All posts by Tracy

PLATANAR 13

Bio-Reconstructing Mexico: Toward an Architecture for Life

By Tracy L. Barnett
For ArchDaily.com

Editor’s note: After the earthquakes of Sept. 7 and Sept. 19 in southern and central Mexico, a nascent natural building movement – known as “bioconstruction” or “bioarchitecture” here in the Spanish-speaking South – has stepped forward, seizing the opportunity to rebuild with an architecture that promotes long-term resilience and human, environmental and social wellbeing. This article is part of a series featuring a few of those initiatives.

In the days after the earthquake that brought reality crashing down for millions throughout central Mexico, Huerto Roma Verde, the community garden and green gathering space at the heart of one of the most stricken sectors of the city, was transformed into a major hub for emergency relief. With the help of more than 5,000 volunteers who arrived to lend a hand. Roma Verde became a civilian-organized shelter, community kitchen, aid distribution center and much more, offering a space for rescue workers, medics, attorneys, psychologists, chefs, bicycle and motorcycle brigades and professionals of all kinds to offer their services to a traumatized public.

In the ferment that arose in the round-the-clock disaster response, a vision evolved of a sustainable society arising from the rubble. By the third day, recalls Arnold Ricalde of Cuatro al Cubo, a network of environmental organizations connected with Roma Verde, immediate needs were being covered and it was time to look forward to a sustainable reconstruction.

Bio-Reconstruye Mexico,” they called it, a reconstruction initiative based on the Spanish word for natural building techniques – bioconstruction, an architecture of life. Continue reading

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 4.11.45 PM

Visionary gathering brings regenerative development to Caribbean shores

All the pieces are beginning to come together for the XV Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth “Call of the Water” gathering. This year, the itinerant ecovillage and high-impact social movement has set its sights on Mexico’s Caribbean coast near the border with Belize. The gathering is set for the shores of the magnificent Laguna de Bacalar, which in Mayan means “Gate of the sky where the reed grows,” also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors.

Sian Ka’an Bakhalal, the Lagoon of Seven Colors – site of the XV Vision Council, the Call of the Water

This year, as it was in 1992, the goal is to protect a unique coastal ecosystem, organizers say.

“We are talking about a unique lagoon ecosystem in imminent danger,” said Santiago Palomar, one of the event organizers. Palomar and others on the team have been working to strengthen community networks and to teach techniques applicable for protecting the bioregion.

IMGP9225 copy
Spirituality Council, XIV Vision Council – Call of the Sage, Teopantli Kalpulli, Jalisco, Mexico, 2015. (Santiago Palomar photo)

For seven days in November-December, hundreds of environmentalists, healers, artists, activists, spiritual seekers and people from all walks of life will create community for a gathering which, unlike most festivals, is designed to leave the site better than they found it. From Nov. 26-Dec. 3, the open-air ecovillage will be the site of workshops, ceremonies, forums, performances and celebrations, all geared toward shifting the paradigm to one more in tune with the rhythms of the planet.
Continue reading

IMG-20170925-WA0004

Justice thwarted in Huichol land restitution case

By Tracy L. Barnett
Intercontinental Cry
Photos by Octaviano Díaz Chema

HUAJIMIC, Nayarit, Mexico — A century-old land conflict has flared up again in the Western Sierra Madre, deepening already raw tensions in the wake of the May 2017 assassination of two Huichol (Wixárika) leaders who fought to reclaim that land.

On Friday, the anniversary of last year’s equally contentious reclamation action, 1,200 indigenous Huichols, hiked for three hours down a mountain into the contested valley of Huajimic to meet the court officials scheduled to sign over to them a bitterly contested piece of farmland.

The officials never arrived, however, because ranchers opposing the restitution staged a roadblock, and police never showed up to enforce the action. Now the Huichols say they’ll stay put on the remote piece of farmland until the restitution is complete, setting the stage for a potentially violent standoff of uncertain duration.
Continue reading

Manolo Miranda, one of three Ngäbe leaders facing trial, explains the impacts of the Barro Blanco Dam on the Tabasará River and surrounding communities. (Jonathan González photo)

Panama trial of three Ngäbe leaders “a pattern” of intimidation and criminalization”

Above: Manolo Miranda, one of three Ngäbe leaders facing trial, explains the impacts of the Barro Blanco Dam on the Tabasará River and surrounding communities. (Jonathan González photo)

By Tracy L. Barnett
Intercontinental Cry

Manolo Miranda, leader of an indigenous community recently flooded by the Barro Blanco dam, now faces up to two years in prison for causing delays and financial losses to the company that has ruined his community’s way of life.

Miranda is scheduled for trial Aug. 18, together with two other leaders of the Ngäbe-Buglé who opposed the dam, regional cacique Toribio García and religious and protest leader Clementina Pérez. All three face up to two years in prison for trespassing and interfering with the “inviolability of work” for their alleged role in an encampment that blocked the entrance to the hydro dam in May and June of 2015. Charges against two other activists who were present at the encampment, Oscar Sogandares and Carmen Tedman, have been provisionally dismissed.

