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Titular: Nelson Edgardo Vilca
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URDIMBRE: STORIES OF SLAVERY AND INDIGENOUS INTRODUCTION In order to: - prevent information from being hoarded by the mass media, who keep trying to control and distort news in order to control people’s lives to benefit a cruel social class whose only life motif is profit. - have at our disposal information that leads to understanding and comprehension
- of the mistakes and facts against our human rights which are repeated once and again all around the world.
- have data which allows us to evaluate and choose a path, a policy, an action that are able to transform this rather insincere and inhumane reality. - get closer, through the journalist’s work, to truth, to peace and to men and women’s wisdom, which means getting to know ourselves and understanding others. These are the reasons why, as a chasqui (messenger, communicator), we value and appreciate our job and our fight and we believe in it. To this purpose, we have prepared this short book with some of our articles. Hope you enjoy it. MESSAGE FROM A COMMUNICATOR Survive to exist or exist to survive, that is the question. And the truth is that, sometimes, we do not know what the matter is or the reason why we are communicators. We are the ones who inform about the reality we have to face day after day. I am referring to the abuse suffered by our original peoples, our brothers. Sometimes we fight day and night without seeing differences. And we think it would be better to live as in ignorance, at least for some minutes. Not to know what we know, not to worry about the things we, usually, worry about and not to bear arms against very real enemies we face. But suddenly we reflect again. And we stand up, even if we are badly beaten and hurt. Because we cannot live in ignorance. We do not allow ourselves to do so. We cannot accept it-because we have seen too much suffering. That is our reason to keep fighting- even if we do not have anything to eat or any place to live. We might be threatened, kidnapped or shot but we will never give up the fight. Because we do think and we do believe that we are able and we have to make the difference. We are aware of the unequal fight that we are facing but we still think we have to do it. We are conscious of our people’s suffering. We also know the difference between flags and frontiers. Even so, Latin American peoples keep on fighting for the same ideals. And it is not important for us if our mother tongues are not the same. We understand each other. Because we talk about principles and we also share the same feeling, the same suffering, the same crying. We know what we are talking about because we went through the same terrible situations in our lands and in our battles. To make it a better world and ask for justice for our original brothers, who have been manipulated, insulted and abused through time, we have to face too many debates as well as disagreements within our communities. Sometimes we think that everything is lost and we are conscious that our enormous sacrifice gives us just a small return. Even in those moments we do not lose hope and determination. And we will keep on pushing this because it is necessary for us to achieve our aims of freedom. Even when it seems to be too hard to meet them. LOOKING FOR SLAVES IN AMERICA After almost two years and a half (2008, 2009, 2010) traveling around Bolivia and Paraguay, I go back to my country of birth, Argentina, with a sad but enriching experience about slavery in America which is known as human trafficking. In January 2008 I leave Córdoba and I go towards “the slave road”. I am a communicator and I was born in Córdoba. Since 1998 I have been involved in matters related to human rights, Especially the rights of the original peoples of America, our brothers. Since 2004 I have also been involved in matters related to human trafficking. At the beginning I read and investigated about the topic but then I turned into a more active position. We denounced the exploitation suffered by our Bolivian brothers in my city of birth. The first stop was in Chaco (Argentina) where I kept on taking photos of the morgue and going to the funerals of people who died of malnutrition, as hunger still exists in that area. We may say that being indigenous, and being born in a poor province is a crime which is paid with genocide. It still happens in our country and the State does nothing to change this situation. But the fact of getting to Chaco and investigating about the hunger there did not diminish our interest in the trade crimes committed in Santiago del Estero, Mendoza, San Juan, Río Negro, Buenos Aires and other provinces. We wanted to visit places such as Paraguay, Bolivia, the North of Argentina and Chaco province where trafficking appears everywhere. Poverty and hunger are also characteristics of those places. Parents make the decision of selling or giving away their children in order to give them the opportunity to live. Sometimes parents are told that their children will go to the cities to study or to work or to have better life conditions. Unluckily their final destiny is to work as slaves without a salary or time to rest or they become victims of sexual exploitation. If they are babies, they are sold to couples that pay big amounts of money in order to adopt a child. There is also a possibility of being victims of the trafficking of organs but parents are not aware of that. They try to prevent their children from dying of hunger. In Paraguay the situation is very similar. Peasants and aboriginal people go to the big cities to get a job but they are, finally, caught by exploiters or people who try to take advantage of them. Teenage girls are the first ones taken to be traded in Paraguay and in Argentina too. We continued our trip and visited Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, going through the Guaranies´ land. This is a place in which too many aborigines have been murdered and exploited by large landowners. In some cities such as Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and La Paz, you can find places where girls and women from different regions of Bolivia are sexually exploited and, also, exposed to the trafficking of organs. In Bolivia and Paraguay, differently from Argentina, the policies to fight trafficking are almost non-existent. The situation is even worse in Bolivia which is the main exporting country of slaves in South America. They