sábado, mayo 16, 2015

Bees in solidarity with the latest buzz: We are all the Arroyo Bruno!

It has been a long time in the making - through words and energy -- so that we could meet, share and build with the Strength of Wayuu Women. On different occasions we were able to offer workshops or see each other in shared spaces, but on this occasion, it was the first time we were able to directly link up and support the process of the Strength of Wayuu Women.

In 2012, the largest open pit coal mining company in the world, Cerrejon, located in the south of the department of La Guajira, presented a project to extract 500 million tons of coal that is found beneath the path of the Rancheria River, forcing the river to be diverted from its natural cause some 26 km. The people of La Guajira rose up in defense of its most important river and Cerrejon was forced to leave the issue alone. Three years later Cerrejon now tries to do the same with Bruno Arroyo, using the threat of laying off hundreds of workers from the mine if they are not able to move forward with their project.

The Bruno Arroyo springs to life in the Perija Mountains and according to Cerrejon it is one of the 51 tributaries of the Rancheria, contributing 3.6% to its total flow as well as being the main water source for the municipalities of Maicao, Hato Nuevo and Albania. As they tried before, Cerrejon pretends that the final 4.8 Km of the Bruno Arroyo be re directed 3.6 Km from its current course in the municipality of Albania. That stretch of the Arroyo would be moved some 700 meters north facilitating the expanding of the limits of the mine 170 Hectares, thus providing access to 35 million tons of coal. If not able to achieve this the company threatens the loss of; 600 jobs, $500,000.00 in local investments, $3.7 billion in local compensations and the loss of 3 million tons/year of coal.  The company’s threats and bullying are not for nothing; Cerrejon is projected to expand its area in a project called P40, in which they are investing $1,300 million in aims of increasing production from 32 to 40 million tons of coal/year as of this year (2015).

If achieved, the region would benefit from 5,000 jobs for the duration of the project´s operation. What the project does not take into account, however, are the impacts and the consequences that the people of La Guajira will have to face. Since Cerrejon started to mine for coal the soil has been degraded and no longer supports local ecosystems; over a dozen arroyos (tributaries of the Rancheria) and springs have dried out; surface and subterranean waters have been polluted; over 12,000 Ha of dry tropical forest has been destroyed as well as the forced displacement of 20,000 Guajiro people and the destruction of 10 communities. Currently Hato Nuevo and Albania have a population of 45,000 people and consume about 7.5 million liters of water daily. Cerrejon daily uses 17 million liters of water to wet the dirt roads. According to recent satellite images, the Rancheria River´s flow dries after passing through the Cerrejon which in total uses about 35 million liters of water daily -- enough to support about 3 million people. 

What the statistics of tons of coal, hectares of land and liters of water do not tell us are the social and cultural impacts on the population of La Guajira. By diverting the Rancheria, Bruno, or any other river or arroyo in La Guajira, the inhabitants of the territory will be condemned to extermination. All of the impacts that the company omits or refuses to recognize; that the Wayuu and the Afro-descendants can no longer have their rancherias and grow their yuca, plantain, pumpkin, corn and beans; they can no longer pastor their goats or let their chickens run free: they can no longer live off the same foods or collect what they need from the bush; they can no longer go to the river, arroyo or jagüey to wash clothes, bathe, gather water to drink or cook or so the goats can drink. They are now forced to have to look for money even though the jobs in the mine are not intended for them. 

The landscape will become something different altogether; a privatized territory covered in active mines, highways, power lines, pipelines, mountains of rubble and mine tailings, ashes of what were trees and water contaminated or dried. Now the Wayuu and Black folk that once lived free and autonomous in their territory are being relocated into resettlements made by the Cerrejon which break with the Guajiro culture of having enramadas (wall-less traditional structures) made of logs and mud spread out across the territory intermixed with crops, forest and pasture which has been turned into lots with rows of houses, no trees and surrounded by barbed wire. For the Wayuu, the territory and water are life, the ability to have their rancheria, walk freely in their territory with their goats, surrounded by plants, forests and animals that live there because of the water. The danger that threatens the dry tropical forests, the arroyos, the springs, and the river, is the same danger for the Wayuu, the Afro and all Guajiros. What Cerrejon is trying to do is nothing short of ethnocide and ecocide.

The wild animals that survive this massacre will have their image prostituted by the company for its corporate branding and marketing. Cerrejon is an exceptional example of a company that greenwashes its image. Throughout La Guajira on the highways one can observe billboards with smiling Wayuu women, children liberating hatchling sea turtles and warnings for drivers to be careful with wildlife crossing the roads.

Cerrejon has business agreements with Conservation International (CI), an institutional environmental organization that has ties to many companies responsible for environmental and social destruction on massive scales; companies such as Coca-Cola, Northrop Grumman Corp., Starbucks and Shell. CI is an entity that promotes itself as the forefront of biodiversity conservation through its photographs of human and biological diversity, when in reality it is front - propaganda - that washes the image of companies and industries that want to appear that they do good for the environment. Their environmental projects are merely a media spectacle that in their size and scale has no comparison to the salaries of the management of Cerrejon, not to mention the environmental destruction and losses generated.

