The Mayan Warriors of Light in Guatemala

Ollantay Itzamná

They were born into socio-economic and cultural exclusion. But life turned both of them into “cornerstones” not only of the CODECA-MLP movement, but of the new Guatemala that wants to exist.

Thelma Cabrera, 49, and Vicenta Jerónimo, 47, are two women, mothers and grandmothers, Maya mam. Self-taught defenders, forged in the struggles of communities in resistance to the nationalization of electricity in Guatemala. Authentic warriors of light, in a country blessed by the tropical sun, but submerged in an eternal tyranny of darkness.

Both women were and are the fundamental pillars of the social movement Comité del Desarrollo Campesino (CODECA), but with a very low media profile.

Now, both as candidates for the Presidency and for Deputy, respectively, from the Movement for the Liberation of Peoples (MLP), they challenge the power of the rich, in a country designed and organized for the government of wealthy white men.

I met both defenders in 2012, since then, I accompanied them on the luminous path of community resistance in defense of their territories, and for the recovery of their privatized assets.

They, along with hundreds of communities organized in resistance, harassed by transnational corporations, for more than a decade have been vocal: “Electricity is a fundamental human right. Not a commodity. Nationalizing it is our duty”. But, in official Guatemala, the strident media war against this movement that resulted in their being discredited, criminalized, and their members assassinated, could have been more devastating. But, they were never defeated.

Vicenta Jerónimo. Candidate for Congresswoman

The electricity distributors ENERGUATE and EEGSA, together with the public prosecutor’s office against CODECA (against electricity theft), sentenced Vicenta Jerónimo to four years in prison for the following offences: “instigation to commit a crime”, “activities against the internal security of the nation”….. But in 2018, she was acquitted, along with another CODECA rights defender. Vicenta organized the most resistance communities in the country’s southeastern territories. Cabrera. Guatemalan presidential candidate for MLP

Thelma Cabrera, as President, led the CODECA movement for several years, especially during the most difficult period of criminalization and persecution experienced by this movement, until it became the most powerful indigenous peasant movement of national scope. With nobility, she personally accompanied all the burials of murdered defenders in the territories. She never hesitated to publicly name those responsible for the murders.

Both were born out of socioeconomic and cultural exclusion. But life turned both of them into “cornerstones” not only of the CODECA-MLP movement, but of the new Guatemala that wants to exist.

Both were seen in the communities organizing formative assemblies eating avocado and tortillas. Travelling hand in hand through the national territory to promote the collective and individual exercise and defense of rights, as authentic “warrior sisters” announcing to the people the long awaited “liberation of the light” in a country that has been submerged in darkness.

If the country’s neoliberal socio-political circumstances forced CODECA to move from the agenda of “political incidence” to the proposal of a Popular and Plurinational Constituent process to create the Plurinational State, those circumstances also made these two Mayan women courageous “wars of light” and ” prophetesses” of the new day that announces its dawn for the peoples of Guatemala.

Translation by Internationalist 360°