had to wait up to 2012 to see a modification in the trade law against trafficking. After two years visiting those countries, I went back to Argentina. During this time I was able to check that borders (I am talking about Argentina, Brazil, Peru, etc) enable people- trafficking and that the majority of the victims are peasants and aboriginals. The situation does not change except for the fact that the crimes are denounced and the State presents concrete actions and not only projects which are a collection of data already known by human rights organizations. These organizations are specialized in the topic and they display the ways and the concrete actions to be developed in order to change the situation but the State does not show real interest. There are no active policies as regards the topic and the number of people asking for justice still seems to be not enough for the State to intervene. There are over 700,000 cases of trafficking in Argentina, and out of those there are 30,000 Bolivian people exploited in the textile industry in Buenos Aires. We can find camps in Buenos Aires and in Sao Pablo where there are from 50 to 300 Bolivian people exploited (data from migration and trafficking organizations in Argentina) But we do see a change in the mass media. They begin to handle the information in a different way. They try to put society on the alert and make people feel interested in denouncing the crimes. There are lots of actions to be developed but it is also true that there are little supplies to make things work. This investigation was possible due to my own economicresources. I spent days without money to buy food, I slept in the street and I was threatened, hit and kidnapped. I hope my research will sensitize people and produce ideas to transform our slave reality.
A summary of what happened in Bolivia.
It is believed that there are among 25.000 and 30.000 Bolivian people exploited in Buenos Aires only in the textile industry (Data from migration organizations in Buenos Aires), while in Puno (Peru), in a mining center called La Rinconada, there could be more than 180 Bolivian women subjected to sexual exploitation. Sixty percent(60 %) of those women are under 18 and since 2007 only 23 women have been repatriated but it is known that some were able to escape and denounce their situations.(Data from Bolivian Newspapers, 2008). It is also known that there are children sold for 2000 Bolivian pesos (that is to say US $300). There are children who are sexually exploited in exchange for food. (data from Newspapers, April 1st2008 inOruro). There are different rates, that go from 30 bolivian pesos to 150 Bolivian pesos, to have sex with children. The portal http://www.latinoamericanosdesaparecidos.org/bolivia informs that out of 198 people who went missing from January to December 2008, only seven people have been found up to now. They also provide information about 200 teenagers from 12 to 17 years old who are missing too. According to police investigations, many of those teenage children could be in Peru or Paraguay subjected to sexual exploitation. The police bureau of trafficking in Alto Peru, talks about 76 children who go missing monthly. Police from La Paz describe the identification of 30 networks of sexual exploitation in that city. They threaten or drug the victims to collect them. One example of exploitation is in Los Boulevares, Córdoba (Argentina) where Bolivian people are exploited in a farm. The victims denounce that there are nearly 30 people in that place and that the owner has other farms or camps all along Argentina. Sixto Gonzalo Casas Larico (Bolivian textile mill worker) is another example of these abductors. He is between 37 and 39 years old with identification 3.496.827 (La Paz) and National Identity Document 92.940.594 (Argentina) last domiciled in 1814 Pilar street in Buenos Aires. This man tried to kill his wife with a pesticide after he raped, beat and threatened her. It is known that this man kidnaps peasants in Archacachi ( La Paz, Bolivia) and takes them to Argentina to exploit them and he threatens them if they refuse to work. It is true that he is wanted by the Bolivian police and the Interpol but they have no training in the area of trafficking. There are only 3 or 4 courses a year with a reduced group of people in La Paz, Cochabamba y Santa Cruz. These courses used to be funded by the United States but lately there seems to be a disengagement of this country’s cooperation. To make things worse, there is not a database of the missing children in La Paz so the police are not informed of the real situation and nobody can stop the traffickers in the borders. Anyway, not everything is so wrong. During the first weeks of April 2009, 26 children were rescued in the Alto ( Peru), where they were subjected to sexual exploitation. Ramiro Cosio, commander of the Special Force against Crime in the Alto, told us that during the last operations 9 women and 5 children, aged from 12 to 17, had been rescued. There were two pregnant women among those nine. Walter Sosa, director of the Unit of trafficking investigation, explained to us that those children were threatened with knives by the owners of the clandestine houses for prostitution purposes and he also said: “We are working to put an end to a network of child prostitution and there are some people who devote themselves exclusively to threatening the girls and making them participate in these activities. It was proved, during the operations that the girls did not want to talk about the abuse they were subjected to because they feared the reprisal of their kidnappers. Finally, we have to talk about the situation related to organ trafficking, which is not supposed to exist (officially) in Bolivia but it does. One example of that is Beatriz Porco (22 years old) who died in Cuba. She was a Medicine intern and her body was found without viscera or brain. Her family denounced that her organs had been stolen. (She went back to Bolivia without eyes, tongue, teeth, brain, inner organs and genitals). A five year old girl and her father, both from Bolivia, traveled to Spain. When they arrived, a Spanish man, Juan Ibañez Paya (NID 22111600 K) domiciled in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, wanted to take the girl. Faced with her father’s refusal, Ibañez Paya sent the girl to the dentist who was a friend of his. The dentist would take out two of her teeth. The anesthesia killed the girl and after that all her organs were removed. Her father was extremely shocked and signed the authorization for some organs, but the people at the hospital in Murcia took them all, including those which were not authorized to be taken out. The girl’s father called on the authorities but they did not give him her child’s body and he was chased for being an illegal immigrant. When we talked to the girl´s family, they told us that Bolivian people are taken abroad in order to steal their organs. Then, as they are illegal citizenships there is no investigation. Neither the European nor the Bolivian authorities try to find out about the crimes. In Argentina and Bolivia there are laws to penalize the trafficking. In Argentina, law 26. 