Posted by Ricardo Duarte Filho – PhD Student in Spanish and Portuguese at NYU
Vi os montes, e eis que tremiam.
E todos os outeiros estremeciam.
Olhei para a terra e eis que estava vazia,
sem nada nada nada.
Carlos Drummond de Andrade – Triste Horizonte.
This summer I am conducting a research about extractivism and mining in Brazil. I was propelled by the dam that collapsed in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, at the beginning of this year – an accident that killed at least 248 people. In my original plan, I had proposed a clear split between the archival research, to be conducted in the first two weeks, and the fieldwork, in which I would go visit some cities that are historically linked to mining activities – including the cities that were affected by the dam collapse. Even though I am still following this plan , it has been an interesting experience noticing how these two parts of the research are continuously superimposing each other.
This minor – and almost cliché – realization is making me comprehend how the mining’s history – both to the Colonial golden rush as to the modern iron extractivism – is not only part of the documents that I had access through the archival research at the Biblioteca Nacional and Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa. This archive is also part of the day to day life of these cities affected by this activity, such as a long small talk between two strangers that I overheard on the bus trip from Goiás to Goiânia. The two men discussed the old gold mining and its relation to slavery and how both of them were certain that one could still find gold in the town’s river up to this day – neither of them had ever tried looking for it. This archive is also part of the own geology of these places, such as the rusted rocks alongside this river – Rio Vermelho (Red River), named for the reddish rust stains that indicate that these rocks contain iron minerals.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Bolivian President Evo Morales called for a more inclusive “people-centric” global development agenda that included acquiring control of natural resources for the benefit of all. The day before, CLACS students and guests heard a very different story about the Morales government’s inclusion of indigenous groups in Bolivia’s economic development from 5 indigenous Bolivian women and one ally as part of the “Dialogue on Indigenous Rights: The Issues of Autonomy and Consultation in the Plurinational State of Bolivia” event held in the King Juan Carlos Center.
Organized by CLACS professor Pamela Calla, the women, Nilda Rojas Huanka, Toribia Lero Quispe, Clara Victoria Ramos Aillón, Judith Rivero, Wilma Mendoza, and Sarela Paz, representing indigenous groups from across Bolivia, came to CLACS prior to their attendance at the United Nations Indigenous Peoples World Conference. Each woman spoke on a different element of indigenous relationships with the Morales government and economic development including the lack of environmental protections, the preeminence of laws that protect the mining industry over constitutional safeguards for indigenous rights, and the political co-option and subversion of the alliance between CIDOB and CONAMAQ—the two largest confederations of indigenous governing bodies in Bolivia.
Each of these moving testimonials revealed the challenges that remain for indigenous groups in Bolivia. In a country that adopted a new constitution in 2009 and declared itself “plurinational” in order to promote increased autonomy for its indigenous groups, the women told how these rights have been rolled back or overridden in the following years. The question remained whether the plurinational government of Bolivia could be inclusive while developing the country’s economy and resources.
One of the persistent threads in each presentation was the need to have indigenous voices heard in the Bolivian legislature and public and, where that is not possible, to raise consciousness on an international scale. Through our academic work and community events, NYU’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies seeks to give a platform for voices that would otherwise go unheard.
Photo by José Raúl Guzmán
Find out more about the work going on at CLACS and our events here.
Posted by CLACS-MA student Patrick Moreno-Covington.
June 5 marked five years since the bloodshed in the Peruvian city of Bagua, situated in the Amazon. The Peruvian government negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with the United States that came into effect in February of 2009. It gave mining corporations special rights to access the Amazon for oil exploration and subsequent exploitation. There were numerous protests that year from multiple indigenous groups, like the awajun and wampis. In June, President Alan Garcia declared a state of emergency and sent in the Peruvian National Police to stop the protests. At least 33 people were killed, including members of the police and indigenous groups. Although some politicians resigned their posts, like the then Prime Minister Yehude Simon, no politicians have been brought to justice as being the intellectual perpetrators of the crime. Many Peruvians now view both the police and the awajun and wampis peoples as victims of a game in which the players care much more for the benefit of transnationals and their own pockets than the lives of “second class citizens,” as President Garcia defined them when asked what he thought of the happenings on June 5, 2009.
Starting at around 5:00 at the Plaza San Martin, a wide array of different organizations began a a demonstration in commemoration of the day of the Earth and the fifth anniversary of the bloodshed at Bagua.
Many different leaders spoke to the crowd of about 100 people at the Plaza San Martin that evening. Between every speaker the crowd cried out in unison: “Conga no va! Conga no va! Toromocho tampoco! Toromocho tampoco!” The first is a protest against a gold and copper mining project led by Newmont Corporation in Cajamarca, the second a copper and molybdenum mining project led by Minera Chinalco Peru. Newmont is U.S.-owned, while Chinalco’s roots go all the way to China.