Ngäbe religious leader and Barro Blanco opponent Clementina Pérez, one of the three facing trial, shares an article about her arrest during the May-June 2015 protest. (Photo: Tracy L. Barnett)

Human rights and environmental leaders say the case is typical of a growing trend of using the courts to silence and intimidate environmental and human rights defenders throughout the country. Some point to a request made in March of this year by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. to meet with such defenders and try to address the problem. Miranda’s sister, Weni Bagama, was one of those who testified at the IACHR hearing in March, and Barro Blanco was one of the cases discussed. Government representatives have not responded to requests for information on this process or on the lawsuit.
Continue reading

pastoral center (1000x750)

Spirituality, ecology and science weave together to form Web of Life

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Global Sisters Report

This article was the first in a 12-part series on the Web of Life ecospiritual retreat in Darien, Panama, and the many interconnected environmental issues that it touched on.

In the tiny country where a slice through the Earth connects its two greatest oceans, Maryknoll Sr. Melinda Roper and her fellow sisters have staked a claim to protect a bit of Panama’s lush biodiversity — and are working to rekindle a spiritual connection to the planetary ties that bind us all.

The new eco-spiritual retreat and study program they have launched, the Web of Life, begins today, June 22, and Global Sisters Report invites readers to follow along in a series of blogs, videos and photo galleries. This union of spirituality and science will be articulated in a series of reflections by theologians and scientists in settings as diverse as bustling Panama City, an organic farm and a tropical forest.

“It’s a whole historical moment that we’re living in, when not only human rights are on the table but the rights of the Earth,” Roper said. “What happens when the rights of the Earth come into conflict with human rights, and those rights, at least in the West, come from a very capitalistic, very individualistic, very big business philosophy and way of living?

“Many of us think we’ve come to a moment in history where that paradigm has got to shift, so that we in the human community can situate ourselves within the whole community of life.”

Shifting that paradigm is the aim of the Web of Life program. Beginning in Panama City and then moving to the Maryknoll Pastoral Center in Santa Fe, Darién, the sisters will lead a 10-day series of explorations of the interconnections of all life. Each day will begin and end with reflection, prayer and ritual to help integrate the “experiential scientific study” along the way.

 

Continue reading

Roper-Current-1 (1000x750)

Sr. Melinda Roper: From Death Squads to the Web of Life

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Global Sisters Report

In February 2017, while researching the impact of hydroelectric dams on the rivers and rural communities of Panama, I happened across Melinda Roper, a Catholic sister who had played a part in history as the leader of the Maryknolls at the time the four American churchwomen were killed by US-sponsored Salvadoran death squads. Roper became an outspoken critic of US policy in Central America, helping turn the tide in that bloody war. I found Melinda three decades later in a Panamanian jungle, organizing an ecospiritual retreat and working to raise consciousness with an ecological community of women religious. Here’s her story.

From her mission deep in Panama’s rainforest, Sr. Melinda Roper embraces a human rights focus much broader than the one that thrust her into the international spotlight nearly four decades ago.

Roper was at the helm of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic on Dec. 2, 1980, when four U.S. churchwomen — two of them Maryknoll sisters — were murdered in El Salvador. She was just 40 when elected two years earlier to lead the congregation, which had missions in Asia, Africa and the Americas and traced its history to 1912.

Under her leadership, the Maryknoll sisters fought for justice, for the churchwomen and for those they represented. At a time when Americans were mostly unaware of the U.S. role in training and financing right-wing death squads terrorizing much of Central America, the Maryknolls awakened the faith community in particular and the country in general.

The churchwomen became a symbol for a system that was repressing and killing tens of thousands of innocents, many simply for the profession of their faith. Their deaths helped inspire Central American solidarity groups throughout the U.S. and a sanctuary movement that gave shelter to refugees fleeing the violence.

Global Sisters Report sought out Roper in Panama, where she has spent the past 32 years building a pastoral community in the remote tropical wilderness of Darién province. Her human rights focus and spiritual growth have expanded to encompass the connection between environment and spirituality.

“I encourage all of us to try to understand more of what science is telling us today. … Science and spirituality are not contradictory but complementary; they’re the principles on which the universe functions,” she told GSR. “In all of nature and all of the universe, everything tends toward interconnecting and interrelating. Another word would be to be ‘in communion’ with everything.”

Continue reading

_MXP9444

Huichol leader assassinations ‘A wound to the heart of the community’

(Above: Nearly 1,000 Wixárika community members participated in a mobilization led by Miguel Vázquez Torres Sept. 22, 2016, to reclaim the first parcel of 10,000 hectares being contested in the federal agrarian tribunal. Photo: Abraham Pérez

by Tracy Barnett
For Intercontinental Cry
 Este artículo está disponible en español aquí 

GUADALAJARA — As commissioner of public lands for the indigenous Wixárika territory of San Sebastian Teponahuaxtlán, Miguel Vázquez Torres was at the forefront of the legal fight to recover 10,000 hectares of indigenous ancestral lands from surrounding ranching communities. He was among those who repeatedly urged the federal and state governments to intervene to prevent violence in the increasingly tense region that had been the subject of land conflicts for more than a century and, more recently, an increasing presence on the part of the drug cartels.

So it was particularly painful to learn that Miguel and his brother, Agustín, a young attorney also active in the land restitution project have become victims of the violence that they had worked so hard to avoid. They were both gunned down on Saturday. Preliminary investigations implicate an organized crime cell operating on the border between Jalisco and Zacatecas states.

Miguel Vázquez Torres, the Wixarika leader most responsible for mobilizing an effort to reclaim 10,000 hectares of ancestral lands, shows the vast expanse of lands belonging to San Sebastian Teponahuaxtlan. Photo: Nelson Denman photo.

Continue reading