Guatemalan speaker calls for left solidarity with Indigenous communities

Rigoberto Quemé Chay. Photo: John Parker

On March 28, renowned Guatemalan anthropologist and activist Rigoberto Quemé Chay finished a series of lectures in the Los Angeles area at the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice.

Quemé Chay was the first Indigenous mayor of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and has dedicated his life to the empowerment of the oppressed communities and groups that have been victimized in many different ways by centuries of colonialist domination and the diseases that come from it, like racism, displacement, land theft and assimilation.

Speaking to a packed room, the researcher for El Centro Universitario del Occidente and the University of San Carlos mentioned the fascist trend that has gained traction in the Americas. Repudiating it, Quemé Chay emphasized the lack of unity on the left as one of the things that facilitates the counterrevolutionary developments in Latin America. This has also exacerbated the suffering of Indigenous peoples, who continue to be murdered at a high rate.

According to Quemé Chay, many of those who hold leadership positions on the left put their own views and pride ahead of the struggle of Indigenous peoples and other oppressed groups. This lack of support and solidarity results in distrust of the left by oppressed groups.

Further, he added, we must reverse the process of assimilation that was so successfully pushed down people’s throats. Many people don’t know the history of their ancestors, their culture or their language, which makes the fight of Indigenous peoples in Guatemala and around the planet much harder.

Quemé Chay condemned capitalism, its oligarchies and neoliberalism. His message was: Unite to defeat them all and implement a system that gives priority to the needs of living beings over profits.

The series was convened by El Coletivo Guatemalteco-L.A. and organized by S.O.A Watch-L.A, AIM SoCal, Radio Justice, the Socialist Unity Party and Struggle-La Lucha newspaper.

Photo: Scott Scheffer