By Angélica Almazán
“We do not bring promises, we do not bring anything to give away, more than the heart, more than sweat, more than the effort of each day. It has been a difficult road because people no longer believe in anything and are tired of hearing promises. That is why we are not promising things. We are launching a call to the organization of society, to a union that goes beyond elections. This is the moment of youth, of childhood, of women. It is time for us to be aware that we can move forward together.”
As young councilor Yamili Chan Dzu gives her speech, Marichuy’s eyes roam the small crowd. There’s only a little over a hundred people there. Unlike the mass meetings of the political parties, where trucks arrive full of people from all the neighboring communities to listen to the candidate in turn, this event of the Indigenous Council of Government has not been able to gather more than a handful of artists, reporters and some other clueless souls who heard what was happening and approached, perhaps moved by curiosity to see the small white cloth at the entrance of the Chan Santa Cruz Cultural Center that read: “This event is totally peaceful, for the people and of the people, unrelated to any political party”.
Although Quintana Roo is home to one of the largest indigenous populations among all the states in Mexico, it is the first time that the Indigenous Government Council has held a public event to collect signatures in the state and the outlook is not encouraging. At the time of this event, there were not even two months left before the Feb 19 deadline — and they had barely managed to gather 10% of the 1 million signatures necessary for her placement on the national ballot. That day in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a population of more than 25 thousand inhabitants, only about 60 people signed.
This year The Esperanza Project will celebrate nine years of life – nine years of bringing inspiration and hope to the work of environmental and indigenous rights journalism. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and poised to take our work to the next level. Please read on to see our highlights, our exciting plans for 2018, and how you can help.
In 2017, we gave voice to so many sources of inspiration. To name just a few:
* After a wave of earthquakes left thousands homeless in Mexico, scores of natural builders, architects and visionaries stepped up to ‘bio-reconstruct” a new, resilient society from the rubble;
* A Maryknoll sister who spoke out against Salvadoran death squads who assassinated her sisters in the civil wars of Central America in the 1980s, now speaking for the Web of Life;
Feeling a little hopeless about the state of the world today? It’s understandable. Most of the news you see these days doesn’t inspire a lot of optimism. But there are a lot of positive trends and uplifting initiatives that are putting us on the path to a better world. How can we nurture and grow those seeds? By putting our love, attention and care into them.
Here are 8 ways you can help us build hope in the world in 2018.
- When you learn of an innovative, inspirational project aimed at making the world a more environmentally and socially healthy and sustainable place, let us know. When you see a community fighting to defend their land, water, and right to self-determination, let us know. We can cover some of them, and we can use our social media to help support them.
Pitch us some story ideas. We are always seeking writers, photographers and videographers to help us document and share the many sustainability initiatives and movements for a more life-affirming, regenerative culture throughout the Americas. We work with beginning writers to help them publish their work. Original work is especially welcome, but reprints are ok, too, as long as they are properly credited – this includes photography, videography and other visual storytelling. Contact editor Tracy Barnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tracy L. Barnett
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.
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
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.
(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.
Above: Döegeo Gallardo and Göejet Miranda paddle home through the dead zone that was once a shady, fish-filled river. (Tracy L. Barnett)
By Tracy L. Barnett
For Global Sisters Report
Kiad, Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca, Panama – “Bulu Bagama is my positive name. Luis Jiménez, my negative one,” the Ngäbe elder began, standing on an expanse of cracked mud that covered what for generations was his family patrimony. A tumbledown shell of a house lay in ruins, and a few dead leaves clinging to one remaining tree provided scant shade from the sweltering midday sun.
The words, referring to his indigenous name and the one imposed by the dominant Spanish culture, summed up the feelings of betrayal from a people that has fought bitterly for nearly two decades to stop the Barro Blanco dam, a hydroelectric project that to local communities and environmentalists has become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the current model of development in Panama.
Bulu and his wife, Adelaida González, stood in the mud and recalled that terrible night last August when they awoke to find the waters of their sacred Tabasará River seeping into their home. They scrambled to collect their children and as many of their possessions as possible. Neighbors weren’t so lucky; their houses were completely washed downstream. A child narrowly escaped drowning in those harrowing hours.