CI is an agency that legitimizes green capitalism on a planet that is not dying but that is being killed due to the interests of small, economically powerful sector.  In addition to covering up for ecological destructive companies, CI is similar to other environmental entities such as the World Wildlife Federation and the Nature Conservancy that have been linked to “environmental conservation” projects that have been imposed on local and indigenous communities which have ultimately resulted in violence, forced displacement and even death for these peoples.

The bees have had experiences with indigenous communities in Cauca that told us how they collaborated with CI to conduct biodiversity studies in their territory to only later have CI keep all the results of the studies , thus stealing the knowledge of the elders and of the territory.

This is the context that the south of La Guajira finds itself in and these were the issues that we built upon and made an effort to support in the schools and rancherias we visited. The first community where we arrived was in the Municipality of Barrancas, the rural primary school of the community of Campo Alegre. Surrounded by Araguaney trees, cattle and cotton crops, we were in the school with children who all spoke Wayuunaiki as their first language and Spanish the second language they use. With help from a bilingual teacher we did an exercise of identifying the animals in the Mesoamérica Resiste graphic in both Spanish and Wayuunaiki, followed by a long session of coloring the poster with crayons. From the hill where the school is located in the distance, along the horizon one could see the immense Cerrejon mine that is growing and reaching towards the community. 

The next community where we pollinated the graphic campaign was in the rancheria and school of Eulalia, which lies along the railroad that transports the coal from the Cerrejon mine to Bolivar Port in the Upper Guajira. The reality of La Guajira is just as it is shown in the Mesoamérica Resiste graphic with the scene of militarization occurring right next to the mine, everywhere around the mine, along the railroad and in the port where there is a constant heavy military presence. Every couple of kilometers there is a squadron of soldiers that are camped out taking care of the mine´s infrastructure and thus live in the area, interact and form part of everyday life for the Wayuu communities that call this home.

The workshop in Eulalia was one of the best we ever had. When we arrived we hung the Mesoamérica Resiste and the True Cost of Coal banners and once everyone arrived, we introduced ourselves and gave a brief overview about what the banners were about. Afterwards the participants, mostly youth from the community, formed groups and carefully analyzed the banners, classifying scenes with themes in their presentations. Each group was motivated to share and present what they explored, and the exercise extended into the night using the video projector and flashlights to illuminate the banners to see as they were explained in the darkness. There were some participants that were in the workshop we did last year in the Boarding School of Akuaipa that came prepared to participate and support the newer folks in their groups. After the dynamic methodology we used to explore and learn from the banners, some short films that were made in the community were shown on the projector. The films were about the Wayuu perspective of peace and the negotiations going on in Havana, Cuba between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as well as another fictional piece about initiation ritual and ceremony a Wayuu girl goes through upon receiving their first menstruation.

Another afternoon we had a short visit to the community of Nuevo Espinal located near Campo Alegre also in the Municipality of Barrancas. Both of the communities are found in a region where the Cerrejon mine wants to expand their coal extraction. Currently the company representatives are meeting with community leaders attempting to minimize the chances that one of these leaders take up a position against the mine´s expansion. The same afternoon we went to Nuevo Espinal as did a member of the Strength of Wayuu Women to speak with the adults about their rights regarding the Cerrejon mine while we the bees hung our banners. We briefly explained the banner to the adults and then worked with the children to color a poster of Mesoamérica Resiste while we spoke about the names of the animals in the poster in Wayuunaiki and Spanish.

The last school we visited with the Strength of Wayuu Women was the school of the community of San Francisco on the outskirts of Barrancas town. At first, the idea was to do the workshop with the students of 4th and 5th grade, but the other students became very excited as they watched from the windows of their classrooms the banners waving in the wind under the covered sports court, that all the other students came pouring out to participate. The banners of Mesoamérica Resiste and The True Cost of Coal hung from a fence around the sports field as all the children divided into three groups, taking turns with each banner exploring the graphics and the different scenes as well as drawing in their notebooks what they found most interesting. In this workshop we realized something we had sort of noticed in some of the other workshops: the students who do speak and know Wayuunaiki lacked knowledge of the animal´s names in their native language. The teachers would ask the students to identify animals in the banner in Wayuunaiki and the children would respond in Spanish, they would say rabbit instead of Atpana. Afterwards we asked if they had ever seen a rabbit and they all responded that they had not.   This moment became a clear example of how the loss of biological diversity is accompanied by the loss of linguistic diversity.

The last community on this visit to La Guajira where we could share was the rancheria of Jepimana found between Uribia and Cuatro Vías.  In Jepimana adults, youth and some children were present. After hanging the banners we realized after speaking some minutes in Spanish that most people were not paying attention, fortunately one person who had accompanied us for most of the week along with two youth who were at the workshop in Eulalia already understood the banners and had experience working with them. Entirely in Wayuunaiki they took control and explained the banners to the folks present. The bees merely served as guides and helped remind the themes of different scenes, but the majority of all the explanation and analysis was done by the Wayuunaiki speakers who had been present in the previous workshops, thus clearly demonstrating how communities can appropriate and empower themselves through illustrated tools such as the graphic campaigns of the Beehive Design Collective. In this workshop the issue of greenwashing was spoken about in Wayuunaiki, referring to how Cerrejon and Conservation International generate a false appearance regarding coal mining in La Guajira, using an advertisement of Cerrejon with sea turtles in the Diario Del Norte newspaper.

