Communal lands play an important role in Xinka culture, with some Xinka communities holding titles that date back to the 1600s. Article 67 of Guatemala’s Constitution also grants special protection to communal lands, recognizing the particularities of Indigenous land stewardship and the importance of traditional governance structures for land management. The Xinka Parliament continues to fight this battle, bringing — and winning — multiple cases before the Constitutional Court to uphold the rights of the Xinka to determine what transpires on their communal lands.
And for Xinka Parliament President Aleisar Morales, that struggle has direct implications for long-term community health and the fight against pandemics like COVID-19.
“As Xinka People, we hold collective title to our lands. We each have a plot of land to work, but we only own what the land produces — not the land itself. We care for our lands and this communal title protects us,” says Morales. “As farmers, we’ve been able to keep working on our own parcels of land, and I think that’s why we haven’t been as affected [by COVID-19].”
During this crisis, the Xinka Parliament is attempting to improve food security and food sovereignty in the region by helping boost production on small family plots. “We are planting our crops for the months to come,” continues Morales. “We don’t know how long this is going to last, but we’re taking advantage of this crisis to become even more self-sufficient.”