364, enacted on April 9, 2008 and promulgated on April 29, 2008 aims to prevent and criminalize human trafficking and, also, help and protect the victims. In Bolivia the law 3325, which was promulgated on January 18, 2006, punishes with a prison sentence from 8 to 12 years, the person who, by any means of coercion, threat or use of force, even with the consent of the victims, encourages the transfer, detention, recruitment or reception of human beings, in or outside the country. Everything seems to be clear in black and white but the Bolivian state does not intervene except when they receive a proposal or financial aid from other countries. One example of that is that only two people were convicted in 2008 under this law. In Argentina, there is no political interest to be tougher on the trafficking issue.
Analysis of the situation of human trafficking in Bolivia. After January 4, 2012 we went to Córdoba, our city of birth, and then to Buenos Aires where we delivered some talks and participated in events providing photographs related to human trafficking. Then we went to La Quiaca, Jujuy. We arrived there on January 11th and we started with our talks and we also showed our documentary “Slavery, that is the question” The documentary shows the vulnerable situation of the people exploited in countries such as Mexico, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. We included some interviews to the victims and people who work in human rights organizations, so that the real situation of slavery in Latin America would be reflected. We finished working on this documentary on May 19, 2011. The research shows what we mean when we talk about sexual exploitation, organ trafficking, people who are bought and sold, pedophilia and everything related to the victims and their recovery. Our talks were delivered in social organizations in La Quiaca and, also, in the Argentine Embassy in Villazon, Bolivia. After February 13th, we went to La Paz, Bolivia where we participated in an International Congress of Memory and Justice. (where many debates about the missing people during the military dictatorships took place). We talked about people who went missing during democracy and the investigations carried out by the mass media about them). From that moment on, we began to talk in schools, ombudsman’s offices, community workshops and community radios. And we participated in the National Council against trafficking in Bolivia. But what we observed was that there have been many attempts to make projects or activities to fight against trafficking but NGOs and the State are not working together. And this is due to the fact that the interests and times of the State are really different from those of society at large. We are talking about times driven by political agenda where attention was directed to confirm whether or not to build a highway through a national park where aboriginals’ communities lived. The political agenda also discussed whether or not to pay one or three thousand pesos to handicapped people as subsidies. As a result of that, the urgency of fighting for the citizens’ freedom is left aside, even when the national anthem of Argentina says: “To die rather than live as slaves”. To make things clear, I am not trying to say that the other issues are not important. What I am saying is that conflicts will always exist for a Nation State, but that does not mean that they are supposed to stop the projects or activities to solve problems. As a result, policies pay attention to a few points and many others are left unaddressed. Many times secretaries or ministries do not carry out a follow up because managerial positions are regularly changed due to political differences. Consequently the State projects or the work policies are not continuous. As new directors or ministers are assigned, the experts, who had been working on different projects, are changed. So we are always at the beginning and we cannot move forward or improve. Right now there is a plan of action in which NGOs and the Nation State are working together. This proposal is led by the Ombudsman together with the Ministry of Justice of Bolivia. But the previous national projects were not taken into consideration up to now. So we do not know if we are going forward or in which stage of the project we are at this It is known that there are several assistance protocols for the victims of human trafficking but they are not known by everybody. Some people working in this area are not aware of the existence these protocols or or know only about some or even one of them. Sometimes it is the police agencies who specialize in fighting human trafficking who end up asking the victims’ families for 20 or 30 Bolivian pesos. In return, they give them a small poster with a photo of their missing children and some information such as physical appearance and the telephone numbers to call in case of news about them. We have to bear in mind that this kind of assistance to victims or families is not supposed to be charged. Some policemen give families suggestions on how to face the situation. They tell the families to contract a lawyer and not to make an official report to the immigration department because it leads nowhere. This is the case when the victims are thought to be out of the country. We have to bear in mind that the Bolivian police have special departments which fight against the human trafficking and it is the policemen in these departments who make that kind of suggestions to the families. It is also true that these departments are reduced in number and that the officers of these departments are regularly changed so it is difficult to make a continuous and neat job. It is true that international organizations such as IOM and NAS ( Narcotics Affairs Section of the US) have offered and delivered equipment for research and monitoring of