When a group of Guatemalan refugees returned to their homeland after 10 years in exile in Mexico, they rejoiced at the abundant water from the two rivers that flowed through their village. They named their new home Copal AA La Esperanza, which is a mixture of Mayan and Spanish words meaning “water” and “hope.”

The residents of Copal AA, called Copalenses, have spent the last two decades re-building their lives —constructing homes, planting coffee crops, reforesting critical areas of their watershed, creating a potable water system, running a health clinic — all with their own labor.  They have also created a highly progressive middle school that serves rural Maya students from the entire region.

But their hard-won gains are under threat from a proposed hydro-electric project that would flood the neighboring villages above the dam and dry up the Chixoy River below.  The Chixoy currently provides food, water, and transportation as well as habitat for native wildlife. The Copalenses have actively opposed the dam and requested international support to make their case more widely known.