San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala

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Moloj Wa’ix Ejqalem is a collective of indigenous Maya Kaqchiquel women who perform a piece on sexual violence in Guatemala that spans the country’s complicated political and cultural history. It addresses the trauma and silence that comes in the wake of violence, the need to speak out and denounce abusers, and the healing that can be brought about through ancestral practices and community support.

Poco a Poco conducted interviews, and photographed and filmed the women’s powerful performance in San Juan Comalapa, a town in the Guatemalan highlands.

Nearly 30% of women in Guatemala have reported physical or sexual abuse by a partner.

Only 2 out of every 100 reports will result in a conviction.

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We don’t just have to say the things we’re thinking - we can use art to change the way people think. People can hear our message and together we can use this art form that is part of our history, and the collective history of our culture.

- Marta, Performer, Moloj Wa’ix Ejqalem

The Guatemalan Civil War produced more than 30 years of bloodshed. Between 1960 and 1996, 200,000 Guatemalans were killed, nearly 80% of whom were indigenous peoples. Believing that groups of Mayan protestors were in support of opposition guerilla units, the Guatemalan government wiped out entire communities and disposed of their bodies in unmarked mass graves.

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We also concluded that the society that we live in now is a result, a consequence of the Civil War. Where the young men were obligated to fulfill military service. Where they were subjected to acts of violence, and they were trained not to care.

- Ana, Performer, Moloj Wa’ix Ejqalem

 There are 21 different Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala. Although Spanish is the country's official language, many indigenous communities continue to survive ancestral dialects that communicate Mayan traditions and values. This can, however, come with challenges. Many public institutions, including schools and hospitals, do not provide services in Mayan languages.

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We speak in Kaqchikel to claim our culture. Some people say if you don’t perform it in the capitol, if you don’t perform it in front of foreigners, it’s not art. But we also make art. Our language is art.

- Marta, Performer, Moloj Wa’ix Ejqalem