Promoting the empowerment of indigenous peoples in Central America through grassroots partnerships


Conditions of indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples have been historically marginalized. As a consequence, on every continent, indigenous families live in extreme poverty without the right to basic services such as food, housing, health and education. The only options to survive are to migrate or join gangs.

Historical background

Since the 1400’s, indigenous peoples around the globe have suffered the effects of European colonial dominance. Initially the vast majority of indigenous peoples were subjected to systems of forced labor and their cultures replaced with European religion and subjected to laws that benefited the invaders.

Corrupt governments

The conditions of indigenous peoples have not improved over the past five centuries in spite of independence from colonial nations. Many of these independent countries are still immersed in a system of corrupt governments, inequality, discrimination, exclusion, and plundering of the land resulting in the forced displacement of indigenous peoples. Leaders of community organizations are frequently jailed or assassinated. Efforts to seek justice are met with brutal repression by powerful interests (government, military, business and criminal organizations) from both national and international sources.

Inadequate food sources

The food base of families is agriculture. Food security requires responsible management of natural resources. However, indigenous peoples are driven off their land in order to exploit it with mining projects, hydroelectric dams and monoculture plantations (African palm, bananas, etc.) These families are displaced from their lands. They sink into extreme poverty with no hope of improvement.

Exclusion from decision making

Colonial governments excluded indigenous peoples from any decision making regarding opportunities for development. The result, still seen today, is that thousands of children do not have access to education or adequate nutrition, and thousands of women are abandoned and abused.

Lack of education

Education is the basis for the development of any civilized country. However the opportunity for indigenous people to receive an education is restricted. In Guatemala, for example, free public education is available only up to six years of primary school. The vast majority leave school at a very early age in order to work to contribute to the family’s subsistence.

Emigration or gangs

The only alternative left to these families is to migrate to another country, often going to the United States. It is a risky decision with a high degree of danger of abuse and assassination by organized crime, the authorities and the mafias. Yet they take that risk in search of an opportunity to survive or in fleeing from the gangs that they are obligated to join.

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