As with many previous experiences, our time in La Guajira with the Strength of Wayuu Women went by very quickly and we were left with the desire to return soon to continue weaving and pollinating together. We left with invitations to return to all the communities that we had visited with the banners to continue sharing the graphics as part of the educational process but also invitations to participate in projects regarding biodiversity and linguistic diversity and an agro-ecology & permaculture project. We hope to return soon and continue to share with the different communities of the Strength of Wayuu Women, support the processes of struggle and land defense against the diversion of the Bruno Arroyo, but also to create new processes to improve La Guajira for the Wayuu, Afro-descendants and all of its ecosystems. To support the Strength of Wayuu Women by having their own banner of Mesoamérica Resiste or to support any other initiative that is being worked upon with the Strength of Wayuu Women please contact: polinizaciones@gmail.com.   

jueves, mayo 07, 2015

Black Lives Matter and the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network Fundraising Campaign in solidarity with La Toma, Cauca-- La Red de Solidaridad Afro-Colombiana (ACSN) y Las Vidas Negras Importan campaña de recaudación de fondos en solidaridad con La Toma, Cauca

Black Lives Matter and the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network Fundraising Campaign in Support of the Ancestral Black Communities of La Toma in Northern Cauca, Colombia

The Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network and Black Lives Matter are initiating a fundraising campaign in solidarity with black communities in Cauca, Colombia. We are calling on you to support the efforts of the courageous leaders and community of La Toma in Northern Cauca. Since 2009, the community of La Toma has experienced ever growing threats to their territory and livelihoods. The people of La Toma have worked in traditional mining and safeguarded their environment for nearly four centuries. Today, despite various constitutional protections including the right to collective ownership of their ancestral lands, the community is experiencing massacres, sexual violence, forced displacement and constant death threats by armed paramilitary groups.

We ask for your solidarity, both financial and spiritual, in helping the community raise US $25,000 to support two important community projects.

Your support will go toward two efforts that have been vital for the local struggle in La Toma:

- Aiding the Black Women’s Movement in Defense of Life and the Ancestral Territories in developing a community radio station;

- Helping to purchase a truck to carry out a self-sustainable  agricultural program. The goal of the agricultural program is to strengthen the bonds between rural black communities and displaced black community members in the city, by building access to organic, community-grown vegetables and fruits at affordable prices.

This fundraiser is your opportunity to make the expression “another world is possible” real.

Like in the US, Black communities in Colombia are facing death, on multiple dimensions. Please seize this opportunity to support the struggle and solidarity building efforts of the Global Black Family.


La Red de Solidaridad Afro-Colombiana (ACSN) y Las Vidas Negras Importan están iniciando una campaña de recaudación de fondos en solidaridad con las comunidades negras de La Toma, Norte del Cauca, Colombia. Convocamos su apoyo a los esfuerzos de la valiente comunidad de La Toma y sus líderes y lideresas en el Norte del Cauca. Desde el 2009, la comunidad de La Toma ha vivido las crecientes amenazas a sus territorios y sus vidas. La gente de La Toma ha trabajado la minería tradicional y cuidado del medio ambiente por cuatro siglos. Hoy, a pesar de varias protecciones constitucionales, incluyendo el derecho a la titulación colectiva de sus territorios ancestrales, la comunidad está sobreviviendo masacres, violencia sexual, desplazamiento forzado y amenazas de muerte constantes por parte de grupos armados paramilitares.

Pedimos su solidaridad espiritual y financiera para apoyar a la comunidad a recaudar US $25,000 para apoyar dos proyectos comunitarios muy importante.

Su apoyo ayudara dos esfuerzos vitales para la lucha local en La Toma:

1)      Asistir al Movimiento de Mujeres Negras en Defensa de la Vida y Los Territorios Ancestrales a desarrollar una estación de radio comunitaria

2)      Ayudar a comprar un camión para desempeñar un programa de agricultura auto-sostenible. La meta del programa agrícola es fortaleces los vínculos entre las comunidades negras rurales y las personas de la comunidad desplazadas en la ciudad, a través de proveer acceso a vegetales y frutas orgánicos, sembrados y cosechados por la comunidad, a precios al alcance de las comunidades.

Esta campaña de recaudación de fondos es su oportunidad de hacer realidad la expresión “otro mundo es posible”.

Tanto como en los Estados Unidos, las Comunidades Negras en Colombia se están enfrentando a violencia estatal en muchas dimensiones. Por favor aproveche esta oportunidad para apoya la lucha y los esfuerzos de crear solidaridad con la Familia Negra Global.

