Guatemala: Why Do Members of the Same Indigenous Peoples Kill Each Other?

Ollantay Itzamná
Territory in conflict between Santa Catarina and Nahualá occupied by PNC. Internet

The territorial conflict between Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán is an iceberg in a country with criminal internal borders that dissect the peoples, turning them into territorial enemies among themselves, families belonging to the same native peoples.

In recent months, the violent confrontation between neighbors of the municipalities of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán and Nahualá, both in the Department of Sololá, belonging to the Maya Quiché people, about 150 km west of Guatemala City, has reappeared in international news.

In recent December a massacre took place that claimed the lives of 12 Mayan Quiché Indians. In response, on December 20, the central government decreed a state of siege in the area, occupying the territory in conflict with hundreds of agents of the National Civil Police (PNC) and the Army. In the first days of January, the residents of Nahualá expelled the PNC police station from the area… On January 7, a second PNC agent was killed and several others wounded in a community of Nahualá, while they were trying to capture those allegedly responsible for the previous massacre.

Why did members of the same village become enemies?

The Municipality of Santa Catarina was created to please European families during the Spanish Colony. The Municipality of Nahualá was created to please the friends of the Liberal Revolution (second half of the XIX century) during the bicentennial Republic.

In no case were its inhabitants consulted if they accepted or not the intermunicipal border that today “assassinates” them. In both cases, the municipal borders, now lethal for the Quiché people, were not precisely delimited. On the contrary, they left collective plots of land without defining what belonged to which side. Thus, the State created one of the many murderous internal borders that today it is incapable of resolving.

It is not an “ethnic” problem. Erroneously, many analysts or newscasts present it as a “savage Indian issue”, or compare it to other conflicts between peoples in the Middle East. False.

The conflict is not about identity or cultural belonging. It is because of an imposed municipal border that divides/enfaces the same people into two different jurisdictions that compete/dispute with each other for parcels of collective lands.

The Quiché people, like many peoples in Abya Yala, were divided by destructive borders, imposed by the bicentennial creole republics that do not understand cultural territorial continuity, much less plurinationality. How many peoples, at this moment, are not dissected into different republics, departments or municipalities?

Faced with the incapacity/corruption of the State, the people armed themselves and resolve their disagreements with bullets. Unlike many countries in the region, Central American political constitutions, such as Guatemala’s, provide for the right to own firearms as a citizen’s right. In fact, with the proliferation of the shadowy military industry, and the business of violence/security, people managed to arm themselves.

A problem that was not created by indigenous families. Inhabited by their prejudices, analysts and commentators, from the cities, indicate that the violent conflict between Nahualá and Santa Catarina is the fault of the “Indians”. False.

The one who created this conflict was and is the Creole State that does not understand the coexistence of peoples, nor the territorial/cultural continuity. The problem arose when they divided up an original territory, including the population, as if it were a piece of cheese. This conflict became entrenched with the illusory “territorial/municipal identity” harangued by the municipal elites. We do not know if it will disappear with the restoration of the Quiché territory and identity, within the framework of the proposal of the plurinational State.

If the problem was already created by the State, the bloody consequences of the State response also externalize the archaic punitive/despotic philosophy that still inhabits the State of Guatemala, incapable of exercising hegemony in the totality of its territory. One cannot, nor should one send PNC delegations, together with the Public Ministry, to territories in historical violent conflict without prior intelligence diagnosis! Much more so in a country with a free market of firearms!

The territorial conflict between Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán is an iceberg in a country with criminal internal borders that dissect the peoples, transforming families belonging to the same original peoples into territorial enemies of each other.

We wish that this problem created by the eurorepublican Colony be resolved through the system of deliberation and traditional consensus of the peoples.can colony will be resolved through the traditional system of deliberation and consensus.