the cases but it has not been t not enough. The resources needed for research and monitoring are computers, scanners and cameras. We have to recall that legal procedures are long and expensive. Lawyers working in the Bolivian Justice try to disrupt the processes no to get to the end. That is to say that lawyers use some tricks to tire people who are seeking for justice. And both prosecutors and judges work together for their own benefits and not to help the victims. While everything seems to be the wrong, there is a moment in which the victims are really heard. This happens when the victims are assisted by NGOs or taken by them to the institutions where they are supposed to be assisted. But most families do not follow this path and so face problems rather than solutions. When organizations come together to discuss human trafficking, they come to the agreement that it is a structural problem, i.e. it is difficult to change the extreme poverty situation of some Bolivian communities. Their vulnerable condition tends to lead them to the hands of the traffickers’ networks. The ministries of Bolivia have projects to fight against unemployment and to help vulnerable people but once again these are not projects that face continuity. It is the very same situation that we mentioned before. At present, they are setting up a plan against human trafficking from 2012 to 2016, but so far, it is unknown whether money will be fresh money or whether it will be just a financial transaction in the books . The plan is linked to the help of some international organizations but there is no evidence of any national organization which would be participating in it. There is talk about the economic resources existing in Bolivia but they do not seem to be considered for the issue of Bolivian rights, both within the country and abroad. And I mention this because the Bolivian consulates are the ones who work less to help the victims of human trafficking. Talking about the assistance to victims of human trafficking in Bolivia, we need to mention that there are only a few shelters with trained people to help the victims. Many times, victims are sent to places where there is not enough space and with no specialized people who can help them to find a real way out. There are training and recovery centers to assist victims but they are non-state organizations and work according to the places and resources that are available. There are, also, state centers but they do not work efficiently. The missing victims are registered in a website but it is not regularly checked by those who monitor and investigate the cases. This means that there are missing people who were rescued or whose situation changed because there is information about them, and the website does not inform that. It is also true that people who are working in the frontiers do not use the data included in the website. When we went to schools, and other centers, we were told that the state agencies that should provide psychological assistance do not do it fully. One example of that is that the victims, who should be assisted regularly, are interviewed by a psychologist once a month. Sometimes, the specialized agencies tell us that they cannot offer immediate assistance to the victims because they do not have enough financial resources. They also face problems such as the lack of professionals who, after three months working there, do not know whether to continue or not because they are not paid. All these problems do not contribute to the continuous and efficient assistance of the victims. Now they are planning to prepare some posters to inform people about the traffickers’ modus operandi with respect to luring and exploiting their victims . We were also informed that they want to hire an advertising agency service to organize a campaign against human trafficking for the radio and television. After talking to different people who are in charge of the campaign organization, we realized that it seems to be aimed at sensitizing people to the issue by providing testimonies of victims rather than providing clear guidance on the ways in which traffickers work so people are made aware. There was also training for people who work in state or human rights institutions in the frontiers. Training was also present at schools but sometimes, we, trainers, are used to talking about our rights with the intention of socializing and making people understand about the ways in which we could be captured or exploited and forget that, even when people are aware of their rights, it is the lack of opportunities that lead them to be economically dependent and, as a result, workers undergo exploitation, violence and abuse . Sometimes it is not enough to know our rights, it is also important to know that we may have real access to justice and to assistance. Another important step is to be able to have a job with fair pay and conditions which do not set our physical and mental health at risk. These rights, which are basic and essential, are not being taken into account in Bolivia, neither by society nor by the State. The State has not made enough changes to guarantee better living for human beings who deserve to be free and not to be exploited. Some reflections on the Bolivian and Argentinian policies related to the original peoples’ issue. When I write, I intend to be as fair as possible in terms of the reality I observe. To be honest, there are times we do not know where we are going. We are in Latin America and we see governments pretending to respect human rights, but when we analyze the situation we find out that only some human rights are taken into consideration. Some sectors of the society are forgotten and they are “remembered” during political campaigns. After those are over they do not receive what the politicians promised. At this time I returned to Bolivia to share my documentary: “Slavery: that is the question.”