Black Lives Matter website , facebook
ACSN website , facebook
Colombia Land Monitor, website
La Toma, facebook

We Shall Remain
The War We Are living
Black Land Journey through Afro-Colombian Territory

miércoles, mayo 06, 2015

Abejas se solidarizan con el zumbido: ¡El Arroyo Bruno Somos Todxs!

Era algo que tenía mucho tiempo en construcción, de hablar y ponerle la energía para que pudiera darse, tuvimos un primer momento de conocer, compartir y construir con la Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu. En varias ocasiones pudimos ofrecer talleres o vernos en espacios compartidos, pero en esta ocasión, fue la primera vez que se dio para poder articular y apoyar el proceso del movimiento Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu.

En el año 2012 la mina de carbón a cielo abierto más grande del mundo, Cerrejón, ubicada al sur del departamento de La Guajira, presentó el proyecto para extraer un filo de carbón de 500 millones de toneladas de carbón que se encuentra debajo del cauce del río Ranchería, obligando el desvío del río 26 km de su cauce. La Guajira se levantó  en defensa de su  río más importante y Cerrejón dejó el proyecto quieto. Tres años después intenta presionar los permisos para desvío del arroyo Bruno con el mismo propósito de antes y chantajeando con despedir cientos de trabajadores de la mina.

El Arroyo Bruno nace en la serranía del Perijá y según Cerrejón es uno de los 51 afluentes que tributa al Ranchería, contribuyendo 3,6% al caudal y también es la fuente hídrica de los Municipios de Maicao, Hato Nuevo y Albania. Como intentaron antes, Cerrejón pretende que de los últimos 4,8 kilómetros del Bruno se desvíen 3,6 km en el municipio de Albania. Ese tramo lo correrían unos 700 metros hacia el norte facilitando la expansión de los límites actuales de la mina en 170 hectáreas y el acceso a nada menos que 35 millones de toneladas de carbón. El no poder hacerlo la empresa amenaza que estarían en juego 600 empleos, $500.000 millones en compras a la región y $3,7 billones de regalías y que perderían 3 millones de toneladas anuales. Este chantaje y matoneo de la empresa no es por nada, este monstruo minero  tiene proyectado la ampliación minera denominado P40 con el cual se pretende incrementar la producción de 32 a 40 millones de toneladas anuales a partir de este año (2015) para tal fin esta multinacional invertirá US$1300 millones.

Si bien logrado esto la región se beneficiará con cinco mil trabajos durante lo que dure el proyecto, lo que no menciona son los impactos que tendrá, las consecuencias que tendrá que asumir el pueblo Guajiro.  Desde que Cerrejón empezó a explotar carbón los suelos se han empobrecido; más de doce arroyos tributarios del Ranchería, ojos de agua y manantiales se han secado;  las aguas superficiales y subterráneas se han contaminado; la destrucción de 12.000 hectáreas de bosque seco tropical; además del  desplazamiento forzoso de más de 20.000 guajiros y la destrucción de más de 10 poblados. Actualmente Hato Nuevo y Albania con una población de 45.000 habitantes consumen diario 7,5 millones de litros de agua, mientras que el Cerrejón se gasta diariamente para rociar las carreteras17 millones de litros de agua. En su totalidad Cerrejón utiliza 35 millones de litros de agua al día, lo suficiente para abastecer a 3 millones de personas. Según imágenes satelitales recientes, el río Ranchería tiene un caudal que se seca luego de pasar por el Cerrejón

Lo que las cifras de toneladas de carbón, hectáreas de tierra y litros de agua no cuenta es el impacto social y cultural en la población Guajira. Al desviar el Ranchería, el Bruno o cualquier otro río o arroyo en La Guajira es condenar los habitantes del territorio al exterminio. Son los impactos que la empresa omite y no reconoce; que los Wayuu o los Afro ya no pueden tener sus rancherías y cultivar su yuca, plátano, auyama, maíz y fríjol; ya no pueden pastorear sus chivos y dejar las gallinas sueltas, ya no pueden preparar los mismo alimentos o recolectar del monte; ya no pueden ir al río, arroyo o jagüey para darle de beber a los chivos o lavar la ropa, bañarse o buscar agua para cocinar y tomar; y ya son obligados a tener que buscar dinero aunque el trabajo en la mina no es para ellos.

Ya el paisaje se vuelve otro; el territorio privatizado cubierto de minas activas, carreteras, torres eléctricas, tuberías, escombros de lo que eran montañas, cenizas de lo que eran árboles y agua contaminaba o seca. Ahora los Wayuu y los Afro, que antes vivían libres y autónomos en su territorio son reubicados en “ciudadelas” hechas por Cerrejón, que rompen con la cultura del pueblo Guajiro, de enramadas hechos de troncos y barro esparcidos sobre un territorio mezclado con cultivos, bosque y potrero terminan una parcela con filas de casas hecho de cartón concreto, sin arboles rodeado por una cerca de alambre de púas. Para los Wayuu el territorio y el agua es vida; el poder tener su ranchería, caminar libremente por su territorio con sus chivos, rodeado por plantas y bosques y todos los animales que viven allí que están allí por el agua, entonces lo que pone en peligro los bosque seco tropical, los arroyos, ojos de agua, los manantiales y el río, pone en peligro los Wayuu, los Afro y todos los Guajiros. Lo que Cerrejón pretende hacer es nada menos que un etnocidio y ecocidio.

