2011-10. As Firm as a Tree: Portraits of Diodora

Maquivil Hamlet. San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, Guatemala.
October 24th, 2011.
Issue: Mining / Land Tenure

On July 7, 2010, Diodora Hernandez, a staunch anti-mining activist, was shot point-blank on the right eye outside her home in the small community of San José Nueva Esperanza – only a few meters from a fence that delimits Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine. One year after her miraculous recuperation, Diodora’s anti-mining stance and activism remains as steadfast as ever.

A flurry of events in mid-2010 brought international attention once again to the controversial Canadian-owned Marlin gold mine:
-May 24: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the government of Guatemala to “suspend mining activity at the Marlin mine and take steps to protect the health of the surrounding indigenous communities.” (1)
-June 16: James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, visits San Miguel Ixtahuacán and eventually issues a report concluding that “Guatemala is currently experiencing a high degree of social unrest in connection with the natural resource extraction activities taking place in the traditional territories of indigenous peoples, which has serious impacts on indigenous peoples’ rights, and threatens governance and economic development.” (2)
-July 7: Three weeks after Anaya’s visit, Diodora Hernández is shot point blank in the face.


Exactly one year after the shooting, Diodora expresses her thoughts on the local radio station The Voice of the People: “They tried to kill me because I do not want to sell my plot of land!”


“People around here do not think about the future or their children, but only on the present, the money they can get for the present,” states Diodora.


Diodora, walking alongside Carmen Mejía and trailed by one of two plainclothes police officers who provide security around the clock, states: “I will never sell my plot. This is where I was born, and I will die here. Even if I did sell it, where would I go?”


Diodora, who lost her right eye as a result of the attack, lives with her daughter María and granddaughter Olga in what now seems the ghost town of San José Nueva Esperanza.


“I am sad because most of my neighbors have sold out and left. But me, hmmm, don’t you worry, I will continue on with the struggle! I am firm as a tree. Standing I am, and standing I will remain.”


During 2011, two Goldcorp shareholders have presented a resolution asking the company to suspend operations at the Marlin mine. (3)
Meanwhile, on September 19, 2011, Goldcorp was removed from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index due to “ongoing allegations of human rights violations and evidence of environmental contamination in communities affected by Goldcorp’s mining activities.” (4)

“Goldcorp’s removal from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index will not make a difference in the daily lives of communities in Guatemala, Honduras and elsewhere who are living with long-term impacts from this company’s operations,” says Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, “but this is another indication that the company can’t just paper over the damage that it’s doing.” (5)


Two recent feature length documentaries on the Marlin Gold Mine:
The Business of Gold: Chronicle of a Conflict Foretold (2010, Collectif Guatemala). More information and distribution: jmcvicar@gmail.com


Life for Gold (2011, Caracol Producciones). More information and distribution: caracolproducciones@yahoo.es


This photo essay was made possible with the logistical support of Rights Action.

Versión en español aquí.

1 “IACHR calls on the Guatemalan government and Goldcorp to halt mining”. The Guatemala Times. June 10, 2010. http://www.guatemala-times.com/news/guatemala/1668–iachr-calls-on-the-guatemalan-government-and-goldcorp-to-halt-mining.html
2 Anaya, James. “Report on natural resource extraction and the Marlin Mine in Guatemala.”
3 http://goldcorpoutofguatemala.com/2011/03/23/shareholders-announce-resolution-to-suspend-controversial-goldcorp-mine-in-guatemala/
4 http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/goldcorp-removed-dow-jones-sustainability-index
5 Ibid.