(Translated by Anne Schoeneborn, a CSN volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN’s Volunteer Translator)
We communicate in order to reflect, to decide, and to act.
Following is the speech delivered by the Web of Communication of ACIN in Madrid, Spain upon accepting recognition from la Casa de América in the name of the missionary and defender of indigenous people, Bartolomé de la Casas. The award, which was given for the first time by the Queen of Spain, accompanied by the Minister of International Cooperation, was granted to ACIN. These are the words of Edgar Yatacué, speaking in the name of the Web and all the peoples who have not been conquered. During this historic event, the indigenous reminded her Majesty of more than five centuries of Conquista and persecution from the perspective of the past and present colonization, proclaiming the value of indigenous views as indispensable in ensuring that there is a future on our Mother Earth—a future in which we are free, in harmony, and equilibrium.
Bartolomé de las Casas Award, 2009
A warm greeting to you all. For us, the indigenous, these are neither good days, good evenings, nor good nights because our happiness and riches were snatched from our forefathers, making them victims and slaves in our own territory.
I am a member of the Nasa nation, and am representing the Web of Communication and External Relations for Truth and Life—ACIN, in northern Cauca, Colombia. I am here in the name of destroyed civilizations and conquered peoples and nations—colonized, dominated, and silenced by the ancestors of the same Queen that is now awarding this prize. This was the largest physical, cultural, and territorial genocide in all of humanity’s history. I represent a process that they could not defeat and that, despite everything, has resisted, survived (not merely physically), and preserved the seed of cultures essential to humanity’s survival. In the context of ACIN and the indigenous fight in the Americas, the Web of Communication represents one of the first branches of the plant that has been reborn since the Conquest and the destructive colony that continue to affect us in different (and maybe even worse) ways even now.
Our grandparents, leaders, and elders resisted in the first phase, recuperated their land in the second, and then began to progress in terms of autonomy and finding another way of living together on and with the land. Later, determined to create alternatives and new viable beginnings, we began the difficult task with our indigenous brothers as well as the social movements of our continent to overcome the crisis and the decadence of the world system that arrived with the Conquista and continues now with neoliberalism. When the time came to name the path that we would take, as unified peoples and processes throughout the continent and world and remembering the history that cut short the greed of Europe, the Web of Communication and External Relations for Truth and Life came into being. We are the fruit of our rebirth and of our Mother, the Earth, who preserved the seed for these times of crisis where that which exists is no longer good for anything and is beginning to collapse, and that which should be and will be, has not yet appeared.
We understand that they are trying to silence us, buy us, confuse us, kill us, and once again subjugate us in every way possible. That is why we know that we cannot go it alone as we face the choice of an even worse world, with less people so that the few can satisfy their insatiable greed, a world controlled by mafias and corporate powers only interested in exploiting and converting things into merchandise using violence, terror, and policies of free trade, as well as by occupying the collective sub-conscience with advertising and subjugating individual agency in favor of the stultifying conquest of the desire for power and profit for the few. We openly declare, before the world, humanity, and the spirits of our ancestors, as children of Mother Earth rather than of any system or regime or transnational company, as the sons and daughters of the earth, we recognize that we are facing contradictions and constant persecutions, that our struggles gain strength and also lose strength due to external attacks and internal contradictions originating from those who, in the name of helping us, subjugate us, and those who, while trying to represent us, make mistakes and confuse our path.
Such is the struggle. But today, we accept this recognition on behalf of those who, like us, have decided to weave territories free of greed and death, and who are dedicated to life, justice, and harmony. We seek to liberate Mother Earth and we call for you to work with us so that she does not die. We have decided that solidarity and tenderness must forever replace competition and the desire for power. This we have learned from our sisters, grandmothers, mothers, and comrades.
We seek to create a world in the spirit of women so that life may persist and continue to regenerate itself with dignity and beauty. That is why we have organized ourselves as Webs of Life. We are not institutions, as most thought until today. Our organization has been weaving “Life Plans” (Planes de Vida) so that the development that nourishes greed remains in the past as a bad memory that must not return. Groups of people have “Life Plans,” whereas the greedy have “projects of death.”
We are remaking the economy so that the necessary material conditions to realize our dreams of harmony between Mother Earth and History permit us to enjoy happiness without excess or unjust and unnecessary limitations in the context of a world that has limits—limits that the world system has neither recognized nor respected. This is why our economy does not accept free trade, a system based on the exploitation and plundering of work and life.
