PBI-Guatemala accompanies Lorena Cabnal’s resistance to violence against women and territory

Published by Brent Patterson on

Land defender Rita Wong was recently sentenced in a Vancouver courtroom to 28 days in a ‘correctional centre for women’ for her peaceful resistance to the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline that would violate the sovereignty and put at risk Indigenous territories as well as endanger the lives of Indigenous women.

Before she was arrested, Wong stated, “The expansion of this pipeline would pose an increased risk to Indigenous women through displacement and man-camps, as well as everybody on Earth, through further climate destabilization.”

She encouraged “more people to make the connections between violence against the land and violence against missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

That is a connection that has also been made by Secwepemc land defender Kanahus Manuel, Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, and Helen Knott, a Dane-Zaa and Nehiyaw woman from the Prophet River First Nations in her resistance to the Site C hydroelectric dam on Treaty 8 territory.

Lorena Cabnal, a Mayan Q’eqchi’-xinka who is with the TZ’KAT Network of Ancestral Healers of Community Feminism from Ixmulew, also sees the connection.

She does so in reference to the resistance to “mining, hydroelectric, oil, extended monocultures, the brutal felling of forests, the impositions of landowners, the violent and forced evictions of women and communities” in Guatemala.

This article notes, “Lorena makes a historical-structural analysis of the violence applied to the bodies, understood as territories that are daily attacked in the capitalist system.”

And this article provides the additional context that, “Guatemalan community feminists have proposed the category body-land territory.”

That category highlights “that the struggle for the defense of the land against extractivism must be simultaneous and inseparable from the struggle for women in such territories to live a life free from violence and the exploitation of their bodies.”

That article adds, “Extractivism is based on and exacerbates the patriarchal culture, which has a particular affect on women’s way of life.”

It further notes, “In the contexts of mining and oil exploitation and hydroelectric installations, for example, a ‘masculinization’ of territories takes place in which community spaces and daily life are restructured around the desires and values of a hegemonic masculinity.”

Lorena says, “We need to heal the remote memories [of violence against our ancestors at the time of colonization], and also heal a more recent memory such as counter-insurgent warfare and the effects of criminalization, prosecution, persecution, risks, attacks and threats to defenders of life.”

Because of her activism, Lorena has experienced threats, raids, intimidation and had to temporarily leave her community.

In this interview with PBI-United Kingdom, she says, “We read Peace Brigades International’s monthly bulletin and saw that it was like a report of threats that human rights defenders are suffering, and it’s also a form of public announcement, which is important for a network of support and solidarity with the struggles of women’s organisations, social and indigenous movements in different parts of the country.”

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has accompanied Lorena since 2006 and TZ’KAT since February 2018. PBI-Ireland recently hosted Lorena’s visit to Dublin. You can read more about that here.


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