viernes, julio 04, 2014

Pollinating the Islands of the Great Chief Nigale

During this trip to the state of Zulia we were able to visit the islands of Toas and Zapara in the Gulf of Venezuela, that today belong to the Municipality of Insular Padilla. Padilla and the coastal zones of Mara and Maracaibo, to the west of the Gulf of Venezuela and Lake Maracaibo, is part of the ancestral territory of the Añú people, a original peoples with a history of great history of struggle and resistance against the Spanish conquest.

The Cacique Nigale, hero of the Añú people, at one point was captured and spent a long time as a slave of the Spanish in the city of Rodrigo (today's Maracaibo). Upon being liberated in 1573 he organized resistance and a sustained attack against the Spanish with a flotilla of canoes showering flaming arrows. This resistance lasted until his capture and consequent torture and assassination by hanging in 1607.

Today there is another threat to this territory. Port Bolívar or Port América is a project that is part of IIRSA, the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure of South America, with the intent of exporting coal mined from the Perijá mountains to markets in Europe and North America. The construction of Port Bolívar means taking over beaches on the islands of San Bernardo, San Carlos, Pájaro and Zapara and building offshore: docks for coal and oil platforms. It also requires dredging to build various canals for transportation, it would move enormous quantities of sediments and metals, deposited on the bottom of the Gulf, creating an impact of colossal proportions that are scientifically difficult to measure or predict.
This would have devastating results for the almost 20,000 people that live directly or indirectly off of small scale fishing, and for the processors of shrimp and crab in the lake, and at the same time they would lose almost 40 kilometers of the best beaches of the municipalities of Mara and Almirante Padilla, with the construction of a highway from the Norte and Cachirí mines to Port Bolívar.

These days, as a people, the Añú who are “people of the water”maintain their territory, artisan work, small scale fishing, and traditional homes called palafitos (stilt houses), but the Añú language is nearly lost. Even though there are thousands of Añú people, there are very few who still identify as Añú or in some cases even know they are Añú, the majority of those living in the area of the Sinamaica Lagoon.

Nigale led by orienting his resistance strategy from the top of the hills of the island of Toas, the same mountains that are now disappearing. One can say with certainty that the first mineral exploitation in the state of Zulia was the limestone rock from the hills of Toas island, for which the Royal Charter of 1591 ordered mayors Rodrigo de Argüelles & Gaspar de Párraga to exploit these mines. 

Today what is left of the mountains has been excavated, eroded, and in some parts is completely gone. These peaks, the tallest in the lake basin, are being excavated and exploited for a considerable amount of limestone, but paradoxically none of the workers or the people in the community are fully benefiting from it, since the great majority of profit is in the hands of the big business owners and public functionaries, while the environment is being destroyed, sacred sites are being lost, the island is being polluted, and the people of the island aren't getting any of the gains. 

The reality of the islands isn't so idyllic. Contamination from plastic waste dominates the landscape of the islands, and the majority of the youth have abandoned or completely forgotten their Añú roots and migrated to the cities, due to the lack of work and the hazy, uncertain future that is hard to make out after the limestone is all gone, which is the main source of employment here. 

Animal species endemic to this place are more and more scarce, and communities don't have access to healthcare services, especially at night when there isn't transportation between the islands and the mainland.

However, not all is lost, flora and fauna of the area are still protected and there are many mangroves of good size. Scarlet ibis, roseate spoonbills and flamingos still make their home in this area. 

In our travels we met a dolphin that was very worried about the situation in its territory, and thanks to the effort and labor of this dolphin there is now a project of building eco-walls at the school of the island. Using more than 3 thousand plastic soda bottles to create three benches in the form of a horseshoe, with a double use as a dining area and also an alternative classroom space. The basic idea is to promote this construction technique, using recycled plastic all over Insular Padilla, especially with the poorest families that live in houses made of boards and zinc roofing shingles.

As part of this process of consciousness raising and education, thanks to the director of the School of Toas Island and the dolphin, we had the opportunity to share and pollinate Mesoamérica Resiste with the students of the school. Energized and animated by our presence they were very attentive to all of the information that we shared through the banners. The scenes about the cruise ship and tourism, the highway being blockaded by squashes (representing workers), the displacement of the mangroves, and beehive of solidarity economy, were all grounded in the realities that they live here. Everyone there liked the work so much that we left posters with the dolphin and the director so that they can keep working with them with the students.