Because freedom and the economy of life require peasant, indigenous, and family-based production that guarantees wellbeing and is not subjugated by markets that enrich the few, we are considering not weaving just one, but rather many economies that dignify work not as a form punishment, but as a part of the good life. We are not going to work for those who rob us of our lives. Instead we will work together so that all of us can live a better life. We are saddened by the poverty of others and that is why, in our economy, we will not be happy until we can all live happily. This requires that we put an end to excesses and we learn to take pleasure in austerity and the happiness that results from affection, friendship, music, celebrations, and the collective struggle. But yet, we understand, finally, that we cannot move forward alone. That is why, by granting us this recognition today in the name of Bartolomé de las Casas, they are not only recognizing us as individuals, they are recognizing our will and our work to weave among peoples and processes a means of overcoming the bitter phase of decadent modernity and moribund greed for capital before it is too late. This means consists of a web of peoples pursuing diverse dreams in diverse territories in harmony with our Mother Earth and all of her creatures—our brothers and sisters.
The Web and the process that are being recognized here are not institutions or property. We do not own the Web of Communication and External Relations for Truth and Life. We have given the Web life and we share it. That is why we stood for this award and that is the reason for our words and our path. We call on you to free our words and to free the spirit and action to weave the free speech that will become the path toward truth and life. We are threatened, we are displaced, we are attacked, we are exiled, we are given orders, and they try to silence us, but we continue to inform ourselves in order to reflect, to collectively decide, and to act. Only talking without actually doing is empty, acting without words is blind, and actions and words outside of the spirit of the community are death. They could destroy us in their selfish and sick desires of attaining what they want, but they will not be able to destroy the Web. It comes from the land, from the spirit of our peoples, and it will sprout anew like life itself. If we have survived it is because we have always seen communication as the path of free speech. Our strategy has been to understand the aggression of those who want to steal from and exploit us, and to resist and defend that which is ours. As the Indigenous and Popular Mandate says, that is the challenge that brings us together.
That is why, today, we are building a Web of Communication that will permit us to defend our lives using our own ancestral means, such as the Minga (collective work), meetings, and demonstrations, as well as using appropriated media like videos, radio, internet, and others. Because we don’t confuse communication with means and because we differentiate on our path between means and ends, we have structured ourselves with functional areas of communication according to what we wish to achieve: communication for truth and life that is not informed by third parties, but rather by information from the very community that protects life and Mother Earth and that has also been victimized by armed actors who believe they are the owners of life and of the land. We are communicating from the indigenous peoples seeking harmony with other peoples and processes. We know of the significant challenges that exist on the path toward achieving democratic, free, and autonomous communication, and the hard work that we must take on at the community-level for the sake of transforming our reality in defense of life.
With humility and dignity, we thank you for this recognition after having faced conquerors for more than five centuries. We thank you for recognizing that we are still here and that, above all, we are already the future—if there is one ahead of us. Not just we, ourselves, but in the weaving for truth and life and in overcoming for once and for all an order of death. Either we weave for the truth and for life and follow the path of harmony or there is no future. We do not have answers, but rather principles and memory. We have come to share them. We are in need of every conscience, of all experiences and memories of all peoples. We have come to invite and include, with humility and respect, but also with resolution. They will not steal from us or lie to us or fool us any longer. This is not simply our problem, of the indigenous of Cauca. This is a challenge facing all those on the planet—the planet that feeds and shelters us. We accept that, here and now, in the name of a missionary who defended us in his time from the project that until now scorns us, it is not a group of people that is being recognized, and not even a process, but rather the path of knowledge, that we so desperately need, intended to defend life.
With both humility and urgency, we call for a Minga (collective work) in order to accomplish the agenda that we proposed as peoples and processes in 2004, and that we defend as a network:
- To overcome free trade and the global greed of transnational corporate power because it benefits the few at the expense of life and, therefore, not even those who accumulate wealth benefit in the end
- To replace the laws and policies that pillage with laws that guarantee wellbeing and harmony
- To put an end to the terror of exploitation and pillaging. They kill us and pursue us in order to steal from us. We demand that there is justice, that the full truth be known and that there are at least material reparations for all of the accumulated debt.
- To demand that all states fulfill their obligations to all conquered peoples regardless of who is in government—because those who govern ought to lead by obeying.
- To develop an agenda of humanity and of peoples because as long as we don’t have our own agenda, we will always be subject to the agendas of those who steal from us. If the world system that conquered us has now run out of steam, the time has come to engage with the world that is coming.
This is our position and the path that has been recognized by those who have conferred us with this honor. In the name of a country of peoples without masters that we so long for, thank you very much.
September 9, 2010
Web of Communication and External Relations for Truth and Life
Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN)
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