Paula Garcia Tufro

Paula (ADVIMA, Guatemala): Paula was studying for a Master’s degree in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown, at the time of her fellowship on Guatemala. Her full name is being withheld at her request.



Plan Grande

08 Jun

First trip out to one of the affected communities: Plan Grande

What an experience! Rolando arrived at my new home at 4am promptly. I anxiously hopped on his motorcycle in the middle of the night to head to Plan Grande. There were bad storms the night before and the already frightening winding road was that much more treacherous as big boulders has crumbled from the mountain side onto the middle of the road.

Two hours later we veered off the main highway onto a gravel road for the rest of the trip. This being only my second motorcycle ride ever, I was bouncing around all over the place on the back of the motorcycle. After 45 minutes Rolando pulls over and parks the motorcycle along the river. When I ask where the community we were visiting was he turned and pointed up to the top of the mountain on the other side of the river.

That is right, mountain, not hill. So we began to climb. By then it was almost 8 am and the sun was out in full force. The plan for the day was to visit Plan Grande, a community situated along the river below the dam which has suffered enormous hardships as a result of the construction of the dam and the resulting loss of 10 sources of water for the community.

This was a follow up to Rolando’s earlier visit to gather information regarding their damages and to photograph each one of the families in the community as part of the study underway which seeks to document the conditions in which this community lived before the construction of the Chixoy Dam and contrast them with their current living conditions, and identifying damages suffered as a result of the construction of the dam.

We climbed straight uphill for about 30 minutes until we met the community leader, Aurelio Moran, who led the rest of the way. He led us house by house to visit the families. The visits to each home were short but touching. Some families were very shy about having their picture taken. Most ran inside to change into their best outfits and the women all straightened up and fixed their hair before their picture. Each time I showed them the picture on my digital camera. They seemed to really like that.

The conditions in this community were devastating. I have been forced to re evaluate my definition of poverty, lack of resources, discrimination and suffering. There was no electricity, no water, no sewer system. The house all consisted of one room, some as small as 1,50 m by 1,50m, maybe even smaller. Each family had at least 3 or 4 and up to 8 kids. Other houses were a bit bigger, but still unimaginable in terms of living space for the number of members of each family. It was pretty moving experience. You look around this land, and all you see is a solid block of rocks. it is unimaginable that they are able to grow anything on it.

The community used to have 10 sources of water, allowing them to grow corn, cane and raise cattle. They can now only grow a fraction of the corn and can no longer grow any cane or support any cattle as there is nothing for them to graze on or drink. Their 2 crops a year have been reduced to one drastically reduces crop per year. They now only have one limited source of water (a small puddle) coming from high above the mountain. This source has a hose that hangs down into the community, dripping minimal amounts of water, taking half a day to fill up a large bucket.

That is all of the water they have. Water to use for drinking, cooking, and washing. They suffer various diseases from diseases spread by mosquitoes, including malaria and dengue, severe dehydration, headaches and coughs and related ailments. They told us that a doctor now comes to the community approximately once a month, the rest of the month, they are limited to reaching the nearest hospital located 3 hours away by foot (the one in their locality is approximately 8 hours away by foot!).

They have little to no access to medicines as the doctor only leaves behind a small medicine kid which quickly runs out. Some medicinal plants are used to try to alleviate the pain. The school teacher arrives sporadically, sometimes only twice a week.

Today he did not come. After the individual visits, we met with the men in the community to explain to them what the objective of our visit and of the report that we are putting together is, to document their situation and the conditions in which they live and the damages that they have suffered in connection with the construction of the Chixoy Dam in order to fight for their basic human rights.

“ TODOS ESTAMOS SUFRIENDO. EL AGUA ES LO MAS IMPORTANTE PARA LA VIDA AHORA NO PODEMOS HACER NADA SIN AGUA LO QUE NOS ESTA PASANDO ES POR LA CONSTRUCCION DE LA REPRESA” – member of the community of Plan Grande

“WE ARE ALL SUFFERING. WATER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO LIVE NOW, WE CANNOT DO ANYTHING WITHOUT WATER WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US IS DUE TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE DAM”

Posted By Paula Garcia Tufro

Posted Jun 8th, 2007

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