Chalatenango: Communities Threatened by Mining Project Plan to Retake Their Land

Sebastian Dario
Chalatenango, El Salvador

The hillsides included in the Ojo Blanco licence are still marked by the mining company Martinique, although its workers have been inactive for months. Company employees have not reentered the region since they were stopped by the organized communities of the CCR (Association of Rural Communities for the Development of Chalatenango) on their way to explore territories to the south of the community of Ignacio Ellacuría. That day in October the miners were surrounded by the people of the communities, and escorted out of the region. However, the small metal marking signs the company left behind still litter the hills around San José Las Flores, Ignacio Ellacuría, and Guarjila. The markers remain as a reminder of the ongoing permission the company has from the Ministry of the Economy to explore the zone for mineral deposits.

This Saturday January 28 [the action was later postponed to February 4], the CCR communities whose hillsides have been marked by the Canadian company will fan out across three municipalities, to walk the hillsides they so fiercely defended from the North American trained and armed forces during the war. As they go, they will remove the Martinique Minerals markers which signify the latest foreign threat to their lands. Starting in each respective community, the people of San José Las Flores, Ignacio Ellacuría, and Guarjila will circle the region explored by the company, slowly tightening the noose to converge on Cuyascumbres, one of the hills rumoured by the mining company to be richest in gold. There on the peak, in an activity planned by the same communities for the 4th of February, a small altar to the virgin of San José will be placed. The altar will be physical reminder that the hills of Chalatenango are witness to struggle and suffering of their people, soaked by the blood of so many who were killed, and symbol of the struggle of the poor in El Salvador for the right to land on which to live and grow food. As such, the people of the communities consider these hills sacred, not to be sold to exploring transnational companies and later levelled in the search of what gold the Spaniards couldn’t extract upon their arrival 500 years ago.