“This land is ours! It does not belong to the State. It is ours, as indigenous people!” says 20 year old Guatemalan Lorena Sanchez when on the 3rd of May 2011 a state representative from Fondo de Tierras, a government department regulating access to land, arrived in Tzalbal to tell its people they are living on state property.
Tzalbal, a village of fourteen settlements, is located in Guatemala, deep in the Cuchumatanes mountains. Tzalbal is home to the Ixil, a native Mayan people. The Ixiles live in the municipalities of Nebaj, Chajul and Cotzal, in the northwestern department of Quiché. Tzalbal lies the municipality of Nebaj.
The villagers had no idea that their land had been nationalised in 1984 – a fact that was concealed from them for 28 years. They are perplexed, shocked, and angry. In the 1980s the area was scorched with genocide and state repression and the majority of Ixiles were forced to flee their land.
The genocide of the maya-ixil people
During the 36 year conflict in Guatemala, 98% of the 7000 victims in the Ixil region, were Ixiles. A sixth of the Ixile population was assassinated by the army, and 70% of their villages were obliterated. Most Ixiles fled to the mountains; many died due to cold, starvation and disease.
Although the Ixil area was one of the worst affected,