Wednesday, February 24, 2010

¡No A La Mina!

I´m currently living in Esquel, Argentina, a small town in the Lakes district of Patagonia. Esquel is famous for it´s beautiful landscapes, snowcapped peaks, and fabulous skiing in the winters. Esquels mountains, have also sparked the unquenchable hunger of American and Canadian based multinational corporations that are convinced within the glorious peaks, lies billions of dollars worth of gold. Ever since the hunger of the multinationals to consume has been directed at Esquel, the people have been organizing. In 2003, Esquel became famous for it´s history as the first Argentinian town to successfully kick out an impending mine by putting it on the ballot.

I´ve had the honor to work with Fernanda Rojas and Juan Rodriquez, of the Mapu Association, to learn more about the struggle in Esquel against the mine. Although Esquel was victorious in 2003, Fernanda and Juan and many others are convinced that it is merely a matter of time before the gold companies and the multinational corporations will be back.

And so the people of Esquel continue to organize.

Every month Esquel has a march against the mine--even though they won. That's a learning for this American activist for sure. Stay organized to keep them out. Don't get lazy just because you won. My mind wanders to memories of union elections that I helped in the efforts of winning, only to be shuffled off to another campaign once the election was over. Our movements in America could learn a lot about continued resistance and commitment from the struggle here in Esquel.

The threat of mining is a part of many of my conversations down here. There are rocks painted on the mountains that encircle the the town. The rocks say "No A La Mina", "No to the Mine". The rocks can be seen almost everywhere you go in town. A reminder from up high, that the community is under constant threat of invasion and robbery from the corporations of the north. A reminder to stay committed and stay organized.

The summer has finally kicked in here and we´re having some wonderfully warm days, which is a real treat this far south. This week a group of us climbed high into the mountains to repaint the rocks. We laughed and shared stories as we painted the rocks. I caught a quiet moment to myself and listened as the wind whipped past my body, tickling my senses. I sent my prayers into the wind, reflecting on our movements in the north and the south and how so often we are facing the same multinational enemy.

May our battles find roots in the love that flows from our mother earth.
May our movements be strong and fierce like the winds of Patagonia.
May our struggles be connected through strong powerful veins running deep inside the earth, deeper than any mine can reach.

Amen, Aho, Ashe, and Blessed be.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Club Andino Cholila goes to Lago Cholila

The day began early after a night of partying to bid farewell to another volunteer from Sweeden who was leaving the mountain. We met up with 7 kids from town and a few more adults. I was exhausted from very few hours of sleep but excited for the adventure that lay ahead. Some of the adults had arranged for a local shuttle to take us to the trail head. The shuttle dropped us off at the end of a long dirt road next to a fiercly rapid river. The kids were still a little groggy from the morning and being shy with each other. We all shared some cookies and Mate before setting out on the trail.

At the beginning there was a river, with a rickety old bridge, and a gate marked, no trespassing. Before any of us crossed over the side to the ¨private property´ one of the adults in the group explained to us that there are certain things that can´t be owned, and water is one of them. He explained that the lake was here on this earth for all of us, humans, animals, and other creatures, to enjoy and to live from. That when we cross past these signs into ´private property´ we must first consider the land and listen. The kids sat in silence and awe listening with bated breath as the heavy gate was opened. The first kid walked across the bridge nervously, the second a little more confidently, and progressively they gained confidence and cheered each other on as they crossed the bridge.

We walked down a road for quite a bit, all of us chatting and getting to know each other better, the wind blowing to loosen the spaces in between us. One little girl about 10 years old was a little bit pokey and so I hung back and was a little bit pokey with her. She asked me questions about San Francisco and I asked her questions about Cholila. As we walked, she pointed out the different plants to me and handed me a mushroom to eat. I must admit I was a little nervous at first, but then she began eating one, so decided to take my chances and I popped it in my mouth. It was so sweet and tender in the middle! We kept walking along eating and talking about the medicinal properties of the plants along the trail and by the time we got to the lake I was a heck of a lot more knowledgable about the plants here and damn near full!

We climbed over another fence and passed through a valley and finally arrived at the lake. A few of us quickly stripped down to our underware and jumped into the lake. I had been warned before I came that these alpine lakes were really cold but I thought with all my surfing in the pacific I had grown thick skin. But I was wrong! I, unlike the kids, only lasted a few mins in that cold cold water! But man, the kids, they were in the water for hours! Hours!

When it was almost lunchtime, we put everything we had in the middle. Dario told the kids that food tasted better when we shared it and that we had pleanty for everyone. And pleanty we did have! Argentinian Pizza, veggies, crackers, lunch meats, cheese, it was a feast!

I was sitting next to a terribly adorable 7 year old boy. All he had brought for lunch were crackers and a can of very cheap meat mush (in total the lunch probably cost about 60 cents). He started into the can slowly and cautiously put his crackers in the middle. He spread his crackers with the mush as he looked longingly at the food in the middle of the circle.

I saw the longing in his eyes and so I gently touched his shoulder and said, ´How rich we are when we share!¨ then I asked him if I could make him a little sandwhich. He nodded and quickly gobbled up the sandwhich. Next thing I knew he was digging into the center with the rest of us. There was so much food we had leftovers and all of us ate all day long. It was great--a real treat.

One thing that´s really struck me, my whole time here in Argentina, is the culture of sharing. Years ago not far into my friendship Karina, from La Cumbre, taught me an argentine saying ¨Donde come uno, comen dos¨, ´Where one eats, so can two.¨ It´s been quite a learning experience for me to live somewhere were everyone truly shares. From the strong culture of sharing when we drink mate to the nice grandma on the bus who insisted that I share the 4 candies she had with her on my first bus ride in Argentina, sharing is an integral part of argentine culture. I´ve been reflecting on the value of the individual in the United States and how sad it is that we have a dominant culture that is so void of the richness of sharing.

