Category Archives: Latin America

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A wall in their river: Flooded Ngäbe communities continue to fight dam

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.

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Juventino Carrillo, a former authority of the Huichol community of San Sebastian Teponahuaxtlán, discusses the long history of the land disputes as his wife, Marta Torres, sews the family’s traditional clothing. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nelson Denman

Mexican ranchers and Huichol people urge government to solve land conflict

Above: Juventino Carrillo, a former authority of the Huichol community of San Sebastian Teponahuaxtlán, discusses the long history of the land disputes as his wife, Marta Torres, sews the family’s traditional clothing. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nelson Denman

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Thomson Reuters News Service

Audelina Villagrana has managed her ranch alone, with the assistance of Wixárika hired help, since her husband died 23 years ago. (Nelson Denman photo)
Audelina Villagrana has managed her ranch alone, with the assistance of Wixárika hired help, since her husband died 23 years ago. (Nelson Denman photo)

LA YESCA, Mexico, Dec 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Audelina Villagrana has run her ranch in Mexico’s Western Sierra Madre mountains on her own since the death of her husband 23 years ago, herding livestock, hiring local Huichol people and even raising a young Huichol boy like a son. Now she and other ranchers are locked in tense confrontation with their indigenous neighbors over land that has been in contention for centuries. A series of recent legal decisions has brought the dispute to a boiling point.

“It’s a strange situation, when on the one hand I share my home with them, and on the other, they’re suing me for my land,” Villagrana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from her terracotta-tiled farmhouse in the mesquite-studded hills.
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Wixaritari Take a Stand: Indigenous community takes back its land from Mexican ranchers

Wixárika woman overlooks the community of San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán "Wuaut+a" in the Mexican state of Jalisco. (Facebook/San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán)
Wixárika woman overlooks the community of San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán “Wuaut+a” in the Mexican state of Jalisco. (Facebook/San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán)

Tracy L. Barnett
Intercontinental Cry

A contingent of at least 1,000 indigenous Wixárika (Huichol) people in the Western Sierra Madre are gearing up to take back their lands after a legal decision in a decade-long land dispute with neighboring ranchers who have held the land for more than a century.

Ranchers who have been in possession of the 10,000 hectares in question for generations say the seizure is unlawful and that they will not hand over the land — setting the scene for a showdown that observers fear may end in violence.

Read the full story at Intercontinental Cry

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Remembering Yuka+ye: Wixarika teacher and activist left a storied legacy

By Tracy L. Barnett
For El Daily Post

If Wixarika, or Huichol, culture and language have a future, if the world view of this magical people persists, if their sacred lands remain a spiritual sanctuary, the tireless struggle of Jesús Lara Chivarra will not have been in vain. The death of this indigenous fighter leaves a void in the hearts of many.

Wixarika (Huichol) culture lost a champion when Yuka+ye died

Jesús Lara Chivarra and Cilau Valadez face the entrance to First Majestic Silver Corp. headquarters in Vancouver, demanding entrance to the annual stockholders meeting. All photos: Tracy L. Barnett

While most people were celebrating the holidays, others  from Canada to Mexico mourned the loss of a leading Wixarika scholar and teacher, a cultural ambassador and an indigenous activist whose work on behalf of indigenous unity spanned North America.

Yuka+ye Jesús Lara Chivarra’s path took him from the Huichol Sierra to the halls of power. He hobnobbed with rock stars and artists, he faced down police and corporate executives, he taught college students, film producers, attorneys, journalists – but he was always most at home in his village.

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Juan del Río prometes the Transition Movement in Spain. Photo: Juan del Rio

Translating Transition: New book shares experiences of Spain and Latin America

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Magis Magazine

Rob Hopkins is one face of the Transition movement, but there are many more. In the Spanish-speaking world and particularly in Spain one of those faces is Juan Del Rio.

Del Rio, author of a new book in Spanish on the movement of transition, La Guía del Movimiento de Transición (February 2015), was one of the first outside the English-speaking countries in pushing this movement forward and researching its evolution. Del Rio shared his thoughts about his new book, the way in which Transition developed in Spain, the cultural differences and similarities, the  Occupy and Indignados movements and more. A Spanish version of this interview can be found on the Magis website.

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Other names, other colors: Transition, Latino style

Above: Transition Network founder Rob Hopkins, left, grants an interview to Raul Velez at the train station in Totnes, England, birthplace of the Transition movement. (Raul Velez photo)

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Magis Magazine

One of the early Transition Town initiatives was launched in Ensenada, Baja California, by an American expat, Robert Frey. Frey went to Queretaro, Mexico, in 2010 to a permaculture class taught by Raul Velez, founder of a nonprofit environmental education project called Ruta Ahimsa. Frey invited Velez to Ensenada to do some permaculture trainings, and shared his excitement about the new initiative he’d launched. Velez accepted the invitation – more to see Baja California than to learn about Transition.

“Actually I was skeptical,” Velez recalls. “I thought, OK, I live in a country that has been colonialized by European culture, and then the American way of life – another concept from another part of the world and we need to apply it now and change.’ But I was ignorant.”
Three weeks after Velez’ visit to Ensenada, Frey was found murdered in his own home.

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Rob Hopkins, Transition and the Power of Just Doing Stuff

Above: Rob Hopkins (left) at a workday supporting the Atmos Totnes project. Photo: David Pearson

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Magis Magazine


Once there lived a permaculturist, far from the city on an old Irish farm. Together with his wife and four children they had nearly finished creating the house of their dreams, a house of cob in a grassy ecovillage with an organic farm. By day he taught permaculture in a nearby college; by night he broke bread with his family and neighbors.

Then one day it all went up in flames – a conflagration that turned their dream upside down, but led them to begin a movement that has swept the world.

That man was Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement. It began as a collection of seemingly small and disparate initiatives, but now they’re scattered across the globe: a community-based solar power grid in a Japanese village; a mural project in Michoacán; a barter fair in Queretaro; a community bakery in a Brazilian favela; and a time bank in New Zealand, to mention a representative handful – and they are all local expressions of a movement that has taken root all over the world, employing a wide range of creative techniques to confront some of the most overwhelming challenges of our times.
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