Los animales silvestres que sobreviven esta masacre del territorio tienen su imagen prostituida por la empresa para su mercadeo corporativo y publicidad. Cerrejón es una empresa excepcional en su uso de lavado verde en toda la región donde opera. Por todas las carreteras de La Guajira se ven carteleras promoviendo el turismo con mujeres Wayuu sonriendo, niños liberando tortugas marinas y de tener cuidado con el ganado y la fauna silvestre que transita las carreteras.

Cerrejón tiene convenios con Conservación Internacional (CI), una organización ambiental institucional, que tiene enlaces con otras empresas de gran contaminación ambiental y destrucción social como Coca Cola, Northrop Grumman Corp., Starbucks y  Shell. CI es una entidad que por medio de fotos de biodiversidad y diversidad humana crean una imagen de luchar por la conservación de biodiversidad, cuando realmente son una fachada, una propaganda, lavan la imagen de empresas e industrias que necesitan parecer que hacen bien por el medio ambiente, a través de unos proyectos asistencialistas que no se comparan en escala a los salarios de los gerentes de dichas empresas, ni a la destrucción y perdidas ambientales que se generan. 

CI es una agencia que legitima el capitalismo verde en un planeta que no está muriendo, sino que está siendo asesinado por los intereses de unos pequeños sectores económicamente poderosos. Además de cubrir los actos de empresas multinacionales ecológicamente sucias, CI también sigue una corriente de otras entidades ambientalistas como World Wildlife Federation y Nature Conservancy que son han sido vinculadas  a proyectos de “conservación ambiental” que son impuesta a comunidades locales e indígenas, las cuales muchas veces resultan en actos de violencia, desplazamiento y hasta muertes para estas personas.

 Las abejas hemos tenido experiencias con comunidades indígenas en el Cauca que nos contaron de colaboraciones que tuvieron con CI para realizar estudios de biodiversidad en su territorio para luego después CI quedarse con todos los resultados de los estudios, robándose el conocimiento de lxs mayores y del territorio.

Como este es el contexto en que el sur de La Guajira se encuentra actualmente fue el punto de apoyo y articulación para respaldar a las rancherías y colegios donde compartimos. A la primera comunidad donde llegamos fue en el Municipio de Barrancas, a la escuela rural de la comunidad  de Campo Alegre. Rodeado por árboles de Araguaney, ganadería y cultivos de algodón, estuvimos en un colegio con niños y niñas todos hablantes del Wayuunaiki  como idioma materno, siendo el castellano el segundo idioma que manejan.  Con ayuda del profesor bilingüe se hizo un ejercicio de identificar los animales en el afiche de Mesoamérica Resiste en castellano y wayuunaiki, luego los niños y niñas coloreaban el afiche con crayolas. Desde la loma donde está el colegio se puede ver en el horizonte, la inmensa mina del Cerrejón que va expandiéndose hacia esta comunidad.

La comunidad siguiente donde polinizamos las campañas gráficas, fue en la ranchería y colegio de Eulalia, la cual queda al lado de la vía férrea que lleva el carbón de la mina del Cerrejón a Puerto Bolívar en la Alta Guajira. La realidad de La Guajira es como se ve en la campaña gráfica de Mesoamérica Resiste con la escena de militarización al lado de la mina, por todas partes sobre todo de lado de la mina, la vía férrea y el puerto, hay muchos militares. Cada tanto de kilómetros sobre la vía férrea hay una escuadra de soldados que están acampando, cuidando esta infraestructura para la mina y que viven cerca de, interactúan y conforman parte de la cotidianidad de las comunidades Wayuu en el sector. 

El taller en Eulalia era uno de los mejores que se ha realizado, al llegar se guindaron los telones de “Mesoamérica Resiste” y “El Verdadero Costo del Carbón”, luego se presentó un resumen. De allí las personas, sobre todo jóvenes de la comunidad, formaron grupos y detenidamente analizaron los telones y se clasificó la presentación de lo que analizaron.  Cada grupo tuvo mucho interés en presentar lo que miraron y el ejercicio se extendió hasta la noche usando un videobeam y linternas para alumbrar los telones que se explicaban.  Había unas participantes que estuvieron en el taller que se hizo el año pasado en el Internado Akuaipa que vinieron preparadas para participar y apoyar a las otras personas en su grupo. Después del ejercicio dinámico con los telones se proyectaron unos cortometrajes, uno que se realizó en la comunidad sobre la mirada Wayuu sobre las negociaciones en La Habana y la paz y otra ficción hecho por personas de la comunidad sobre la ceremonia Wayuu de la niña en su primera menarquia.

