miércoles, junio 08, 2016

Return to Caquetá: Amazonia Resists dialogs with ¡Mesoamérica Resiste!

Original Source: A la Orilla del Río
Photography: Diana Calderón Montes
Translation: Katy Clark

The bees of the Beehive Design Collective mark almost three years since we were in the Amazonian foothills territory of Florencia (Caquetá) for the launch of ¡Mesoamérica Resiste! Thanks to an invitation and collaboration on the part of A la Orilla del Río [At the River Bank], the virtual center of thought in the Colombian Amazon region, with Movimiento Ríos Vivos [the Living Rivers Movement], we were able to return to Florencia, go to Morelia for the first time and make plans to return later this year to continue our pollinations throughout the territory of Caquetá. On this occasion, just as the first time, we were primarily in Florencia, where we held workshops in different spaces and also were able to meet with processes of environmental organizations, such as that of the Mesa Departamental para la Defensa del Agua y el Territorio de Caquetá – MEDDAT [Departmental Table for the Defense of Water and Territory in Caquetá].

MEDDAT is a meeting and coordinating space of different civil society organizations for the defense of Amazonian territory from extractive processes – primarily the extraction of oil. Currently Caquetá is divided into 21 oil blocks that encompass the territories of every municipality and belong to businesses such as Emerald Energy, Canacol, Hupecol, Ecopetrol and the Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos [National Agency of Hydrocarbons], all of which have been met with resistance throughout the entire territory.

One of the strongest and most emblematic processes in the region is that of the peasant farmer communities of Valparaíso that have risen up against the incursion of the Chinese oil company Emerald Energy. For a multitude of reasons, the community is against the extraction of oil in their territory and has positioned themselves in opposition to the project in multiple scenarios. They have continually been excluded from the decision making process. On May 4th, 2015 the community decided to hold a peaceful protest and establish an encampment on the bridge over the La Cacho creek, impeding the pass of Emerald Energy’s heavy machinery. On June 30th, the ESMAD [Riot polie] arrived to the protest site and, for the time being evicted the encampment, leaving three wounded. So far the community has not received an answer about who ordered the eviction and the use of force. Since then the oil company has moved in and established itself.

Like the first time, the places where we were most able to share the work were the Instituto Educativo Jean Piaget (Jean Piaget Educational Institute) and the Universidad de la Amazonia [University of Amazonia]. In Jean Piaget there is never a lack of students; we worked this time with all of the students from grades 5-11, who were drawn to the illustrations and their meanings and gave detailed explanations of subjects such as neoliberalism, extraction, identity, and culture. For two days we worked with the ¡Mesoamérica Resiste! and Plan Colombia graphics with the students of Jean Piaget grounding each concept in what is happening locally.

In the University of Amazonia we were able to share different spaces with different groups, including the Cabildo Indígena Estudiantil (Indigenous Student Council), the Consejo Estudiantil (Student Council), and many students and professors from all departments. The last night in the university, the same hall in front of the library where ¡Mesoamérica Resiste! was inaugurated a few years ago served again as the space to present ¡Mesoamérica Resiste! and Plan Colombia. This time the workshop coincided with the closure of the library which worked in our favor since a large amount of people had to pass in front of the banners during the workshop in order to leave… this led to more than one sticking around for the workshop. In each space there was a good reception and contact information was exchanged to coordinate future workshops on the graphics campaigns.

Two new spaces that made themselves available for workshops were the Montañita branch of the Agrosolidaria [Agrosolidarity] store and the Vicaría del Sur [Southern Vicar] in the municipality of Morelia. For the first time, with Agrosolidaria, we were able to get close to the Caqueteña federation of this national confederation that was born at the beginning of 1994 as the Asociación para el Desarrollo Sostenible [Association for Sustainable Development] (SEMILLAS), with an administrative office in the municipality of Tibasosa, Boyacá. SEMILLAS started the design and ratification of a Socio-Economic Solidarity Program which has sought to transform the established economic relationships that generate low familial earnings and unemployment, based in precarious forms of access to financial and productive resources.

Today the Agrosolidaria Confederation has four departmental federations and five departmental branches with core areas of work such as: fair trade, the agro-ecological school, community finances, agro-solidarity heirs, rural tourism, and various publications. In Caquetá, there are eight branches: Florencia, Montañita, Belén de los Andaquíes, Valparíso, La Unión Penaya, El Doncello, and Puerto Rico. The people who participated were the members of the Montañita branch that live in Florencia – above all, the young farmers who currently live in the city but have their roots and another life in the countryside too. The shop closed and with everyone attentive we began to explore the banners in a small group, looking at scenes like the party, the birth cave, the market and the beehive. In the store we were able to see the individual production line that this branch has of Amazonian coffee and chocolate grown, processed and packaged by the families associated with the Vereda Alto Quebradón [Upper Quebradón community] and brought directly to consumers in Florencia without the need for intermediaries.

In Morelia we were with a network of young people from all the municipalities of the south of Caquetá, organized by the Vicaria del Sur de la Diócesis de Florencia [Southern Vicar of the Diocese of Florencia]. This was the only space in which it was not necessary to present the banners; instead we were able to realize the activity with the methodology of collective analysis with a group of approximately 50 young people ranging from 10-17 years of age. 

After their time spent analyzing the work, all the students gave their presentations of the scenes, fully understanding concepts like colonization and neoliberal globalization, the representations of ancestors with spirits and ghosts, the body as a territory, and the importance of the assembly in decision making. The coordinators of the youth programs grounded the concepts in what is going on locally and talked about how the creation of the highway Marginal de la Selva [Border Highway of the Jungle] has impacted the culture, economy, and ecosystems of the region. They related how their lives in Yurayaco changed, and how it was possible to live well, albeit with difficulties, before the highway. To emphasize the trajectory of deep formation these young people have the workshop culminated with three groups presenting a performance or expressive action representing their favorite scenes of the graphic; for all the groups the scene that repeated was that of “the assembly.”

The week passed rapidly though before leaving we took a dip in the Hacha River and whatever we didn’t achieve in this visit remains pending for a quick return later this year. Thanks to A la Orilla del Río, it was possible to put the workshops on with short notice and we hope to return soon and to be here for a month traveling around the department. Other branches of Agrosolidaria, the communities of the students of Cabildo Indígena Estudantil, and processes of communication and of territorial defense that are interested in receiving and organizing a workshop space for sharing the graphics campaigns of the Beehive Design Collective and Movimiento Ríos Vivos in Amazonian Caquetá please get in touch with us via alaorilladelrio & polinizaciones @gmail.com.