Mary Jo McConahay is a longtime contributor to National Catholic Reporter and a prize-winning author, documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist who has reported from two dozen countries over 30 years. Her work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Salon.com, Time and California Lawyer. She is the author of Maya Roads, One Woman's Journey Among the People of the Rainforest and Ricochet, Two Women War Reporters and a Friendship Under Fire. Her book, Tango War: The Struggle between the Axis and the Allies for the Hearts, Minds and Resources of Latin America, 1933-1945, will be published by St. Martin's Press in 2018.
Mary Jo McConahay
In the last decade, a worldwide boom in mining has ravaged delicate regions of developing countries like Guatemala. Governments give concessions for the extraction of raw materials to foreign companies, especially from Canada, the United States and China, without consulting local residents, ignoring the threat to wildlife and even to water. Good market prices and new technologies are encouraging extraction in areas once considered marginal. Sr. Dani Brought, a Sister of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, stands with the people here who are part of a growing world-wide movement of resistance against outside exploitation.
In the 36-year war in Guatemala that ended with a peace treaty in 1996, some 200,000 persons died or disappeared, most of them unarmed indigenous Maya, at the hands of the army. In the midst of the mayhem, the Poor Clares answered a call from the bishop of the hard-hit province of Huehuetenango to come out to the hinterland and pray among the suffering. With five other American sisters, Sr. Mary Peter Rowland founded the monastery of Our Lady of Wisdom of the Virgin of Guadalupe, still the base for the contemplative order's pastoral ministry.
Dr. Sr. Mary Virginia Annel works to prevent the proliferation of HIV/AIDS in a tiny Central American country that is still rebounding from a 12-year civil war that took 75,000 lives. Beginning as an Archdiocesan team, now a non-profit foundation, Annel’s group grew to number 20 social workers, communicators, pastoral accompaniers of the afflicted and 250 volunteers. Soon CONTRASIDA was reaching 40,000 people a year with classes, literature and workshops for teachers and others who might “multiply” correct information.