Category Archives: Indigenous culture

The movie Chevron doesn’t want you to see

Crude_Still_4

Like most of his friends and neighbors in the Amazon village where he was born, Pablo Fajardo went to work for Texaco at an early age. But unlike most of his coworkers, he was unwilling to disregard the flagrant abuses of the land and people that he witnessed every day on the job.

He made up his mind to become a lawyer, and now he’s the lead attorney representing 30,000 Amazonian citizens in a class-action suit that is now entering its 15th year. It’s that battle that’s at the heart of Joe Berlinger’s stunning new documentary, “Crude.”

I’d already read the infuriating story of Chevron-Texaco’s contamination of millions of acres of Amazon rainforest, and one man’s battle to bring them to justice, in Vanity Fair’s May 2007 Green Edition. But Berlinger’s film brings this story to life in a way that written words cannot. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour calls the movie “an extraordinary merging of journalism and art.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The movie opened last night in Houston, the home base of Texaco, now Chevron, and I joined a the Emerging Green Builders group in watching the Houston premeire. Scenes of the movie were filmed at the Chevron building just 10 blocks from where we sat, as Fajardo and an indigenous family braced themselves to go inside and present their case.

“You have been in our territory for 28 years; now I ask just three minutes of your time,” the tribesman said to his adversaries.

Now I ask three minutes of your time to watch the trailer…. and then I think you’ll agree that this movie belongs on your must-see list.

Amid sweat and tears, Esperanza is born

temezcal wide

Here in the darkness of the temezcal, sweat, steam and mud become one with the throbbing beat of Teresa’s drum. The heat bears down, melting away the boundaries between us. Rhythms from her Mayan heritage rise in the air with the incense-like scent of copal, her voice carrying us to a place beyond time. She asks me to translate, and her songs and prayers flow through me like water.

We fly like eagles, with wings of light/circumnavigating the universe… we are warriors of light.

She calls on the ancients, and on the spirits of the elements and the four directions, asking for a blessing for each of us huddled together in the tiny dome. She teaches us the grito of the warrior, a shout from the depths of our souls that pulls us through round after round of nearly unbearable heat.

Offer your sweat to Mother God, Father God, she advises us. It will help you to endure the suffering.

The heat and the rhythm intensify, and the air is heavy with skin-searing steam. Her words are passing through me now in rhythmic gasps.

Just when we think we can bear no more, she brings out a waxy chunk of white copal and touches it to the red-hot rock in the center of the temezcal. Each of us takes it in turn and whispers the prayer closest to our hearts.

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