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On October 2016 we were fortunate to have the visit of the Mayan activists Catarina Garcia Hernández and Elvis Santigo from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) as part of their 2016 Canadian Tour. Catarina is a CCDA coordinator for the province of Quiche and an active member of the organization’s National Executive Committee. Elvis is a Maya Kakchiquel from the community of Santa Cruz Quixaya, Solola, Guatemala and he is the coordinator of the CCDA’s coffee export and commercialization.
While Catarina stayed in the city Elvis travel north of the province, both sharing their stories of struggle and community empowerment. At the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people of the University of British Columbia Catarina was proud to share her story in several spaces. She presented at the Geography, Environment and Globalization class with Juanita Sundberg. She also got a chance to connect with the land by exchanging ideas with the Tu’wusht Garden project, sponsored by the Vancouver Native Health Society, that provides support and opportunities for Aboriginal people living in east Vancouver to improve their health through sharing knowledge and building connections (http://lfs-indigenous.sites.olt.ubc.ca/tuwusht-garden-project-vancouver-native-health-society/).
She walked the Milpa and teach us about different uses for the plants at the Mayan garden, created in 1986 when five Maya families came to Canada as refugees from Guatemala.
She later met with visiting Chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en and Haida Nations, and in an emotional and spiritual encounter they all shared similarstories of struggle about the appropriation of their territories and the challenges that their communities were currently facing.
Catarina was even invited to place a nail at a Totem Pole that the Haida Gwaii Nation was carving as a representation of their pain and the marks that will allow for these wounds to always be remembered.
Finally, the visited the roaster where the Guatemalan coffee gets processed, several cafes, and got a chance to tell people the stories behind the coffee and the work of the CCDA.
We will miss Catarina and Elvis but this encounter strengthens the idea that behind every cup of coffee there is a story of struggle, commitment and empowerment!!