Tag Archives: Mining

Exploring the Yareta of Northern Chile Through the Archives

Posted by Amanda Lotspike – MA Candidate at CLACS

To write a story of the yareta is to start from its partial absence in the Chilean altiplano. It’s a hard thing to do. The yareta demands attention; it grows “like a tortoise—big and green”[1], a plant with almost animate qualities despite its resolute grounding in the Andean volcanic belt. Thriving at altitudes of twelve to fifteen-thousand feet above sea level, the yareta is more than a single cushion shrub. Hundreds of tightly wound, waxy succulent leaves make up the flat surface area of its circular outcroppings—bulbous growths that take on the appearance of carpet moss from far away. At eye level, a heavy resin (yaretawaqa or “tears” of the yareta) smudges its bright green surface, while dried yellow flowers collect in small pockets where the slopes of the yareta rise and fall.

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The yareta, photo taken by author.

 

This summer I’ve set out to learn of and from the history of the yareta (its abundant growth, extraction and decline) in the Norte Grande of Chile. From stories of the “king” of the yareta (a Bolivian entrepreneur who led commercial exploitation of the species during the mid-twentieth century Chilean mining boom) to its representation in the writings of award-winning poet Miguel Urrelo Valdivia, I have explored the ways in which the yareta exists beyond its material presence (as a poetic imaginary, an heirloom, a divine resource and finally, a warning call).

In this series of blog posts I will highlight a few of these stories. First stop: the library at the National Service for Geology and Mining and the National Archive of Chile.
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Bagua Not Forgotten

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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.

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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.

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