. This documentary focuses on the human trafficking in Bolivia. We traveled during several months showing this documentary. In this period we noticed too many conflicts had arisen between indigenous’ and peasants’ organizations. The hardest thing to understand is why people who used to work together to change their oppressive conditions and to achieve equal opportunities are now separated. And people who were identified as oppressors, those who had economic interests, are now inserted in positions which were supposed to be filled by members of social organizations. And the organizations that were victims of discrimination were now allies. We may think that people “from the right” could have changed their minds and could have overcome their differences, but that is not so. These policy lines follow their ideologies, but the strange thing is that the national government, which is supposed to protect the aborigines, was recently involved in defending the economic interests of some companies. On the other hand, the national government gave support to the peasant’s organizations which asked for more lands to harvest coca, which is very profitable nowadays. Unfortunately when we make comments about a government which claims to follow a humane line, we are accused of turning against a government that responds to the people needs. But the truth is that we always support the achievements towards the vindication of the aborigines’ rights. Only when we see that they are violating the citizens’ rights, whether in Bolivia or in Argentina, we intervene and try to find a solution, no matter which government is in office. For example, in Argentina, they congratulate us when we inform about the achievements and punishments related to the military dictatorships but when we talk about the absence of policies to help original peoples , we are told we do not recognize the achievements of the current government (Kirchner). What we do celebrate is the constant fight of the missing people’s families. To be honest, we have to say that Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner ‘s governments focused their work on the economic stabilization benefiting middle class people who became bourgeois with only one aim: their status quo. But poor people, peasants’ organizations and indigenous communities are the ones which have not seen any transformation or solution yet. In Bolivia we see a similar situation. When we talk about constitutional achievements related to the original peoples, children and women rights, they congratulate us. We also say that these achievements have not been enough to change reality. They only work for specific objectives and they do not follow a constant process over time (and we are not talking about the new constitution or laws). We do not see any possible change, since this has been is an ongoing thing, unless there are dead people as a result of a confrontation and this information appears in the newspapers, there will be no reaction as the political agenda is, actually, the mass media agenda. If the information does not appear on TV, there are no policies to solve the problem. A sample of the mismatch between discourse and action is the Tipnis route conflict. The local inhabitants, indigenous peoples who lived in a preserved area protested against the building of a highway they saw as disturbing their way of life. And, in response, the State, who pretends to support indigenous rights, sent a group of policemen to beat the aborigines and prevent them from going to the capital city of the country to complain against the building of a highway in their lands. The government had already built much of the route. Apart from that, the financial agreements with other countries made the Bolivian government attended to the political and economic interests rather than to indigenous peoples’ needs. It is repeated once and again: power and money prevail over people’s interests. We want to be honest with you and tell you that we still have hope that this situation will change and that the authorities from Bolivia and Argentina will listen to the citizens so that they will be able to follow their ancient style of life and, also, have access to their rights. At least that is what I think…. Nelson Vilca. THE BICENTENARY IN ARGENTINA The May Revolution was the first step to stop being a colony and to become a free country. After 200 years, we are not far from the 1810 reality. And I am talking about the fact of being dominated. We do not deny the important effects of the Revolution but we are against the speech about freedom repeated in many Latin American countries. I am referring to “the” America which was dominated by dictatorships for many years and subjected to the world powers’ interests. But after falling many times and getting up once and again, Argentina, as many other countries celebrate their independence anniversary. (The bicentenary) . In 2012 we still face poverty, exclusion and slavery (called human trafficking). A sample of the continuity of this problem is that in Latin American countries there is not equality between citizens. For example, people from shantytowns are mistreated by policemen, while those who live in a private neighborhood receive a special treatment by the officers. What we see is that the children of those who fought for a free country still believe in that dream. In the dream we see people who work for culture, engineers of impossible dreams (and we do as much as possible to make those dreams real), teachers of perseverance, employees of their own justifications and slaves of their own ignorance. Only patience, understanding, attitude and spirit will make our Nation grow. We do not expect perfection because perfect societies do not exist. I say this because there were attempts to get a “perfect society” and they failed. But the mechanisms to obtain that “perfect society” were achieved. The first things to be disregarded were the human rights and this was done in the name of justice, truth, science and the improvement of human species. Argentinian people are good evidence of what happens in Latin America. We celebrated in many cities, millions of people participated of the celebrations and enjoyed but there was not a real analysis of what happens beyond their “street”. They did not pay attention to others’ reality; such as people in Argentina who are not free or independent. Everybody’s freedom was the real spirit of the Revolution and we still hope to reach it. It is something repeated in our hymn but we still do not see it: “Hear mortals, the sacred cry. Freedom, freedom, freedom. Hear the noise of broken chains. Behold, enthroned, the noble Equality”. People want to be heard and taken into account and need the organizations to do something to change this systematic plan against our original peoples. Human beings want to end this exploitation of man by man. Qom thought: “La Primavera” Spring community. We were anxious to visit the Qom Chief Félix Diaz. We were able to visit his community which was recently named “La Primavera” (Spring) which in their language would be something like potae napocna navogoh. On