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2021 Excellence in Social Justice Reporting, Single Story finalist

The Grandmother Lake

Conservation and Colonialism in Guatemala

About the Project

Grandmother Lake is an interactive piece created by Arwa Aburawa which asks a simple question – if lake’s reflect their society what does the conflict at Lake Atitlan say about Guatemalan society? Using the events around an environmental crisis at Lake Atitlan as a starting point, it carefully explores the lingering legacy of colonialism, racism and inequality in Central America today. The final piece includes photos, video interviews and a written element to help break down and explore the complex legacy of colonialism in Guatemala through several main characters who all hold different viewpoints and perspectives and who all represents different groups in Guatemalan society. Following an initial visit in 2018 supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation, Arwa Aburawa and Turab Shah spent time with the indigenous communities, the NGOs and environmental experts around the lake in 2019 to really understand and explore not just the environmental conflict that was playing out in the public sphere but it’s roots causes. The aim of the piece was to go beyond the media soundbites, to dig deep and to go back in history and place the conflict in a context which really helps explain what was happening, why and how we might be able to find solutions.