Pedals to the Metal

The grassroots activists behind El Salvador’s recent mining ban

01 August 2017
El Salvador’s historic ban of all metal mining, which passed the national parliament this March, came about through a decade-long struggle of grassroots resistance and activism.
jose cabezas / reuters

When Ana Dubón was 13 years old, she began to work at a local radio station, earning $2 a day. Contributing about $40 a month to the family made her feel like an adult. Her pride surged when she got to host her own show a year later.

Dubón lives in Guarjila village, in the Chalatenango department of north-western El Salvador. While other young radio jockeys played reggaeton on their programmes, she spoke about injustices she was witnessing in her community.

“In 2005, at just 15, I found myself talking about something serious: mining,” Dubón, now 26 years old, reminisced when I met her last August. “I knew nothing about mines, but I had to learn it all to talk about it on the radio.” We were in the kitchen-garden of her rural home in Guarjila, and she was trying to not let her two-year-old daughter slip from her arms. The toddler won, and began to dig into the mud.

Priyanka Borpujari is an award-winning independent journalist reporting on issues of human rights from across India, El Salvador and Indonesia. Her piece was reported with support from the Adelante Latin America Reporting Fellowship from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Keywords: mining environment grassroots activism referendum