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Thousands of Guatemalans climb extinct volcano to protest domestic violence

By Anna-Claire Bevan

GUATEMALA — Around 12,000 Guatemalans climbed an extinct volcano on Saturday, January 21, 2012, to protest against domestic violence in the Central American country.

Human chain of hikers climb Volcan Agua to protest domestic violence. (Photo: Carla Novella)

Participants formed what they hope is the largest ever human chain, which went from the foothills of Volcan Agua to its crater. The first group of people arrived in the village of Santa Maria de Jesus, on the outskirts of la Antigua Guatemala, at 4.30am and began the five hour ascent to the volcano’s 3,765m peak.

Amongst those taking part in the activity was Guatemala’s new president, Otto Perez Molina, who arrived on the scene by helicopter and handed the national flag to the event’s coordinators. The flag was passed up to the top of the volcano where those at the crater sat on a giant heart banner and shouted: “No to violence.”

The event, Subida por la Vida (Climb For life), was organized to raise awareness of domestic violence and promote the campaign Rompe el Ciclo (Break the Cycle).

According to the United Nations, Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world and many parts of the country are considered more dangerous now than they were during the 1960-1996 Civil War. Last year alone, nearly 700 women were murdered.

Participants gather in the crater of Volcan Agua. (Photo: Carla Novella)

People of all ages and abilities turned up to show their support for the movement – including a group of disabled children, a 75-year-old woman and hundreds of foreigners who all made their way up the volcano.

Lorena Rizza de Flores scaled part of the volcano with her husband and their two young children:

“We decided to take part in the event because we don’t want any more violence in Guatemala,” said Rizza de Flores. “Today we only climbed seven kilometers with the children, but next year we hope to climb more.”

The second event in the series of activities organized by Rompe el Ciclo is called “Tengo algo que dar” (I have something to give) and will take place on April 28-29 to raise awareness of malnourished children across Guatemala.

Anna-Claire Bevan is a Guatemala-based freelance correspondent for Latina Lista.

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