Diseño sin título (18)

The resistance of Mayan women in Western Guatemala



Political organization is essential for the social development of communities: a platform of resistance by the Mayan peoples in Guatemala to strengthen their territories and work together for current and future generations.

Parity is one of the most important aspects to improve in Guatemalan politics. There are women who stand out for their work at the forefront of social movements in the southwest of Guatemala.
Luz Emilia Ulario Zavala lives in Santa Lucía Utatlán, Sololá. She was Indigenous Mayor from 2022-2023 and one of her goals was the spread of equal justice. “We all have the same ability (…), [male leaders] do not accept a woman as mayor, but I was elected” says Luz Emilia. She says that many times, out of respect for others, people hesitate to act, but women should not be underestimated when holding public office.

Fighting against the system

Racism and discrimination are evident in many spaces, where indigenous representation is scarce, but to be a leader one must overcome fear. You must “always fight, demand and take advantage of opportunities”, she says.

After 28 years as a teacher and although she recently left her position as mayor, Emilia is one of the women who led the resistance during the threat to democracy in the country. With confidence, she affirms that women play the role of born leaders, which is why she motivates all of them, since they all have the capacity.

Twenty-five kilometers away from Sololá is Totonicapán, a department recognized for its 48 cantons, made up of community leaders. Although the participation of women in the boards of directors is scarce, for María Juana Tzunún, it is an opportunity to raise her voice. María Juana was a member of the board of directors of the 48 Cantons in 2023. She describes her participation as a great challenge because it is important to demonstrate that women can hold positions at the community level and make decisions. We must defend our rights, what belongs to us as women," explains the leader, an expert in food security. In addition to holding positions at the community level, she works with other organizations to improve nutrition in the region.
For Juana, it is important to strengthen women´s capacities, so that they can be independent and seek their own development, in addition to defending their rights and the territory they occupy.
We want the unity of the mestizo, Mayan, Garifuna and Xinca peoples, she says, because it is through unity that human rights can be guaranteeD.

Another example of organization to work for the community is the Asociación Jóvenes Explorando el Valle, from the Palajunoj Valley, Quetzaltenango, which carries out social, economic, environmental and educational projects.

One of the founders is Fabiola Quijivix, a woman who has traveled nationally and
internationally to promote her project and talk about its success.
The association works on sustainable projects that are a platform for young people to have access to health, education and improve their quality of life. Although they have faced a lack of support from the government and general disinterest in caring for the environment, they are determined to resist in order to achieve their short- and long-term goals.
“We must believe in ourselves, in what we do, and also be at peace and know that we are
doing well explains”, Fabiola.

The interviews with the three leaders can be found on YouTube on the @RegionMasNoticias and @luisaruano5343 channels. These reports were made with the support of the International Women´s Media Foundation (IWMF) and NDI as part of the VAW-PM program, to highlight and recognize the leadership of Mayan women and their contribution to democracy in the country.

Luisa Ruano is social communicator and journalist. Communication consultant and digital content producer. IWMF (International Women´s Media Foundation) Fellow and student of the ICFJ (International Center for Journalists) in the United States.