Thursday September 22nd 2011 we went on a journey that lasted over thirteen hours from the city of Córdoba to Formosa almost reaching the frontier with Paraguay. We arrived in the community where there was a conflict in November 2010. As a result of that conflict, a native citizen, Roberto López, was killed by the police. A conflict in which nothing has changed despite the fact that part of the community has conducted a camp in Buenos Aires to claim for their rights. At that moment, the National government promised to take action but it did not. So we wanted to go to “La Primavera” community to talk to their leader who has been elected by the majority in an election imposed by the government to delay negotiations. The media of Formosa are still against the community. We can give another example. It has to do with a truck with donations which was stopped in the community area by the municipality. They also receive food provided by the Nation state but it is delivered every two or three months and many times the Expiration dates have passed by the time they get there. There are several complaints because patients from the community are not treated at the local hospital. These patients suffer from pneumonia, malnutrition, stomach tumors and other illnesses caused by the ingestion of contaminated water. To make things worse, they are discriminated by the Council member Elizabeth Obregozo and the ambulance system is denied to them. They cannot report these situations and they do not where to go to complain about neglect. Young people have to emigrate and they are exposed to trafficking situations. When we arrived in the community, we were told about nine brothers from the community who were being exploited by their employer. They take advantage of the lack of employment to exploit their employees. They intend to work in the production of bricks or in crop-related jobs but they are also exploited there. And this happens because they lack the lands that were taken from them. They had an area for collecting fruits, fishing, grazing and hunting there. Young people cannot go to College because they do not have enough resources. Even when they can get a scholarship, it is not possible for them to go to College because they do not have a good education due to the fact that their teachers are political leaders and they are constantly absent because of the political campaigns. 30 % percent of the students are indigenous and they say that they want to change their lives but poor primary education and few resources to go to secondary school or to the university, make things difficult. Originally, the community area was of 10,000 ha. Nowadays we are talking of 3,500 a.s where 3000 families live. There were 900 ha. which belonged to the Qom community and now they are part of the University of Formosa. The University does not help them much and the anthropologists do not do it because they are afraid. There is one exception and she is Lorena Cardin, from Buenos Aires, who has been helping and accompanying them for ten years. The manipulation of the City Hall is clear in that they do not to pay attention to the Qom claims. Their city hall charges them from 30 to 50 pesos for the water supply (they fill the small tank with water). The price varies according to the client. They say that the money is for the driver’s tip. An aboriginal cannot go to the police station to ask for help because officers file lawsuits against them and if something happens, the aboriginal is always the one to blame. This is an area where we see a lot of discrimination. One example of this is an aboriginal beaten by a white man. The Justice officials do not intervene. The white man apologizes and the problem is seen as solved. Roberto López (an aboriginal who was killed) was found with bullets in his back and a mortal wound the result of a 9 mm bullet. The police officer who died on November 23rd was found in the same condition. Another example of impunity is that the members of the community were blamed for having guns to justify the policemen’s use of them. There is a video, presented by a repentant witness officer, which shows that only the policemen had guns. After one year of being evicted from their lands, the community suffered another attack. One night, Tino Diaz’, grandson of the Qom Chief, was burned. He said that it happened at about 20:30 and that it was on purpose. As a result he lost his belongings which were inside his poor house. Political leaders and local farmers creoles, who use Qom fields for grazing, are suspected. Soon the National Border Guard officers, responsible for the safety of the people in “La Primavera”, arrived and initiated the investigations, but nobody was found guilty (all the statements in this article were made by Felix Díaz, Qom community leader). Original brothers. We are not back. We were always here. But you could not see us. Young comechingones (we are alive) Ana Ines Ordoñez (who was born and lives in Buenos Aires) tells us that she is a young woman who is, as many others, seeking to know more about her identity. Looking among her ancestors, she finds out that she belongs to a group of people who are supposed to have “disappeared” Not long ago, it was said that the Comechingones had disappeared. It is true that they do not live in the communities any longer- as seen in Hollywood movies. Ana found out through her grandmother that she was a descendant of the Comechingones people. This name was given to the aboriginals by the conquerors. Some versions say that the translation of the word “comechingón” meant “eat shit”. There was another version that explained that they were called like that because they “ate a bird named chingon”. But when Ana went to Córdoba she was told that “camichingón” was “the protector of the mountain”. The original brothers used to repeat that word to ask for strength. And “comechingón” is the Spanish translation of that word. They say that they are extinct (referring to the “comechingones”). At that point, we began our interview with Ana. She thought that they were extinct because that is what we were told at primary school in Argentina. But the survey of 2004, conducted by the INDEC ( National Institute of surveys and census), determined that there were, at least, 5000 homes in Córdoba and the people who lived in those homes declared themselves to be “comechingón” descendants. The newspapers (in 2004) informed that there were 5000 “comechingón” people but they ignored the data provided by the INDEC which specified