About this Project

Thank you for your interest in the Rio Negro Project.

This site is an outlet in which to give updates on projects funded and supported by this organization, particularly the Pacux Sustainable Agriculture and Cultural Restoration Center, which was initiated in February 2013. It is also a space to showcase documentary work related to the communities of Pacux, and the 'New' Rio Negro.

The Rio Negro story is a long, tumultuous, and complex account; one I hope to relate on this blog, in other publications, and ultimately, in a book of testimonies and photography. For the sake of this introduction, I will relay only the most fundamental details, leaving the rest for future articles. I also suggest the short film, “No Reparations, No Justice, No Peace”, which has excellent footage and analysis. Please click on this link to view: http://vimeo.com/50015125


A Life, lost

The Maya-Achí community of Rio Negro was located on the Chixoy River, in the rural and mountainous department of Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. Up until 1982, it was a village of roughly 800 inhabitants, the majority of them subsistence farmers and fisherman.

In the late 1970s, the government-owned electric agency, INDE, with funding from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), began its initial construction on what would be known as the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam, located 6 miles downstream from Rio Negro. Although these angencies met with leaders of the affected villages – 33 in all – none were given a choice concerning their future, and were simply told that they must leave. They were promised housing and land of equal size and quality, and guaranteed compensation to what would be lost.

Rio Negro was the only village to resist their forced displacement, and paid dearly for it. In the grip of a US supported, military dictatorship, inhabitants were labeled Guerrillas, or subversives, and an elimination campaign began. After five massacres, 444 men, women, elderly and children were killed, often brutally, making way for the reservoir that would back up more than a dozen miles behind the dam. Survivors spent up to three years in hiding, and eventually ended up in the World Bank relocation village of Pacux.


Timeline of 1982 Rio Negro/Chixoy Dam massacres
February 13: 74 men and woman, in the nearby village of Xococ.
March 13: 177 woman and children, at the pass 2km above Rio Negro (Pocoxom).
May 14: 79 individuals killed at Los Encuentros, three miles downstream from existing village (by this time destroyed). 15 women are taken away by helicopter, never to be seen again.
September 14: 92 are killed in nearby village of Agua Fría


Today, 30 years later, most survivors still live in Pacux, in extreme poverty. A dozen or so families have reached their absolute limits on life in relocation, and returned to the steep slopes above their existing village – now underwater – to pursue a self-sufficient lifestyle like they had before.

Since 2004, community leaders have been negotiating with the Guatemalan government to receive the reparations promised decades ago. As of this date, nothing has transpired.


As mentioned, The Rio Negro Project is two-part, and will be done independently as well as in conjunction with Garden's Edge, a 501c3 organization based out of Rabinal Guatemala.

The first objective of my work involves funding development projects in Pacux and in the 'New' Rio Negro. Since 2013 we have supported the Pacux soccer team, renewable energy in Rio Negro through the purchase of solar panels, educational scholarships, and the initiation and continued development of the Pacux Sustainable Agriculture and Cultural Restoration Center.

The second aspect is documentary, which, in theory and hope, will place additional pressure on the World Bank/IDB, and Guatemalan government, to hand over the long overdue reparations for dam-affected communities.

If you are interested in helping, please go to the ‘What You Can Do’ page of this blog.

Thank you all so much for taking an interest in my work.

Nathan Einbinder
phone: (619) 922.2996
email: nathaneinbinder@gmail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment