Author: Operation Groundswell

Jonah's thoughts from his scouting mission to Haiti. Pretty amazing stuff.   "It's complicated." That's the long and short of the general consensus here in Haiti. I've heard this simple summation of Haiti's tumultous history, bleak present and even murkier future from the most pessimistic SUV driving...

Having conquered Santa Maria everyone displayed a new determination and the calves to match, and seemed keen to stretch their new legs “off the grid”. So following our week in Xela OGG hooked up with Quetzaltrekkers again to undertake a week long trek across a 70km stretch of the Sierra Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. The walk took us from the Ixil Triangle, a unique and isolated enclave of Ixil Maya, who had endured perhaps the most intense and sustained repression during the civil war, to the colourful Mam Maya community of Todos Santos, where the traditional white and red striped trousers still adorn the men’s legs and the blue ribboned straw hats still sit atop people’s heads.

In 2010, repeated recommendations came from the international community to suspend Goldcorp’s controversial Marlin Mine in the North-Western highlands of Guatemala. The open-pit mine however, continues to operate. Its presence in the indigenous municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipacapa continues to generate allegations of serious human rights violations and fomenting social upheaval.
In February, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommended that the Marlin Mine be suspended for having failed to ensure the right of communities to free, prior and informed consent, a stipulation of ILO Convention 169 and condition of the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords (see the ILO decision). Then on May 20th the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHRC) also demanded that the Guatemalan government suspend the operation so as to ensure the provision of human rights and environmental protection while a full investigation is conducted. On June 18th, the United Nations Special Rapporteur added that “according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, projects that have a significant impact on the rights of indigenous peoples such as the Marlin mine, should not be implemented without the consent of the communities affected Indigenous Peoples.” And “if there is a substantial risk of injury to the health or physical well being of the people due to the mine, the Ministry of Energy and Mines must proceed with the suspension of activities...” (See Rapporteur's Press Release) The Guatemalan government agreed, but has failed to enforce the order.

Quetzaltenango, better known as Xela, is Guatemala’s second city and exemplifies the intersection of its colourful indigenous and ladino cultures. It was and remains a home away from home for me and plays host to an interesting variety of NGO’s, Spanish schools, and progressive intellectual and political personalities. It also sits in the ominous shadow of Volcan Santa Maria, a dormant giant that has nevertheless left an indelible mark in the minds and bodies of OGG’s participants.

Antigua in the ominous shadow of Volcan Agua
 Antigua, known to me as Guatemalan Disneyland, was once the country’s capital and remains a colonial jewel nestled between 3 of Guatemala’s most iconic and notorious volcano’s (Agua, Fuego, and Pacaya). After bursting out the doors of OGG’s first Chicken bus, sharing stories about its colours and characters, the group settled into Hostal Holistico, a cute little refuge in the city’s centre, where they would be staying for the next 3 nights. 

Balance. Growth. Symbiosis. Change. Unlearned. Transition. Expectations. Fulfillment. Mirror. Acceptance. Foster. Now. Patience. The group returned after ITT refreshed and recharged with more positive attitudes and energies than had been experienced throughout the trip. While each one of us had a different ITT experience, most traveled...

It's only been eight days since the Amazon Adventure Crew parted ways in Lima, but if we learned one thing on this trip, it's how much can happen in that short amount of time. A water tank can be built in an Amazonian village. That same...

Challenging. Our ten days spent on Koh Rong have challenged our boundaries, altered our expectations and forced us to constantly question our intentions. We all know change is not easy. We all know change takes time. We all know change is a challenge. The days...

Yes, it's been a while since we've blogged. But there was so much going on that it became a little difficult to pry ourselves from the awesomeness for even a second to put it all up. There's lots to catch up, so I'll try. Our last...

We rolled into Medellin just in time to see the sun rise over this mountain valley.  After a pit-stop at the home of our new friends Jaun Paulo and Laura (<3), we were off to see the city.  The city's metro system includes a gondola...

This morning, amid rainshowers and throngs of excited children, the last rope was fastened in a playground in a small barrio outside the jungle capital, Iquitos. The Amazon Adventure crew has worked hard, and even sacrificed their own Independant Travel Time, to finish this last...

Welcome to Cambodia! Crossing over the border, you step into another world. A mere five minute walk between countries yet once on the other side the shift is unmistakable. A much more raw feel sets in as you roll pass the flat green landscape dotted...

Everything really does happen for a reason. It may sound cliché but on our second to last night in the Amazon, the crew is realizing that the old saying is so true. Yesterday was our first day back in the city of Iquitos after eight days working off the...