This interview was done in January 2009 with an indigenous Mayan Mam woman from a community located next to the mine. She is a school teacher and a mother in search of a cure for her baby's rash.
Recently, this community activist & teacher who has spoken out both nationally and internationally about the violations and negative impacts that Canadian mining company, Goldcorp Inc. is causing in her community & the region of Guatemala.
She asked that her name not be published.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I am from another town in San Miguel Ixtahuacán. I live here now, after arriving a few years ago to work in the school.
HOW WAS THE TOWN’S SOCIAL ATMOSPHERE WHEN YOU ARRIVED?
Everything was calm. I arrived at the school. People were very nice and united. When the mine started, everything started to change. Six years ago,no, not that much, maybe three years ago this started… everything changed.
HOW DID EVERYTHING CHANGE?
People became divided. People are more conflictive, rude, and arrogant. Everything has changed. The environment too. Because we would go out for walks in the mountains with the children, we would go see the leaves, plant leaves. Now we don’t see the mountains, only dust that comes from there because the school is very close to the mine.
WHAT CHANGED IN THE ENVIRONMENT?
The environment is hotter, and more so with the dust. Before it wasn’t like this, we would go out for walks in the mountains with the children and we would go by foot because there was no road. We liked to go in the mountains with the children until Salem, it was very humid. There’s only dust.
We don’t take the children out anymore because where would we go with them? Only there inside. We don’t go out for anything. We cannot go walking to other towns, on other paths, because it is private property, danger to cross through, restricted places, we can’t go. We are shut in. We lost inter- school, inter- classroom communication.
AND THE WATER AVAILABILTY CHANGED SINCE THE MINE CAME?
When I arrived there was water. There was even water in the school. We would water with hoses in the classroom. The children washed their hands. But not any more. We go to the school bathroom and there is no water and the sanitary sink is dry. We don’t water anymore. The school does not get water anymore and the children don’t wash. Only sometimes is there water.
ACCORDING TO YOU, HOW MANY CHILDREN HAVE SKIN PROBLEMS IN THE TOWN’S SCHOOL?
15 children between 6 and 14 years of age.
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE IN THE SCHOOL?
IS THIS THE FIRST TIME IN THE TOWN’S RECENT HISTORY THAT ONE HAS OBSERVED SO
MANY CHILDREN ILL OR WITH SKIN PROBLEMS?
Yes, it is the first time in 10 years that one has observed so many.
WHAT DO THE PARENTS OF THESE CHILDREN SAY ABOUT THESE ILLNESSES?
IN YOUR OPINION, WHY NOT?
The important thing is that they have money. We have talked to them but they say: “I treated him, but he does not get better” but who knows… because they don’t want to say anything. The teachers have spoken to some parents and they were told that they don’t want to go to the mine to show their children, “no” they say… until some of them die because a baby has already died.
A BABY DIED?
She is an abandoned mother. Her husband was in the mine and he looked for another woman. She stayed home with her children and did not have a way to treat her baby. She didn’t have money, nor food or anything. She cried and…she didn’t have a way, not even to talk about it. And her baby died.
HOW WOULD QUALIFY YOUR OWN HEALTH LEVEL: EXCELLENT, GOOD, BAD, OR VERY BAD?
Bad, because my son does not get better. He continues with this. He has had this rash for 10 months. He is a year and half old, but he started this when he was 3 months old.
WHERE IS THE RASH ON HIS BODY?
On his entire body from his face to his feet, to the tips of his toes. He had a lot on his feet and now they are on his legs, his face, and his fingers.
DID YOU GO TO A DOCTOR?
I went everywhere. I went to Guatemala City for my son’s rash. I went to San Marcos and Huehuetenango. I used homemade medicines. Now he has the rash on his leg. I went to dermatologists, pediatricians, doctors like that, general medicine.
WAS A BLOOD TEST DONE ON YOUR BABY?
They took a skin sample, a blood test, but they did not tell me if there were heavy metals and they did not give me the results.
WHAT DID YOU DO ATTEMPT TO SOLVE YOUR BABY’S SKIN PROBLEMS?
I already used medicine for scabbies—but it is not scabbies because I had already used soap, creams, lotions, and I even boiled his clothes in water with bleach… and I boiled the water and the clothes were destroyed in the water… yes, I threw away the clothes, but nothing happened!
Because they told me it was due to fleas. But I don’t have any animal. I don’t have a dog, cat, nothing, not even chickens. Because if it were due to dogs-- dogs sometimes give fleas-- I don’t have one. Mosquitoes, they said, but that is not possible.