten campaign comes to a close, many Irish people may be curious about the work and the people that their donations help every year.
María is one of three young girls to feature on this year’s box. She was one of 78,000 Guatemalans to receive direct support from Trócaire last year thanks to the generosity of the Irish public.
This year’s Lent campaign highlighted how land, security and hope is stolen from vulnerable families all over the world. The story of María’s family is an unfortunate but stark example of such injustice.
Working as small farmers in the community of Parana in the fertile and stunning Polochic Valley, María’s family were violently evicted from this area – their ancestral homeland – in 2011. As a small child, she and her family watched as their home was burned down by a private security firm, accompanied by state forces.
“We have the support of CUC and Trócaire”
A small Trócaire delegation recently visited María’s home – a close-knit communal system of shared allotments – in northern Guatemala to document their progress and how Trócaire and our partners are assisting them in their fight for land rights.
María and her family returned to their land in 2015 and, with the help of Trócaire and our local partners CUC (Committee for Peasant Unity), the community now has a temporary legal assurance ruling to protect them.
While their long-term future remains uncertain, María’s dad, José (46), a father of five, said: “While we still fear eviction, we have the support of CUC and Trócaire and we are hopeful for the future.”
Stating their case with legal backing
The issue of evictions is a common problem for native Mayans, who face regular abuse, intimidation and the threat of violence from security firms representing big businesses ruthlessly enforcing their own questionable claims to ownership of the land.
Many of these often spurious claims stem from misappropriation of the land during the 36-year conflict that led to up to 200,000 deaths, the vast majority of the victims being indigenous people.
José explained: “Even now if they [the company] tried to evict us we should be protected by the measures put in place, but we do not trust the Guatemalan government to protect us and we feel like they have promoted the evictions in the past in favour of big business.
“There is a feeling of distrust and fear. We’re poor people and the companies are very rich. They don’t want to work with us because they are used t having their own way.
“We do have rights, however. Article 47 of the Guatemalan constitution talks about the rights of the family. We can fight back with our rights.”
Trócaire and our partners provide legal backing and simple support such as language translation for a people who have retained their native Mayan language, but do not have any Spanish, meaning they need help with the language of government to mount legal cases to stay on their land.
Edgar (23), José’s son and María’s brother, is now hopeful that the community can work with Trócaire and CUC to ensure his own two-year-old son, Joel, will not have to fight the same battle.
“My dream is for my son is that we can stay here on our land and be settled as a family,” said Edgar.
Thank you for your support
The progress that María’s family, Trócaire and CUC have made in the fight for land rights wouldn´t have been possible without your contribution. Thank you for your support for Trócaire and our work.
If you’ve generously supported our 2019 Lent appeal, Trócaire boxes can be returned to parishes or you can donate to our lent appeal here.