This experiment with permaculture and bioconstruction is not unique on the islands. In Zapara you can find the Latinoamérica Hostel, which also incorporates agroecology and bioconstruction in its tourism work. Various local people had showed interested in the introduction of eco-tourism, tourism that doesn't affect or alter in any way the environment, that helps the community and doesn't destroy it, however information is vital in this process. If the Bolívar Port is built, the ancestral mangroves and beaches will be covered up and seriously endangered.

The islanders should generate their own solutions to the problems of uncontrolled management of waste, as well as declaring certain areas untouchable as natural reserves of the community. The project of the port, just like the mining of lime, is not going to help the island community. It could generate jobs but the long term contamination and destruction of the water, the hills, the mangroves and beaches that give sustenance and life, eliminates the possibility of having healthy territory that is suitable for living on.

Although the context of the Padilla island like all of Venezuela is very challenging, we saw that there exist people with the knowledge and the motivation to be able to change the daily reality of these communities. All that's missing is that more people learn, share, and support these initiatives that are clearly for the benefit everyone.

Drawing done by a student after the talk about Mesoamérica Resiste

3 comentarios:

kendry jose dijo...

Hello, very interesting article compiled valuable information for the world to know the reality of the indigenous peoples of Venezuela and especially the communities we live in the Insular Municipality Padilla, we have historically relied on traditional fishing or coastal I want to say that the only problem is the construction of the Port America or the exploitation of limestone is historic because most of the buildings of the colonial era was built with that material. The Port America and I think that will never be built because of this heroic people descending Nigales not allow it. But there is another problem that has been affecting the marine fauna of this area, I remember when I was a fisherman off the coast of San Carlos fish freshwater fishing, the fish now not fished due to increased salinity and increased channel depth make navigation more you invade saltwater lake and in turn affects the entire ecosystem within it.

In the early 50's that channel was shallow draft and tell me my grandfather fishing was successful, but that actually change considerably and unfortunately for all men and women who depend on fishing. The problem is that many economic interest are played, but threatening the flora and fauna of the Insular Municipality Padilla today many species have disappeared by the action of man, fishermen must now navigate miles further north Gulf of Venezuela to catch the fish that once fished in the sea, then we say that reality has changed a lot and with it the life of the fisherman, who historically are all because most of the ethnic groups in Zulia state in a stage of history lived and depended lake Maracaibo or Coquivacoa.

Grego Luaiza dijo...

en espanol o en añu o wayuu anas-alijuna. para entenderlo

kendry jose dijo...

Hola, muy interesante recopilaron información muy valiosa para que el mundo se entere de la realidad de los pueblos originarios de Venezuela y en especial de las comunidades que vivimos en el Municipio Insular Padilla, que históricamente hemos dependido de la pesca artesanal o costera, quiero decirle que el único problema no es la construcción del Puerto América o la explotación de piedra caliza que es histórica porque la mayoría de las edificaciones de la época colonial se construyó con ese material. El Puerto América pienso y creo que nunca se construirá porque este pueblo heroico descendiente de Nigales no lo permitirá. Pero hay otro problema que ha venido afectando la fauna marina de esta zona, recuerdo cuando era pescador que en la costa de San Carlos se pescaba peces de agua dulce, esos peces ahora no se pescan debido a la mayor salinidad y a la mayor profundidad del canal de navegación que hace que más agua salada invada al lago y su vez afecte todo el ecosistema dentro de él.

En la década de los 50 ese canal era de bajo calado y me dice mi abuelo que la pesca era prospera, pero esa realidad cambio considerablemente y lamentablemente para todos los hombres y mujeres que depende de la pesca. El problema es que son muchos los interés económico que se juegan, pero ponen en riesgo la flora y la fauna del Municipio Insular Padilla hoy en día muchas especies de agua dulces que se pescaba en las costa de San Carlos han desaparecidos por esa acción del hombre, hoy los pescadores deben a navegar millas más al norte del golfo de Venezuela para pescar los peces que en otrora se pescaba en la costa, entonces decimos que la realidad ha cambiado mucho y con él la vida del pescador, que históricamente todos somos porque la mayoría de las etnias del estado Zulia en una etapa de la historia vivieron y dependieron del lago de Maracaibo o Coquivacoa.