Otra tarde tuvimos otra visita corta a la comunidad de Nuevo Espinal que como Campo Alegre que en el Municipio de Barrancas. Nuevo Espinal y Campoalegre están en una región en donde el Cerrejón quiere expandir la extracción minera y en este momento los representantes de la empresa se van reuniéndose con muchos líderes de la región intentando de minimizar cualquier posibilidad de que algún líder se asuma contrario a la expansión minera. En la misma tarde que una persona de la Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu fue a Nuevo Espinal para hablar con las personas adultas de sus derechos ante los intereses del Cerrejón nosotras las abejas nos encargamos de guindar los telones, realizar una breve explicación con los y las adultos de la comunidad y después realizar un ejercicio de colorear el afiche de Mesoamérica Resiste con la niñez de la comunidad intentando recordar los nombres de los animales en wayuunaiki.

El último colegio que visitamos en esta ocasión con la Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu fue el colegio de la comunidad de San Francisco en las afueras de la cabecera municipal de Barrancas. Originalmente iba ser para los estudiantes de 4 º y 5º pero la emoción de los otros estudiantes al no poder ver los telones desde las ventanas de sus salones, hizo que saliera toda la escuela a participar. Los telones de Mesoamérica Resiste y el Verdadero Costo del Carbón se guindaron y todos los niños y niñas se dividieron en tres grupos respectivos, turnándose entre los telones explorando las temáticas y también dibujando en sus cuadernos los detalles que más les llamaba la atención. En este taller, nos dimos cuenta de algo que se veía un poco en los otros, los niñxs que hablaban wayuunaiki no sabían bien los nombres de los animales. Las profesoras les preguntaban identificar animales en el telón en wayuunaiki y respondían en castellano, decían conejo en cambio de Atpana.  Después les preguntamos si habían visto un Conejo en su vida y respondieron que no. Allí nos quedó muy claro el ejemplo de que perdida de diversidad biológica acompaña la perdida de diversidad lingüística.

La última comunidad en esta visita en La Guajira donde compartimos fue la ranchería de Jepimana vía Uribía desde Cuatro Vías. En Jepimana hubo adultos, jóvenes  uno que otro niño y niña. Después de guindar los telones nos dimos cuenta después de unos minutos de hablar en castellano que las personas no nos estaban poniendo cuidado. Afortunadamente un compañero,  una joven y un joven del taller de Eulalia ya entendían los telones, tenían experiencia previa con la dinámica y en wayuunaiki tomar control y explicaron los telones a las personas presentes para el taller. La abeja sirvió como un guía y ayudar a recordar temáticas del telón pero lo fuerte del taller lo realizó las personas Wayuu que ya habían estado presentes antes demostrando de como las comunidades se pueden apropiar y empoderarse por medio de las herramientas ilustradas como son las campañas gráficas del Colectivo de Diseño la Colmena. Incluso hablaron en wayuunaiki la problemática del lavado verde y la fachada que Cerrejón y Conservación Internacional genera alrededor de la minería de carbón en La Guajira usando un aviso de Cerrejón con tortugas marinas en el periódico del Diario del Norte. 

Como nos sucede a menudo, el tiempo en La Guajira con la Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu pasó muy rápido y quedamos con muchas ganas de volver pronto para seguir polinizando y tejiendo en conjunto. Quedamos con invitaciones para volver a todas las comunidades que visitamos para seguir compartiendo el trabajo de las campañas gráficas como proceso pedagógico, pero también invitaciones para participar otros proyectos sobre biodiversidad, nombres propios y agro-ecología y permacultura. Esperamos poder volver pronto y seguir compartiendo con las comunidades de la Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, apoyar en los procesos de lucha y defensa del territorio en como en contra del desvío del Arroyo Bruno y también crear y abrir los otros caminos para mejorar La Guajira con los Wayuu y todo sus ecosistemas. Para facilitar un telón de Mesoamérica Resiste a la Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu o apoyar cualquier de las otras iniciativas que se propone adelantar con la Fuerza se pueden poner en contacto con: polinizaciones@gmail.com.  

martes, abril 21, 2015

Maikiralasalii and the Bees Sharpen Stingers for a New Fight against Coal

For some years now, the majority of the time we spend in Venezuela has been in the city of Maracaibo in the state of Zulia. However, even before taking up our post in Maracaibo, we have for a long time been in a relationship of cross pollination with the folks who “are not for sale” of the Perija Mountains. 

Since the time that we formed a base in Maracaibo, our visits there mean we are surrounded by loud car horns and the buzz of air conditioning units, the yells, the exhaust from cars, the garbage piled in the streets, the extreme heat reflected by asphalt, concrete and zinc roofing shingles. We then leave all of that behind for the waters of a river filtered by stones and coal, for the shade and freshness of the breeze that flows through trees, vines, and shrubs. Forests where macaws, toucans and other birds fly free and without worry of being shot or captured, and where it is normal to come across howler monkeys, spider monkeys, red-foot tortoises, and otters. We return to the Socuy River and the Wayuu communities of Wayuumaana and Kasussain where our friends have been resisting the extraction interests of Big Coal for 15 years. 

