Peruvian indigenous activist wins Goldman Environmental Prize

Máxima Acuña and her family had been living on their little plot of land in the Peruvian highlands for 17 years when the men from the mining company first came to her door. They demanded that she, her husband and children leave their land so they could turn the Laguna Azul, a lake near her home, into a waste storage pit for a gold and copper mine. When Máxima refused, they raided her house and beat her and her daughter unconscious.

But Máxima didn’t back down.

The Buenaventura mining company managed to get her charged with $2,000 – an enormous sum for a rural indigenous farmer – and sentenced to three years in prison for “squatting” on her own land. So Máxima turned to a local NGO for help. With her lawyer, she not only got her sentence overturned and the fine against her dropped, but stopped the mining company from expanding into the Laguna Azul, protecting five local watersheds and the surrounding high-altitude biologically diverse wetland from pollution.

Like many other women’s human rights and environmental activists, Máxima continues to be harassed by the company. They ruin her crops, steal her sheep, and have built a fence around her home. They stop her from planting and farming her land. Meanwhile, the fight over this huge copper and gold mine continues to play out in the Peruvian Supreme Court.

This month, Máxima was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental activists and grants them $175,000 to pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment.

I hope she’s able to use the money to kick Buenaventura Mining out of the Laguna Azul for good.

Header Image Credit: Goldman Environmental Prize


Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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