the existence of 5000 homes. In those homes we may find one person but also seven. The INDEC talks about 4 people per home, father, mother and two children. That is the average. So we are talking about 20,000 people or more because there are people who moved to other provinces who were not included in the final count. It was not possible to estimate the number of people living in Córdoba who ignore the fact that they may be /are “comechingón” descendants. In 2004, we interviewed many young people who ignore the situation because their parents had never mentioned it. In some cases, it was their grandparents who talked about it. This was the case of Ana. Her grandmother used to tell her stories about her people, her language and legends related to that. So the family history did not die with her. But it took her many years to confess her identity. She was afraid of being kidnapped or raped as had happened to their ancestors. But one they she told her family that she was a “comechingón” descendant and she added that she went to church regularly as if she needed to be forgiven for committing a crime: the crime of being an aboriginal. In Latin America, both in the colonial an in the current times, there were many massacres of native ethnic groups. In Argentina they were killed with guns, but, also, indifference and oblivion killed them. THE IMPENETRABLE: the debt still exists. The impenetrable Argentine Chaco, a place known for years for the debt we have with the Qom people ( Tobas). We traveled to Chaco and checked that the debt still exists. We say so because we were witnesses of the situation. We traveled there because of a friend called Dante Gigena. Dante traveled to deliver donations to a rural school in Cabeza de Buey, which is 30 km from Bermejito and 400 km from Resistencia (capital city of Chaco). We went there and we realized that there is still a debate and that there are many needs. What is the debate and what are the needs? We can mention some of them. They still argue whether to give them a fish or whether to teach them to fish”. Some phrases are always repeated, such as “Are they victims or not? Is it a political decision or is it our decision?” The phrases are known but the situation is not solved. We traveled to the area where there are native communities. In those places, there were many reports of people dying of malnutrition or because of drinking untreated water. The situation is still the same but the truth is that many people send anonymous donations and the State has promised to provide subsidies, believing that this would solve all the problems they have. We went there and we shared time with people from the communities and we can say that there are hospitals and, as a matter of fact, they receive the subsidies but they still ask for help. They do not need to increase their dependence on the Nation state. The Nation state does not take into account the history of people fighting for their survival. People who survived before the creoles even existed in Chaco. The native communities survived because they had the forest which fed them and gave them shelter. But they only used what they needed and this is something that people from the cities will never understand. They think that aboriginals show a lack of interest in progress. White men do not understand that Qom people do not need to destroy nature to increase their economic income. Unluckily, there are more projects to destroy the forest, something that would leave communities with fewer resources to survive. Qom culture cannot change from one day to the other, so we should not do things different from their culture.. If we do so, we would not be helping them to survive. We would be changing the Chaco forest into a copy of a consumer culture. And this is what is done to please those who live in the cities who believe that their life patterns are the solution to the “keepers of the impenetrable mysteries”. PRACTICE LEADS TO KNOWLEDGE After several investigations and experiences of participating in meetings and conferences, I noticed that the practice of people working in different activities, whether they are professional or not, led them to concrete achievements, which is more than just technical and theoretical studies. The collectors of information from the indigenous communities have been trained in a line of Western research which often differs from the thinking of a community lost in the forest. That is to say that the original communities (also shantytowns, or slums inhabited by immigrants, peasants or descendants of aboriginals) have different habits, behaviors, etc. from those the interviewer is regularly exposed to unless this person is a native of the place. But also the forms, in which the interviewer will write the information, do not have an option to register the real answer given by the interviewee. He only has the option “other”, meaning that the answer is different from the ones provided. The point is that the “other” option does not give us much information. These information is lost and it is not taken into account when planning. It is taken as something accidental and without importance. We have to bear in mind that international and national policies are developed to work with only one problem with a single model and do not consider the specific situations of the smaller groups within the society. This position is crucial in the implementation of projects and plans, which are an imposed solution and not a response to individual needs. This is the real situation, even though it is said that the plans are made to improve the standard of living of these small groups. The following would be an example of what we are saying. A community had one house next to the other forming a circle. In the middle, there was a free space for meetings and celebrations. Solidarity engineers, who wanted to help the people of the community, placed a drinking water tap in the center of the circle, so that they did not have to walk so far to get water. But the engineers did not take into account the people habits or customs. People wanted to move the tap outside circle and behind the houses. Engineers argued that it would be very expensive to move the tap which was, from their point of view, better located in the center of the village. The villagers explained that that the center of the circle was reserved for meetings and celebrations and it was there where they decided about the future of the community. And that the perfect place for the tap would be by the river