As the sun moved along in the sky, our waterbottles ran empty. A few of the kids ran to the lake and dunked their water bottles into the lake, tilted their heads back and took a long drink. Just like that--drank straight from the lake!

¨ Is that ok?¨ I asked one of the adults.
¨What--is what ok?

¨The water? You can just drink from the lake like that? Really¨


I sat in awe. Before my trip began, my dear friend Clara who is from Argentina and spent many years living in these mountains in Patagonia told me of the water here. The night before I left, she came over to my house, we were looking at my overstuffed and overweight backpack trying to firgure out what to remove. She kept insisting that I wouldn´t need my water filter here--
¨The water is the most sacred and special water you will ever taste. You don´t need to filter it.¨ She told me as she took my hnd and helped me set the water fiter down--to be packed away for another trip.

I couldn´t beleive it even though I saw the glimmer of hope in her eyes when she told me of the water.

But there I was at Lago Cholila, about to fill my water bottle up and drink straight from a lake--for the first time in my life. As I lifted the bottle to my lips, I said a quiet prayer of gratitude and drank deeply.

A cool blast of the water filled my tastebuds, It was like I could taste every bit of the waters freshness. The coolness of the water flowed down my throat and spread out through my stomach.

This is how my ancestors drank, right from the earth like this. This is how all our ancestors drank at one time.

I felt connected with ancient roots taking the water in like this, I felt my connection with the ancestors of the land here in Patagonia and South America. I looked out at the children splashing and laying in the lake. I saw shadows of their ancestors as children playing with them.

And I realized how important this day was.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our struggles are all connected...veins and rivers flowing deep within the earth calling us to fight for justice, fight for the land, fight for our children and our childrens children....

Nuestras luchas están conectando...venias y ríos profundo y adentro de la tierra, llamados para luchar por justicia, por la tierra, por nuestros niños, por nuestra descendentes....

As I was reading about Rosa and Atilio´s recuperation of Mapuche land in Leleque, right next to one of the articles, was an article about Dorothy´s Assination....gave me chills...we are all connected, across borders and boundaries, the living and the dead...ancestors and descendents....

Cuando estaba leyendo de la recuperada de Rosa y Atilio de su tierra, tierra Mapuche, tierra de sus ancestros, en la otra lado de este perodio esta un articulo de la asesinada de Dorothy...y piel de las gallinas corriendo de mi cuerpo....somos connnectado, arriba de las fronteras, los viviendas y los muertos... descendentes y ancestros....

Scroll down to the international section.....buscar por la seccion de las noticias internacional....

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day to Day

I wrote this in the middle of January....

For the last month, I´ve been living in Cholila, Chubut, Argentina. I´ve been living with a sweet couple, Dario and Laura who just got married this month. Laura is a sweet and softly strong porteña who moved to Patagonia when she fell in love with her rock climbing instructor, Dario. She left behind a seemingly steady job at a bank for this life on the mountain, for this life closer to the earth here in Cholila, Argentina. Dario, her partner, is a fiercely warm hearted Mapuche man born and raised here in Cholila. A number of years ago, Dario left his job as a rock climbing instructor and with his love, returned to the land of Darios grandfather and ancestors to reclaim this land.

I´ve been working with them, helping them with their farm and building a greenhouse out of natural materials for the development of an ´ecolodge´of sorts. See the interesting thing here, is that Laura and Dario, like an overwheming majority of people living here, have been a part of a movement to kick international coorporations and mining compainies out of these sacred mountains. But people need to live, and often communities say yes to mining because they are despriate to feed their familes. So the movement agaist the mines and the multinationals has focused on development and sustainability of the people as well as kicking the corporations out. And so Laura and Dario, are working on developing sustainable tourism, that supports the preservation of the land, the water, the environment, and the lives of the people here too.

My time here has been such an amazing journey--waking up every day to the sounds of nature, the birds chirping, the sun shining or the soft sound of rain, the strong winds blowing through the trees has been a tremendous gift. To rise each day and really feel the earth beneath my feet has allowed me to feel humanity--allowed me to feel myself as a human and my connection with the land.

The electricity we use to play music and light the house is collected from a windmill on the top of the mountain, harnessing the fierce energy of the winds of Patagonia. We work to collect the water we use from the lake. We carry the (only) gas we use to heat the stove and water for bathing up the mountain. It´s through the sensations in my body and the ache in my legs and hands at the end of the day, that I can feel my footprint on this earth.

All of the trash we create, we burn or we reuse. All the plastic gets compacted into plastic bottles and along with cans and glass bottles that can´t be recycled here are used as insulation for the house we are creating out of Barro, or Adobe, or clay, straw, horse poop, and sand. Everything organic goes into thye compost and everything else (paper products) is burned. And let me tell you, the act of burning my toilet paper has forced me to even consider the amount of toilet paper that I´m using.

The days are very long here now as it´s summer. The sun comes up around 5am and sets after 10pm so we work slowly. We plant seeds with the rhythm of the moon and collect veggies from the garden when they´re ready and share them as we cook for each other. We make bread from scratch when it´s too rainy to work outside. We share the days and nights with talks of revolution, the abolition of land ownership. Visions of the world that can be swirl in the wind here--the world on the edge of which we are standing.

The wind whispers, ¨this world has already begun¨.

The house, the lake, the sun

View from the mountaintop, where the condors fly..

Laura and Dario smiling in the sunshine

...home sweet home...