Máxima Acuña

Activist Type

Máxima Acuña is a Peruvian subsistence farmer, craftswoman, and environmental activist. Acuña has peacefully resisted claims on her family’s land, as well as violent intimidation by the U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corporation. Máxima’s home of more than twenty years was in an area vital to a large five billion dollar gold mining project, a project which would see Laguna Azul, an important watershed to the region, turned into a waste storage pit. Beginning in 2011, she has seen her home, possessions, and crops destroyed at the hands of Newmont-backed security forces. She has also been sued for refusing to leave the land she legally owns and has suffered several severe beatings at the hands of hired thugs. Despite all her suffering, Acuña has prevented the mining project from going forward. Máxima’s struggle has become widely known in the Latin American community, and in 2016, she was honored with the Goldman Environmental Prize. Máxima vows never to give up the fight, though sadly, she was reportedly hospitalized at the end of 2016 due to another violent attack.

Artwork by
Anne Di Lillo

Máxima’s portrait is all in gold, the element Peruvians have sculpted since ancient times and the prize sought after by the corrupt mining corporation she protests. The concentric lines of her iconic hat and the waves behind her represent the water she is defending, while the pattern on her clothing is inspired by a cloak she is often seen wearing. Instead of a likeness of her face, the portrait dips inward and multiplies–as Máxima is not only fighting for herself, but for her people, the health of the environment, and consequently, the future of generations to come.


July 28, 1821
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