Gold mining on Mayan-Mam territory: Social unravelling, discord and distress in the Western highlands of Guatemala
Social Science and Medicine
URL with Digital Object Identifier
This article examines the influence of a large-scale mining operation on the health of the community of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala. An anti-colonial narrative approach informed by participatory action research principles was employed. Data collection included focus groups and one-on-one interviews from August to November of 2011. Over this period, we interviewed 15 Mam Mayan men and 41 women (n=56) between the ages of 18 and 64 including health care workers, educators, spiritual leaders, agricultural workers and previous mine employees from 13 villages within the municipality. Participants' accounts pointed to community health experiences of social unravelling characterized by overlapping narratives of a climate of fear and discord and embodied expressions of distress. These findings reveal the interconnected mechanisms by which local mining operations influenced the health of the community, specifically, by introducing new threats to the safety and mental wellbeing of local residents. © 2014 The Authors.