The Popol wuj is a K’iche’ Maya creation story that tells the origin of our world through the story of two sets of twins.
Jun Junajpu and Wuqub’ Junajpu go to the underworld, where they are killed during a ball game by the lords of the underworld, called Xib’alb’a (the place of fright). Their children, known as the Hero Twins, Junajpu and Xb’alamke, are able to defeat the lords of Xib’alb’a and become the Sun and the Moon, respectively. Thus, the world began after the defeat of Xib’alb’a, whose lords were the cause of fear, pain, sickness, starvation, destitution, pain and death. The Popol wuj...
Jun Junajpu and Wuqub’ Junajpu go to the underworld, where they are killed during a ball game by the lords of the underworld, called Xib’alb’a (the place of fright). Their children, known as the Hero Twins, Junajpu and Xb’alamke, are able to defeat the lords of Xib’alb’a and become the Sun and the Moon, respectively. Thus, the world began after the defeat of Xib’alb’a, whose lords were the cause of fear, pain, sickness, starvation, destitution, pain and death. The Popol wuj can also be read as a story of intergenerational struggle and resistance against the evil forces of destruction. Today Guatemala is Xib’alb’a and the Hero Twins are indigenous and oppressed peoples that seek liberation from a violent and corrupt government.
Recent protests against the government were triggered by the recent budget approval, which decreased funding for human rights and health programs such as fighting malnutrition, but increased funds for Congress people’s meals and expenses. This, within the context of the pandemic, which has killed over four thousand persons, and hurricanes Eta and Iota, which have devastated the country, especially indigenous communities. During the pandemic, starvation led many to wave white flags to ask for help. In others places, the starvation is forthcoming since crops have been destroyed due to flooding and rains that threaten the food security of thousands. The recent protests against the government are not just about the recent budget approval: they are also about the injustice that has existed for the last 500 years. The year 2021 marks 200 years of independence in Guatemala, but independence for whom? In Guatemala, there has never been independence. The colonizers never left.
Indigenous peoples, land defenders, human rights activists, journalists and those who fight for social justice have historically been persecuted by the Guatemalan state with the aid of governments such as the ones from US, Canada and Israel, as well as of the elites and foreign corporations. Millions have been displaced through further privatization of land and nature, many seeking refuge abroad, where they are confronted by further violence, like the one suffered by migrants who cross through Mexico to reach the US. There is still impunity for the rich, and prisons continue to be filled with the poor, activists, land defenders and political prisoners such as Bernardo Caal Xol (Q’eqchi’). In 2017, 41 girls were burned alive and others injured, and those responsible remain free. Journalists such as Anastasia Mejía Tiriquiz (K’iche’) are being persecuted, arrested and threatened for reporting on corruption, violence and injustice. Aid for victims of the hurricanes has been politicized, such as the 1,000 bags of rice that were sent to the President’s Vamos political party headquarters in Cotzal. Thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who fled Guatemala are forced to wait at the US-Mexico border, where they are threatened by Mexican police and government officials, criminal organizations and others who prey on, extort and murder them. In August, a congressman was advocating for the expulsion of Cuban doctors from Guatemala despite the need of more medical doctors because of the pandemic!
Guatemala is Xib’alb’a, and the government and its agents, such as the President, are the lords of this underworld which fosters fear, pain, sickness, starvation, destitution, pain and death. The people are the Hero Twins, because only the people can save the people. Hopefully, the protests and the social movement taking place today are the seeds of a new tomorrow when the Sun and the Moon can rise in a more just and dignified world.
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