In 2008, when Polinizaciones first toured through the Department of Cauca, we got to know a community that we were able to visit again this time around, the Misak People of the Indigenous Reserve of Wuampia. It was wonderful to be able to return to Misak territory, see a few old friends, and make new friends; a friend that is involved in Misak environmental and land projects helped coordinate our visit as part of this tour. Besides returning to spaces we'd been in years before to present the Plan Colombia banner, this time to present Mesoamérica Resiste, we were also able to visit the Kizgó community for the first time, in the same municipality of Silvia. During this stay we stayed in the traditional medicine center in the Misak Reserve of Wuampia, surrounded by gardens of many kinds of healing, curative plants. Much of the land of the reserve is liberated land, that was recovered from large landowners in the 1970s by those who are elders in the community now. In this visit, like those before, we had the opportunity to share our work in many spaces, with young girls and boys, older youth, adults, and elders.
In 2011 the council of the Indigenous Reserve of Wuampia and the Misak People, became concerned about issues dealing with environmental and land degradation and the politics of the state. More specifically the wants to dismantle the traditional authorities on the national level, claiming that they are not environmental authorities in their own territories; not recognizing the ancestral originality of the Misak People, or the historical processes of struggle for their land, and also not recognizing national and international agreements and rights of indigenous peoples regarding their territoriality and originality.
Coming from the Elders words and the ancestral duty of the Misak in recent years there has been a process of organization and development of strategies for the protection and conservation of the spaces of Misak life, coming from their own vision of natural balance, with environmental processes that seek to put the management of natural resources into the communities' own hands, with the goal of the Misak Peole having control over their own environment, based in fundamental Misak principles of reciprocity and integrality, for the permanent survival of the Misak People. The objective of this process is to reclaim their own way of thinking, to revitalize the harmony and balance of the land that allowed their ancestors to survive, through nurturing and strengthening Misak territory.
The first day was a spectacular morning with fresh air coming down from the high mountain moors and the sun shining strong, so we decided to do our workshop in the soccer field of the Tranal Educational Institute of the Wuampia Reserve. All of the students participated and each group presented part of the graphics to the other groups. In the workshop we learned that since we last visited there have been problems with people coming in to colonize this area, pushing gold mining and bringing in drainage equipment that has caused great environmental, cultural, and social conflicts. There are currently 31 mining proposals for the municipality of Silvia given by the government´s geological entity, INGEOMINAS, two that are within Misak territory, taking up 650 hectares of the high mountain moors of Mama Dominga, the water shed of the Junambu creek, and in the Peñon Peak, all sacred sites of our territory.
Mining brings many problems; it contaminates water, which is life; dries up water and the mountain moors; destroys sacred sites that are part of our territory; brings in people with weapons and transnational companies. Mining in the Wuampia Reserve is prohibited by traditional authorities; as well as any intervention by extractive industries like transnationals and private companies interested in making a profit off of the environment. A previous Governor of the Misak People, Tata Misael Aranda, explained in 2012, "The practice of mining is like the cultivation of opium; at first it brings in money and happiness, but in the end it only leaves behind poverty and social problems, for that reason we say no to both small and large scale mining.
In the afternoon of that same day we were able to do a storytelling of the Mesoamérica Resiste graphic with students from the Namuy Misak Educational Center (in El Salado) of the Kizgó Reserve, with some teachers joining in, as well as our pollinator friends from the Colectivo Libre Colibrí; in this area of El Salado there are also mining projects affecting the river, and they told us that some youth from their own community are involved in the mining without looking at the consequences that it brings (easy money, but destruction of ecosystems and water contamination), so this space to reflect together, using the Mesoamérica Resiste banners, is one of many important spaces needed to rethink this model of development and look for community alternatives. Coming to visit the Kizgó Reserve was made possible by our hummingbird friends from Colectivo Colibrí who participated in the first Beehive tour we did here in 2008.
The second day we returned to the same auditorium of the Guambiano Agricultural Education Institute in the Wuampia Reserve where students from many different classes participated in collectively studying and analyzing the scenes in the graphics, and taking turns explaining and sharing about what they saw with the whole group. In this workshop we heard that the armadillo, which in the graphic represents an elder sitting with youth around a fire in the community celebration scene, is a sacred animal for the Misak People and represents working the land, and its shell represents weaving (the warp and the weft). That afternoon we returned to the Kizgó Reserve, this time to the Tengo Educational Center, where we met up with the Colibrí Collective who again helped us tell the stories of Mesoamérica Resiste and relate them to what is happening in this region. We talked with the youth about the importance of water, in the Kizgó Reserve are the headwaters of various rivers that flow to and cool down many different farming and indigenous territories (like the urban center of Silvia, the farming zone of Usenda and the municipality of Caldono-Río Ovejas). One of the threats is the implementation of the Departmental Water Law, already approved by the Mayor's Office of Silvia, that some communities don't recognize, and it is still unknown what its reach will be in terms of privatizing natural springs, rivers, and ravines in this area.
For our last day of workshops we were able to return to the place where we did our first Plan Colombia presentation in Guambia, a place as special as it is beautiful, in the house of "Tampal Kauri." This time it was a school day for Misak University, an initiative of the Misak People to create its own educational space after high school, with its own values, perspectives and realities. It was without a doubt the largest and most participatory workshop we've done on this tour, with more than 5 very full hours of interactive storytelling and collective analysis, group presentations, and a final summary of all their work, with more than 100 people participating. People spoke up with a lot of enthusiasm, most of them were bilingual in Spanish and in their own language, Nam Rik, and participated in both languages, and they spoke about local issues inspired by the scenes in the banner, like the threat of genetically modified crops and the loss of their traditional clothing, and also about the importance of the fireplace, that is at the center of the university as well as at the center of their homes. They congratulated us for the work of the Bees, and we left Mesoamérica Resiste posters at Misak University like we do with all educational institutions and teachers, collectives, and places where we do workshops. After the workshop, like we did on our last visit, we did an interview on Namuy Wam, the indigenous community radio station of the Wuampia Reserve, where we talked about our work and also issues related to megaprojects, indigenous communities, and the environment in our entire hemisphere.
Like all of our visits to see our friends from the Misak community, this visit was so lovely and welcoming that we hope we can return to Wuampia and the surrounding areas of Silvia soon, to keep walking together with the Misak People. As much as we are able to, we will continue to accompany them and support educational processes through our illustrations and other artistic expressions that highlight the importance of land and autonomy. To be able to return here after so much time reassures us that our buzzing around continues to be welcome, and that there is still a long way to go and much work to do.