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December 21, 2012, the end of the Oxlajuj B’ak’tun cycle of 5,128 years—not the end of the world, as commonly, falsely interpreted—is fast approaching, and for Maya in Guatemala, that means it is time to start celebrating. To commemorate Oxlajuj B’ak’tun, the Waqib’ Kej Indigenous Youth Council held a festival of art, music, and dance on September 22 on the grounds of the ancient Maya city of Iximche, outside modern-day Tecpan, Guatemala. Iximche was the capital of the Kakchiquel empire, founded in 1465 and part of what archaeologists term the post-classical period of the Mayan empire. As Alex Ulul, community guide at the ruins, explains, “Post-classical is the term archaeologists use, but that implies an end to Maya civilization. We measure time in b’ak’tun. This city was built at the end of the 11th b’ak’tun.” Oxlajuj, meaning 13, is the last b’ak’tun. According to Maya priests, the next cycle begins again at 1.

The festival also marked the conclusion of a two-day conference for Indigenous youth focusing on a re-establishment of the State of Guatemala in this new era. “We have thought deeply about the reality that we’re living, and what we can propose to the state of Guatemala. We demand real change in this country,” said a presenter at the opening of the festival.

Indigenous artists, musicians, poets, and dancers gathered from across the country to represent, via artistic expression, what Oxlajuj B’ak’tun means for them. Eduardo Santiago Reyes, from San Juan Comalapa, won first place for his painting about Maya spirituality and hardships. “I am so grateful to have the chance to be here. Being involved in this movement and painting about these topics has been a huge challenge to me,” he said.

Reyes’ father forbids him from painting about injustices Indigenous Peoples have faced out of fear of repercussions. “Talking about these issues is like a death wish,” his father has told him.

But Guatemala’s Indigenous youth are ready to take on this challenge. “It’s our turn to construct a new government,” said Reyes. As a result of the conference, youth leaders published a statement demanding a state that reflects the multi-lingual and multi-ethnic Guatemala that Indigenous youth live in today. “Along this long historic path of struggle and resistance, we, Indigenous youth, are discussing, deliberating, and articulating our struggles, on the eve of Oxlajuj B’ak’tun, as a moment for a new dawn for the people,” the statement begins. A musician summed up the sentiment at the festival: “Seeing this many young people, working together for positive change for Indigenous Peoples in our country, gives me an incredible hope for this new era.”
 

Read the rest of our five-part series on 2012 at www.cs.org/2012.

The Final Weapon

Rex Howitt is a Missouri farmer. For the past two years Rex has planted corn. Unwittingly he has planted the seeds of destruction for tribal people in Guatemala and Ethiopia. The US government buys part of Rex's corn. It then sells much of this corn to other nations. Part of the corn, however, is given for refugee, famine and disaster relief.

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The Guatemalan Indian Civil Rights Movement

A few years ago, before the present wave of violence in Guatemala, I lived in a Mayan Indian community in the northwestern part of the country, an area where whole populations of Indian hamlets have been massacred in recent military operations. When I was there for a year in 1972-73 and the summer of 1975 the outlines of the present conflict were already forming. I spent most of my time in the small Indian community of Aguacatan in the Department of Huehuetenango.

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The Hagahai: Isolation and Health Status in Papua New Guinea

The Hagahai are a recently contacted group of seminomadic hunter-horticulturalists living in the fringe highlands of Madang Province in Papua New Guinea. Although occasional explorers and miners probably walked through their territory in the Schrader Mountains as early as the 1930s and several attempts were made to census them during the 1970s, the Hagahai effectively remained hidden from mission and government influence until the 1980s.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Network

In the past ten years communication between native peoples has exploded. The increasingly unstable world economy and rapid information dissemination systems have contributed to a common understanding of the economic, political and social forces affecting native peoples on six continents. Isolation from regional and world events is a thing of the past for even the most remote indigenous communities.

