Matteo Pablo is a Guatemalan of Mayan ancestry, of the Chuj ethnic group. He left his country in 1982 after a massacre by the Guatemalan army in his village, Petanac. He lived in a refugee camp in Mexico for 14 years, before coming to Canada. He was interviewed for the newsletter of the Regroupment de solidarité avec les Autochtones (514-982-6606). Here is what he said:

“What I realize by living here (in Canada) is that Natives are treated everywhere the same. Like animals in a zoo, they are left outside of society. They are not taken into consideration. They are considered like second-class humans. But they are human beings and are entitled to respect and dignity. With understanding and respect, there would not have been uprisings.

“All of history is marked by the repression of the Indian peoples. Since the Conquest, the arrival of the Spaniards, the indigenous people were victims of massacres, in Latin American and in North America. It continues today. I am telling only about the Indians of Guatemala, but it is the history of all places where there are Indians.

“For example, in Guatemala, slavery is legalized. Indigenous manpower is paid a minimum wage, so that it can be said that there is no longer slavery. They earn only money to eat, but they cannot think about building a house. How is it possible that this has lasted for hundreds of years? This is unjust. The responsibility of other countries in these massacres must also be recognized. The United States which sells weapons to the army…

“It is reflection by society that is needed. We must also become conscious of the importance of the earth. It is the basis of everything. Once I was told that the basic problem with Natives was not the land, but an economic problem. How can one separate that?

“We must reflect on the problems of our societies by trying to look ahead, to think about the next generations so that it doesn’t happen that everything explodes if everything is oriented towards wealth.”