Mayan academics share their indigenous struggle

By Regan Paranihi

The indigenous people of Guatemala have been fighting for their civilisation since the 1950s and, just like indigenous people here in Aotearoa, the consequences of those battles are still impacting children today.  It's a situation that is all too familiar for indigenous communities around the world.

A group of Mayan academics are visiting Aotearoa and spoke with Te Ao Māori News about the plight of their people today.

Mayan social anthropologist, Dr Gio B'atz' says, "Historically we've been pushed off of our ancestral territories. The international migration of Guatemalans and Central Americans and indigenous peoples to the US is not a recent phenomenon." 

Thousands of indigenous people from Guatemala have been forced to flee their country because of poverty, violence and instability.  Many have found themselves in detention centres on the U.S border.

"Since last year a couple of months ago the US government has admitted to losing 1200 children that were released from detention.  Children have been separated from their families...it's a torture tactic that immigration officials use."

Efforts to prevent migration often end in death.

"Since last year five children have died in detention, so five minors, the youngest one being two years, those five minors are all from Maya communities from Guatemala," says B'atz'.

"We're seeing the same genocidal tactics being employed on these kids, the separation of their families, human rights violations and just the lack of humanity."

Historian Maria Aguilar says that the problems could be better solved if the approach was different.

"We have a lot of that colonial legacy, of that history of exclusion, of racism and there is a way to create links and create ties so that other people can be aware of the situation and support comes in many different ways and sometimes it's about getting the story out."

The group of Mayan academics and film makers are in Aotearoa for the next few days to attend the Naisa conference in Hamilton.