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The Indigenous Role in Guatemalan Peace

On December 29, 1996, huge crowds gathered in Guatemala City's central square and cheered representatives of the government, military, and guerrillas as they signed the "Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace." While this accord represents the first step in what will be a difficult and demanding process of reconciliation and reconstruction, it nevertheless reflects an extraordinary political achievement.

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The Lacandone Rainforest Project

The Lacandone rain forest is the northernmost in the Americas, located in Chiapas on the Mexico-Guatemala border. It has been inhabited for more than 1,500 years by Mayan Indians who remain in the region, living in the tradition of their ancestors. In the past 100 years, half of the original 526,110 acres of the Lacandone rain forest has been destroyed in the face of logging, cattle ranching, destructive agricultural practices, and energy development.

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The Life of Our Language: Kaqchikel Maintenance, Shift, and Revitalization

Endangered languages have received considerable attention in the last decade, as it has been shown that a majority of the world's languages are facing possible extinction in the near future.

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This Friday November 1st, or Day of the Dead in Guatemala, the municipality of Sumpango celebrated with their famous annual Kite Festival. Thousands of people from all over the country, as well as foreigners, travel to Sumpango on this day to see the magnificent, giant kites that various community groups from Sumpango have been working on for months prior to the event. There is music, food, drinks and dancing on this joyous event, which is the pride and joy of citizens of Sumpango.

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The Maya Heritage

The Maya have lived in Central America for many centuries. They are one of the many Precolumbian native peoples of Mesoamerica. In the past and today they occupy Guatemala, adjacent portions of Chiapas and Tabasco, the whole of the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, and the western edges of Honduras and Salvador. The Maya speak many different languages, as, for instance, Quiché and Cakchiquel of the highlands, and Chol, Choirti, and Yucatecan of the lowlands to name only some.

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The Mayan Renaissance: Sna Jtz'ibajom, the House of the Writer

Suddenly, voices of the dead, silenced for hundreds of years, are speaking out, revealing their names, their ages, their great accomplishments, even to a degree, their personalities. Suddenly, the Mayan heroes of Mexico and Central America engraved in stone, carved in wood a thousand years ago are emerging from ghostly images enveloped in mysterious glyphs.

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The Mental Health of Indigenous Peoples: An International Overview

Relatively little research has examined directly the mental health status and treatment needs of the indigenous peoples of the world. This is both unsurprising and remarkable.

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The Pan-Mayan Movement: Mayans at the Doorway of the New Millennium

The Mayans have struggled for centuries against marginalization and the lack of educational and economic opportunities. Besides the internal warfare which lasted more than 30 years, Mayans had to deal with other forms of indoctrination, fear, and death as a result of guerrilla warfare, army scorched earth policies, and civil patrols. It is important to examine the current struggles of Mayan people in an effort to make our presence visible during the national reconciliation.

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Between 1978 and 1984 the western highlands of Guatemala became a "killing field." It was there that the Guatemalan army waged a rural counterinsurgency operation against not only a small, armed guerrilla force, but also against a large unarmed, civilian, and mostly Mayan population (Falls, 1994). It was the most extensive attack on the highland indigenous people since the time of the Spanish invasion five centuries earlier.

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The Pesch of Honduras Face Uncertain Prospects

The line that ethnographers draw across Central America to mark the division between Mesoamerican Indians and those of South American and Caribbean origin passes right through the middle of the Republic of Honduras. In comparison with its neighboring Guatemala, only remnants of indigenous Indian culture survive in present-day Honduras; 90 percent or more of its population is Mestizo or Ladino.

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On May 25, 2013, more than 25 community radio station volunteers from Cultural Survival’s radio network across Guatemala gathered for a workshop in the Mujb’ab’l Yol training center in San Mateo, Quetzaltenango. The focus of the workshop was on Indigenous People’s Rights.

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The Social Consequences of "Development" Aid in Guatemala

Section 701 of the International Financial Institutions Act requires that the U.S. Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) oppose any aid for a country whose government is a gross and consistent violator of internationally recognized human rights, except when such aid is designed to meet basic human needs.

