The Defence of Community in the Anti-Mining Movement of Guatemala


  • I would like to thank Joan Martínez-Alier and Marco Armiero for commenting on previous versions of this paper. For the support during the fieldwork in Guatemala, I would like to thank COPAE San Marcos, FLACSO-Guatemala and FAS-UAB (Fundació Autònoma Solidaria). This research was funded by a PhD scholarship from the Basque Government (BFI: 06.303). I acknowledge support from the Spanish MICINN project (CSO2010-21979). I also thank the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their very useful comments.

Leire Urkidi, Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, ICTA, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Science Building, C, 9th area, 4th floor, UAB, 08193 Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Barcelona, Spain. E-mail


Mining is one of the most controversial activities in contemporary Guatemala. The anti-mining movement was studied during five months of participant and qualitative research, focusing on its strategies and discourses. The movement is multiscalar, with local, national and transnational dimensions, but the defence of community is a central claim in its discourse. The community is reclaimed as a legitimate scale for decision-making by the anti-mining movement because it is: (a) the scale that suffers the material impacts of mining; (b) the place of Maya cultural resistance for reimagining alternative development projects; and (c) an historically marginalized sector of the population, that should be empowered in order to achieve more participative and fair decision-making processes. As in other peasant struggles, defending the community is not an objective per se, but a strategy to contest domination. The community is dialectically redefined in relation to Guatemala's historical injustices.