Even with all the challenges that exist within the convenience and consumerist society-of-oil-dependence and the wide co-opting and homogenization as a result of the political nepotism-dressed-as-Socialism within Chavismo, the people within the Wayuu Organization Maikilralasaalii have been in a unique process of creating autonomy, forging their own collective self-determination based on the concepts of land, water, and dignity. This process is a Wayuu process in its entirety where the language of Wayuunaiki dominates all activities and spaces, while at the same time it has successfully created alliances and relationships of solidarity and mutual aid with such diverse social players such as ecologists, Chavistas, anti-capitalists, anarchists, other indigenous peoples and other Wayuu organizations in Venezuela and Colombia.

The inhabitants of the Socuy River do not grow all of their own food, nor do all their medicines come from the plants of the tropical dry forests. They are Venezuelans and processed starches are a huge part of their diet. Nevertheless, this diet is strengthened by milk from their goats, heirloom chickens, eggs and crops of kepeshuna (guajiro bean- an endemic variety), squash, yuca and chamomile that can be purchased at the Hierba Buena store in Maracaibo. The local inhabitants remain active in different skills-building processes with workshops that include the creation and application of bio fertilizers, installment and use of solar panels, as well as having produced various short and long films.

The hunting of wild animals is prohibited and they continue to raise red-foot tortoises. This project started with the trading of cartons of eggs for the tortoises that inhabitants of the community of El Paraiso capture and sell for human consumption. In this way, the Wayuu Organization Maikilralasaalii saves the tortoises from the fate of being someone´s meal.

The Socuy is working toward and creating its own reality within a context familiar with the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle from the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN), even though they exist simultaneously within Petro-dependent, consumerist Venezuela, where each day more and more people of all political tendencies want “Father Government” to solve everything and the culture of “do it yourself”, sustainability and self-reliance is rarer and harder to find than soap, disposable diapers and milk in local supermarkets.

During our recent visit we arrived with friends and allies to the Socuy process as well as other folks who were visiting for the very first time. We arrived as a series of skills building workshops on traditional Wayuu hat weaving was beginning and we were able to integrate the activities we had to offer into those already happening. During that week and day we offered our activities, the local folks dedicated their time to create and weave Wayuu hats, and sometime in the middle of the afternoon we hung the graphic campaign banners of Mesoamerica Resiste and the True Cost of Coal. The cloth banner of the True Cost of Coal we used belongs to the Autonomous School of Yalayalamana. If anyone is interested in showing their support by printing a banner of Mesoamerica Resiste for the formation processes of the Socuy River please contact the Bees.

For hours we shared the stories of the peoples and creatures of Appalachian Mountains and their struggle against coal mining as well as the stories of the peoples and creatures of Mesoamérica and the long story of struggle and resistance that started with the European Invasion and persists today within neoliberal, extractivist capitalism. During the presentation of the two banners there was simultaneous interpretation and discussion in Wayuunaiki and those present freely observed, listened, conversed, and reflected in their own language. All of this interaction revolved around the history of the Wayuu People, the Socuy River and was all presented through the banners; the Wayuu who migrated south to the Perija Mountains due to the droughts in La Guajira, later being displaced by the coal mines of Guasare and Paso del Diablo, and the Manuelote and Tulé dams, are now once again ready to fight against coal mining interests.

It has been a long history, after 15 years of not only resisting the expansion of coal mines in the Perija Mountains that would require the diversion of the Socuy River, but at the same time creating the ecological agriculture and self-reliant alternatives that the region needs. To resist coal in Perija is to resist the Initiative of Regional Infrastructure Integration South America (IIRSA). This resistance is to the mines, the train lines and Port América, projected to be built in the islands of Toas, Zapara and San Carlos. Regardless of all the adversity, during his life President Chavez changed his position and declared that the coal would stay underground. Years later, resistance was taken up again against the pretensions of the Chavista governor of Zulia State, Arias Cardenas, and the plan to create a coal-powered thermo-electric generation plant in Guasare. All of this over more than 15 years and now this?

After all of this on February 10th President Nicolas Maduro signed Decree 1.606 giving the go ahead to expanding coal mining. The cynical and selective amnesia of Maduro and Cardenas seems to underestimate the Venezuelan people, believing them to have forgotten the strong movement of popular resistance that caused Chavez to take back his words and say “no to coal” in 2007, even after announcing in 2003 an intention to triple coal production. This selective amnesia of the current government seems to think that the social movements do not have a critical understanding of the importance of the water from Perija for life in Maracaibo City and the whole Maracaibo Lake Basin.  Those in power intend that the people do not see the fallacy in handing over the vital liquid of a dry and arid territory and instead attempt to call it progress, development, even “revolution”.