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THE VISUAL RECORD: Disappearing Forests; Disappearing Peoples

Central America, the 200,000-square-mile land bridge connecting North and South America and separating the Pacific from the Caribbean, is an extremely heterogeneous mosaic of climate, soils, vegetation, and animal life. Species from both North and South American intermingle along this isthmus, making it one of the richest zones of biological diversity in the world. Its tropical forests, in particular, are repositories of a multitude of species of flora and fauna.

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The World Commission on Dams' Process

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The Year in Review: A Message from the Executive Director

On March 6, 2009, the New York Times reported that two prominent Kenyan human rights activists, Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu, were shot and killed at close range while their car was blocked in heavy traffic in Nairobi. What the Times didn’t report was that the two men were en route to a human rights meeting where they were to report on persistent Kenyan police brutality and impunity that victimizes the Indigenous Samburu among other Kenyans.  

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The newly elected President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina and the 158 members of the Guatemalan Congress took office in February of this year. Since then, conflicts between the major political parties have paralyzed the Congress.  Six pieces of legislation, backed by a broad coalition of Indigenous and small farmer’s organizations, remain pending from the previous congress. These bills would protect sacred sites, promote community controlled rural development, and create broadcast licenses for community radio stations.

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"Today is the beginning of a new era" -- Alma Gloria Temaj Morales, Mam Maya spiritual guide from GuatemalaToday is December 21, 2012, the end of the Oxlajuj Baktun cycle, the end of the "long-count" calendar that finishes up a 5,129-year cycle in the Mayan calendar. The ancient Maya people were master astrologers and timekeepers, tracking the stars and planets and developing a cyclical calendar. Today is also the Winter Solstice.

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A veces un documental cree historia, más allá que solo documentarlo. Así es el caso con “Granito de Arena” (“Granito: How to Nail a Dictator”), el documental increíble que ayudó a condenar Ríos Montt en Guatemala por genocidio. En parte thriller política, en parte memorias, el documental nos transporta al pasado por una historia macabra e inolvidable del genocidio en Guatemala contra las Mayas indígenas, perpetrado por el anterior presidente Ríos Montt.

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On March 13th the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, visited Guatemala, giving an audience to the grievances of the Indigenous peoples in the country during a visit to the highland town of Totonicapan. 

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GUATEMALA- On March 23, 2011, The United Nations Office for Human Rights in Guatemala gave a presentation to a packed audience on the state of human rights in Guatemala throughout the year 2010. Alberto Brunori, the High Commissioner, explained the continued state of social exclusion and disadvantage that faces Indigenous peoples in Guatemala.  In his speech, Brunori highlighted the necessity of equal access to media for Indigenous communities in Guatemala, and specifically to community radio frequencies.  

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After taking part in the February 11th press conference on community radio organized by Cultural Survival, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech, Frank La Rue filed a case in Guatemala’s Constitutional Court against the government claiming that the existing telecommunications law is in violation of freedom of expression and speech guaranteed in the Guatemalan Constitution.

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Representatives of three Guatemala Radio Project partner organizations were in Washington, D.C. from March 7–11 as part of the Project’s effort to promote changes to Guatemala’s telecommunications law.

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Leer aqui en español!On September 2nd the people of Sololá rose to their feet to protect what is considered by many to be the heart and body of the Mayan civilization, corn. Thousands of people, young and old, peacefully marched and shut down the main intersections on the inter-american highway that connects the western part of Guatemala to the capital. Their demand? Keep Monsanto out of Guatemala.

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Uprooted Mayan Children

I: Chiapas

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Video for Life

The clicking computer keys can be heard on the dusty steep slope of Sixth Avenue in Sololá, in the mountainous southwest of Guatemala, overlooking the scenic Lago Atiitlan. The sounds originate from a popular internet café operated by an indigenous women's association.

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For over 600 years, they’ve denied us our voice. Today, we will vindicate our claims. Today, we bring a tiny grain of sand to this process,” Alma Temaj said on March 15 in the lobby of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States in Washington, DC.

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