Guatemala Indigenous Families Pick Through Remains of Homes

Aug 19, 2020
11:28 AM

Ofelia Chuc Chuc, 50 years old, stands inside her house partially burned by unknown armed men early Sunday morning, in Cubilguitz, Guatemala, Tuesday, August 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Moisés Castillo)

By MOISÉS CASTILLO, Associated Press

CUBILGUITZ, Guatemala (AP) — Indigenous people who fled their homes on a Guatemala coffee plantation after a weekend attack by armed men have returned to pick through the charred remains of their homes.

Guarded by National Police officers, the residents of the Cubilguitz community near the northern town of Cobán tentatively returned to their isolated hamlet on Tuesday.

Some 60 families had been sleeping Saturday night when men suddenly emerged from the forest firing guns and pouring gasoline over their dirt-floor houses.

Edgar Choc Ico, the leader of the community, said his family’s home burned to the ground.

He said his family, part of the Q´eqchi Indigenous group, has lived at the site for three generations. The attackers “want us to join them, and we said no because we’re natives,” Choc Ico said.

A shack home stands in ruins after it was burned by unidentified, armed men, as residents return to see what remains where they live on a coffee plantation in Cubilguitz, Guatemala, Tuesday, August 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Moisés Castillo)

He said the aggressors have been invading the plantation, and Choc Ico suspects they wanted to chase the community away so they could take their impending cardomom harvest for themselves.

He said he fears for his family’s safety and isn’t sure if all the community’s families will come back.

On Monday, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said the attackers had been identified and authorities were seeking their arrest.

Floricelda Cucul Cuc, another community member, stood in her bare kitchen, the only part of her home still standing. She said the attackers stole her family’s few belongings. She had to run with her kids, unable to take anything with her, as the attackers tossed gasoline on her house.

“I don’t have anything left. They burned my pot, all of my things,” she said. “Where am I going to sleep with my children?”