The Decree1.606 approves the exploration and extraction of 24,192 hectors of coal and other minerals associated with energy production in the Montes de Oca (Majayura Mountains), the natural northern limit with Colombia along the northern border of the Socuy River. As if this was not enough, the Chinese multinational company with whom the agreement is signed, Sinohydro, demands more coal. Sinohydro has pressured the engineers of the Venezuelan State-owned Petroleum company, PDVSA, to “include within the project´s Financial Plan the projects of a coal-powered thermo-electric generation plant and the recuperation of coal mines, this with the purpose of supplying constant coal to this plant” (Project Coal-powered Thermo-electric generation plant). These policies have been consolidated in Carbozulia, which is currently under the presidency of Coronel Carlos Antonio Cabré Córdoba.

In commemoration of the two years since Hugo Chavez passed, Carbozulia realized an activity commemorating his legacy. “The best way to preserve the legacy left by the Commander Chavez is to achieve with the demands of this historic moment. With the support of General Erling Rojas Castillo, president of PDVSA Industrial and the commitment of all the workers of Carbozulia we will recuperate coal production in the State of Zulia”. It is quite audacious and shameless to pay “homage” to a person, speak about his legacy, and then go completely against his crystal clear words, words with which he said that he would “rather keep the rivers and the forests, and that that coal stay underground”.

These breaks with Chavez´s final position on coal in the Perija Mountains and the recent brutal treatment of indigenous Ye´kwana and Sanema at the hands of Venezuelan military in the state of Bolivar, spurred by involvement with illegal mining, does not leave the Venezuelan State in good standing before its indigenous, anti-capitalist, and environmentalist citizens and much less their international equivalents. This comes during a difficult moment in the Venezuelan story, a time when the dangers of a coup d’état are very real within the country. These actions only further confirm that the Bolivarian Process in Venezuela continues to destroy nature and raze territories and ecosystems just as the governments prior to Chavismo came into power. It should be recognized that within the rank and file of Chavistas there are many environmentalists that attempt to demand coherency from within the Bolivarian process of the State, though these people are few and far between and have had minimal influence and a lack of decision making power within state policies. They have had little effect, as well, in fomenting a paradigm shift regarding worldviews of the Earth, environmental protection, and education.

On a national level there was the elimination of the Ministry of Popular Power of the Environment to create the Ministry of Ecosocialism by Maduro. In Zulia, the creation of multiple ecological routes and parks (many of which are excellently conceived and administered though others in states of abandonment or that caused environmental destruction with their creation) by Cardenas has served as a cover, as “greenwashing”. In the same way that corporations like Pacific Rubiales, Endesa, or Ecopetrol use the practice of greenwashing to appear as though they are contributing to the fight against pollution on this planet or the root causes of the climate crisis as they destroy the planet, so have the environmental efforts of the Maduro and Cárdenas administrations, coupled with their complete reliance on extractivism to finance their government, their efforts are poor attempts of putting green bandages over a industrialized and polluted landscape.

After the sharing of thoughts that came about as a result of exploring Mesoamerica Resiste and the True Coast of Coal, the night´s last activity was a film screening. We watched “Abuela Grillo”, another short film called “Wayuumaana” (made by a student from Mérida), and the feature film of the evening was “Macuro”. The films, the banner workshop, and the weaving of hats created a dynamic day where the problems as well as the solutions to the challenges faced by the Socuy River and the whole Maracaibo Lake Basin were dealt with. 

The Wayuu Organization Maikiralasalii, the various collectives, movements, national and international Bees that defend the struggle for water, land, and life are ready for another battle against coal extractive interests, destroyers of life and land, regardless if it dressed as socialist or outright capitalist.  There have already been numerous protests, public forums and debates. Cardenas has been silent, not attending the majority of events to which he has been invited. Currently folks from Socuy are in Caracas lobbying to halt all extraction projects in the Perija Mountains. In terms of local allies in Maracaibo the movement brings together a mix of Chavistas with varying degrees of criticism of the government and a wide array of non-government supporters including anarchists, far-left communists, and even some mainstream opposition. 

As La Guajira Peninsula and the Perija Mountains are one, there is no border, and the coal, the forests, the rivers, the animals, and the Wayuu (and the Yukpa and Bari) are one. What is done on one side of the region will affect both peoples and territories alike, whether it be in the land called Venezuela or the land called Colombia. 

In all the visits we have had to the Socuy River, we always leave with the urge to come back and stay longer. We are happy to share, take up again the building and walking with the compañerxs from the process of the river. It is always exciting and spirit-filling to interact with the non-human inhabitants of the Socuy, animals like the dwarf caiman, parrots, toucans, macaws, snakes, spider and howler monkeys, who come up close to us with no fear at all. On this occasion we had the privilege of interacting with a juvenile otter that swam up only a meter away from us, exploring us with the same curiosity we had. We were overtaken by excitement in the presence of such a special and power water creature, a guardian of the water, the otter.

This last visit contributed to an even longer history of special visits and exchanges along the Socuy, and we look forward to being able to return with more time and capacity required to continue building and creating new processes in defense of life, water and land. If there are persons or entities who would like to support our work with the Wayuu Organization Maikiralasalii, the struggle against coal mining in the Perija Mountains, and support community based projects such as reforestation, agro-ecology and Meliponicultura along the Socuy River, we can be contacted through polinizaciones@gmail.com.