At the beginning of the year a group of Latin American youth set off from Tucson, Arizona in the US in an old school bus painted with graffiti in an initiative known as the Climate Caravan through Latin America. This caravan has been an Action Tour that has traveled through Mexico, Central America, and part of South America to end its route in Lima, Peru for the COP20 at the beginning of December and participate in the People's Summit against Climate Change.
On this tour they visited with communities who live the realities caused by the climate crisis, who shared their diverse experiences of the impacts of the projects that deepen the climate crisis and the struggles against the policies and projects that contribute to the crisis. In these communities, urban as well as rural, they've done research and produced a series of reports that are audio, video, written, and photographic, about the extracion of hydrocarbons, all kinds of mining, monocrops, the massive generation of energy through dams, wind power, and other programs promoted as ways to stop the crisis like REDD+ and the carbon economy that aren't helping the situation but actually making it worse. Also on this tour they've organized various talks and workshops for these communities to bring an awareness of and orientation to the international institutions and policies that are promoting these kinds of projects that are invading their territories and leading to the loss of communities and ecosystems.
These workshops, with films, talks, exercises, and the Mesoamérica Resiste graphics campaign, were a way for the Climate Caravan to support communities they visited. At the beginning of the tour a Bee from the US accompanied the caravan during their route through Mexico, bringing workshops to communities, and when that Bee had to return to the North, the Caravan continued to use the Mesoamérica Resiste banners all along their route, to show communities that what they were living and what was happening in their territory was also happening in other neighboring countries and in the whole world. In a way the Climate Caravan was able to achieve one of the Beehive Design Collective's first objectives in the making of Mesoamérica Resiste, to return the graphics to the communities that offered up their stories during the creation of them. There is another caravan in the works that will be traveling through Mexico and Central America and also using the Mesoamérica Resiste graphics, distributing posters in communities along the way for use as educational materials.
A few months ago we had the pleasure of meeting up with the Climate Caravan during our work accompanying the process of La Jagua, Huila, impacted by the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project. The Caravan came in from the north after visiting Bogotá, Santander, La Guajira and Venezuela. In Neiva they were able to share with ASOQUIMBO and learn about the threats to the Las Ceibas River, which provides water for the city of Neiva as well as the rural vereda (rural district) of Santa Helena where the river starts. The Ceibas River, Santa Helena, Neiva and everyone who depends on this water, are all being threatened by the Alange Energy company who applied for an environmental license to explore and exploit petroleum in this area, provoking a very strong organized protest that got the concession for the project canceled on May 28th of this year, stopping the exploration and production of hydrocarbons for 20 years in the watershed of the Ceibas River. The cancelation of the contract for the concession E&P VSM-13, signed in 2011 between the National Agency of Hydrocarbons and the multinational oil company Alange Energy, affiliated with Pacific Rubiales, signifies for the moment a victory for the department of Huila, and the people celebrated with a great march in the capital city of Neiva a day after the announcement.
After Neiva, the Caravan went on to the community of Hobo and the Betania dam project. In this first part of their visit the fishermen of the town of Hobo shared about the problems with the Betania dam, how the dam made them shift from farming to fishing, and how now that they are fishing, the construction and filling of the Quimbo dam puts all of their fishing in danger, and everything will end in ruin. After Hobo, the fishermen took the Caravan to the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project, so they could document firsthand the severity of its impacts and the scale of the work. In the afternoon and evening of that day we had the pleasure of hosting the Climate Caravan in La Jagua, where they rested for a few hours in las Peñas of the Yuma River before sharing with the community that night what the Caravan was all about, and showing some short videos that they made in Mexico and Guatemala, and also listening to people from the community who are living with the dam, the oil companies, and militarization of their territory.
The next day we went to visit a neighboring community, El Pital, Huila, through an initiative known as “Geocoreografias” led by the collective Jaguos por el Territorio. El Pital (1664) is a town in the center of Huila on a branch of the central mountain range of the Andes that, like La Jagua (1540), was founded as an “Indian Village” in colonial times when Spanish invaders didn't permit whites and Indians to live together. The town is dedicated mostly to agriculture, above all production of coffee, and its main water source is the Quebrada La Yaguilga, whose headwaters are threatened with being bought by Emgesa, Hydrochina, and other multinational companies.
El Pital in terms of flooded land is minimally impacted by the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project (HP), but it is in the affected zone which includes the Corinto Gorge, a gorge with 3,000 year old petroglyphs that is considered a sacred site for the La Jagua community and other inhabitants of the area. Excited by the opportunity to host the Climate Caravan, youth from the community who are part of Geocoreografias and also the Pitayó Youth Network (RPJ) organized a large event to receive the Caravan. In the weeks leading up to the arrival of the Caravan in Huila, Colombia announced that they are thinking of starting up a controversial method of extracting natural gas and petroleum with underground explosions or hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. When fracking was announced, a technique that has already devastated aquifers in regions of other countries like the US and Argentina, they announced that in Huila they wanted to implement fracking in 16 municipalities, including all of the ones impacted by the Quimbo HP, including el Pital. RPJ organized an event at the Casa Curial where students and other community members gathered in the morning to listen to the Climate Caravan and watch the videos they'd made, along with other short videos about fracking.
After lunch, in the afternoon we went to the sports field where we hung both Mesoamérica Resiste banners, and between the Caravan, the Bees, the Jaguos, RPJ and the 10th and 11th graders from both schools in town we studied the graphics in groups and then presented what we talked about,. The time and space we had and the number of people participating allowed for a fruitful experience, where the groups could take their time to look at the graphics, discuss, and afterwards adequately present their scenes from the banner to the larger group. That night RPJ invited the Caravan to take their giant bus to the point where the two creeks las Minas and Yaguilga come together, and that's where we camped that night. The next day the Caravan had to continue on its route, taking off for Putumayo where they encountered a minga of resistance for the defense of territory, above all due to the problem of petroleum extraction in that Amazonian territory.
A few days ago in Ecuador, on its way to Lima, the Caravan's bus (known as the CheBus) was detained by Ecuadorian authorities. Even though the bus has traveled the whole continent without problems, and they entered Ecuador with all valid documents and they'd already spent some time there, with all of their paperwork up to date, despite that it seems like someone in power in Ecuador didn't want them to arrive in Lima. Could it be because the Caravan is collaborating with the collective YASunidos that seeks to stop petroleum exploration in the Yasuní region in the Ecuadorian Amazon? Right now the Caravan and YASunidos need all the support they can get, bus driver, Cristian Guerrero, might face charges for driving a bus for reasons other than tourism with a penalty of up the three years in jail! Not to mention recover the CheBus. Please support the Caravan with a signature on their petition and if you can support with money to the legal fund.
They have been on the road a long time, and being able to host them and share our territory's story with the Climate Caravan was a special moment that the Bees, Jaguos por el Territorio and RPJ remember with much happiness, energy, and reflection on the experiences that they brought to Huila. In these difficult moments when the interests of the State and extractivism opposing the work of the Caravan, we ask all people in solidarity with their work to help us spread the word about what's happening, and if you can help in any other way please be in touch with the Caravan, at email@example.com.