where they bathe and wash their clothes. And now both places were together. Engineers wanted to help but the village had its reasons and those reasons were their customs. And that is the moment when decisions are really made in terms of the people involved. We see that there are better results when the people involved intervene, rather than when fixed plans are presented. Projects related to agriculture, fair trade, recovery of culture: A process by which one rediscovers the other. These plans, in which the people involved intervene, are much better than some national and international projects. And it is due to the fact that they are built on real bases taking into account the culture of the community and their way of life. Then they need technical and economic resources to develop the projects. Here we have an example. When a dam is built, people from the community are not asked about it. The State is not interested in their needs. It only cares about the benefits according to their idea of progress. Instead communities build green houses with ventilation and heating systems which are not expensive and do not affect the ecosystem because the materials used are recyclable. Solar panels are one example of that. In summary, people from the communities find their own ways to use alternative energy without destroying or flooding the ecosystem. These alternative actions would respond to the need of new energy sources. These small works which are born of these communities’ experience could respond to larger demands of alternative energy if moved to the big cities. It means that cities would be able to recycle energy and be self-sustained producers of clean energy alternatives. To make things clear, we say that social projects in which the people involved are the ones the projects are destined to do better than those which have different aims. We are talking about less expensive and, usually, self-sufficient and sustainable projects. These social practices, whether cultural, economic or educational ones, are not based on institutional structures, but on the contrary, they are built with informal structures which can be changed according to the needs. These projects are, generally, opposed to the ones proposed by th State or the International organizations. The State plans are designed to solve the problems of the whole society and not the ones related to small groups. Besides, the solutions should not affect the interests of the organizations that proposed those solutions. In general, the aim is to benefit their political situation. They also use it for propaganda. They do not care about people and their ways of living and interacting with their environments. The projects are thought of as institutional programs which can measure positive achievements and false positive results for the balance of the policies implemented which only see the general and not the particular situation of the small communities. Because of all this, we can say that the experience, the data collection in the campus, the real practice or whatever you want to call it, lead to knowledge. And many times these activities or projects are made by members of the communities; we are referring to people who are not trained. They are peasants, artisans or mere observers of their environment. And there, in their works, we see better solutions for the society. DO I NEED TO TELL YOU? Time passes and we continue fighting for a better world. Perhaps the achievements are not many or not visible. Maybe we are lovers of lost causes. I do not know. I do not think so. I think that we are just people convinced that something must be done to change this reality; this mirror that shows us indifferent or absent; in this world that hurts itself without seeing the consequences. At least that is what we think because sometimes we hurt others and we do not see our own actions, not to take any responsibility. There are paths we seem to find without looking for them. There are people that, without understanding each other, let us know that they need help or that they can help us. It is something spiritual, something “given”, I do not know. But it is true that something exists and it is present among us. It is also true that sometimes we do not get involved in fights that are huge. Even so, we help people we do not know and many times we are not asked for help but we do it anyway. We do not know why but we help even with the risks that we face in doing so. Even so, we help people we do not know and many times they do not ask for help, but we do it anyway. But the truth is that at the end of a year we look back and see that we are a lot- the ones who help other people. So I think that I do not need to tell you that we are not alone. We are many and sometimes when we walk along the streets we recognize each other just by looking into each other’s eyes. We understand each other, we meet and we grow, even without knowing it. FINAL GREETINGS WE DO NOT HAVE TO BE SAINTS. We do not have to be saints to understand those people who suffer from slavery or hunger. We do not need to be lawyers to understand that justice is a story with different endings according to the pressure and the resources that one may have. We do not have to be doctors to know that the soul’s pain is not cured with pills or by saying that we are good people. We do not need to be journalists to learn about the crimes against humanity or biologists to know that nature asks for peace to cope with the many attacks it has suffered up to now. We do not have to be prophets of any religion to know that something is happening and that we are being attacked. And after realizing of all those topics, we cannot say that things will be solved on their own because it would be to do the same which means doing nothing. That is why believing that we can change our reality makes us think of solutions or at least, dream about them. Maybe we will not see the transformation but another person will. And An this will only happen if we transmit the idea that something must be done to change reality. That is why we prepared this set of articles. We wanted to express our concerns hoping that enlightened people would reveal potential solutions. Sincerely………Vilca Nelson. THOUGHTS
My dad is a worker, a fighter, a militant of life, a maker of ideas and he is not aware of it. He does not need to highlight his belonging or his relationship to the indigenous people. He does not label his everyday life because he is a father, a simple worker, a mere man, only that.