Guatemala: Candelaria Hernández Gabriel

As long as I have the support of my people, I shall never surrender.

— Candelaria Hernández Gabriel

A Guatemalan woman, of Maya-Mam origins, Candelaria is a displaced person (internal and external refugees, mostly indigenous, who had to flee their homes and communities due to the indiscriminate bombardments carried out by the Armed Forces), a community leader and mother of five children. Self-taught, she learned to read and write–driven by the desire to improve herself. Candelaria Hernández Gabriel, known as “La Cande,” weaves, cooks, cleans and talks about justice, human rights and freedom. She is a woman of the people, a humble woman. She speaks freely and smiles openly.

Candelaria Hernández Gabriel was born in 1968, in Ixconlaj, a village in the Guatemalan mountain range of Colotenango. As a small girl, she followed the footsteps of her parents going, like most of the families in the region, from ranch to ranch throughout the district of Huehuetenango, earning their salaries as itinerant workers who gathered the harvest of others. Woman of Peace (Xüj Té Zálabil), she grew up in The Democracy–the ironical name given to this municipality–from which she would later have to flee. School made her very happy, but it lasted only two months: “The army burnt down the school and I had to abandon my studies.” Like every woman in the village, she learned how to do housework and how to work the land. In 1980, along with her family, she was forced to flee because of the incursions of the army and the massacres that they had been carrying out in the nearby villages. “In the beginning they forcefully conscripted men. Later on, the threats, rapes and murders of the women began.” In 1984, “La Cande” abandoned the village and went to the mountains with a bundle of her dreams and hopes. Woman of stone and fire, she returned five years later and joined the Committee for Peasant's Unity (CUC), in their fight for human rights. Along with other mothers and widows, she opposed the compulsory conscription imposed by the Guatemalan army. In 1996, the war ended as a result of an agreement between the government and the guerrillas (National Guatemalan Revolutionary Unit). It allowed Candelaria to dream, but her dream did not last long. “It is a shame, but we still need to take action to improve the situation of women and to fight, so that the agreements become a reality.” She is a promoter of human rights, of the cause of women and of indigenous people. She wants what her ancestors wanted: “For no one to be left behind.”

Asociación para la Promoción y el Desarrollo de la Comunidad (Ceiba) Asociación de Mujeres Mam para el Desarrollo (Asomamd)