Carol Chomsky Forest
The great knot of mountains known as the Colombian Massif is the birthplace of the Magdalena, Cauca, Caqueta and Patia Rivers. Containing 362 bodies of water in the mountains, this area is the source of 70% of the water for human consumption and irrigation in the region.
Multi-national mining companies with the blessing of the Colombian government threaten to destroy the pristine resources of this area.
And finally I should apologize for being such an awful horseman, and I have to express my particular thanks to my guide, for his patience and skill.
With great gratitude and affection, Noam Chomsky
Cauca, a province 80% covered by mountains, is filled with beauty, steeped in culture, and rich in natural resources. It is a place of many lovely landscapes, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, and even an active volcano. It is also home to more than 200 species of flora, 160 species of birds, and a wide variety of mammals.
In addition, the great knot of mountains known as the Colombian Massif spreads across the region, birthplace of the Magdalena, Cauca, Caqueta and Patia Rivers. Containing 362 bodies of water in the mountains, this area is the source of 70% of the water for human consumption and irrigation in the region.
However, the water resources in these mountains are being … threatened by multinational corporations which seek to use them to mine gold, silver, coal and other minerals lying beneath the soil. These international businesses, promoted by the Colombian government, seek to purchase land in the region and utilize its water resources and excavate mines in this ecologically sensitive area in a way which will harm the small-scale farmers’ livelihood and their communities.
In response to this threat, local residents began an organization called the “Proceso Campesino y Popular del Municipio de La Vega.” The goal of this organization is to raise funds to purchase lands to become part of a “Zona de Reserva Campesina,” to be recognized by the Colombian government with its rights protected as an area designated for the use of local farming communities.
As a start, the residents of the town of Santa Rita and La Vega have dedicated lands above their village to the memory of Carol Chomsky, calling them the “Carol Chomsky Forest.” The goals of this dedication are to honor the life and legacy of Carol Chomsky, beloved wife of Noam Chomsky, while also promoting the protection and preservation of the surrounding environment. The people of the region seek support in order effectively to protect the resources and local ecosystems upon which they depend.
WHO WE ARE
(Translated by Rolf Schoneborn, a CSN volunteer translator)
The La Vega Municipality Communitarian Organization, an association of community councils or juntas comunales, better known as ASOCOMUNAL LA VEGA, was founded in 1987, as a result of many different collective organizing efforts in an attempt to better people’s lives in this area.
The idea was to deal with problems in a comprehensive way, which is to say to produce an analysis and at the same time find a solution for their root causes and not just mitigate their consequences, which not only necessitates broad community participation in decision-making processes but also corresponding qualifications. The communitarian philosophy is based upon principles such as participatory democracy, communitarian organization and self-management.
La Vega was awarded the title ‘Communal Capital of Colombia’ for its organizational and communitarian efforts, but throughout history La Vega has also victim of marginalization, discrimination persecution and violence.
The communitarian organization has also participated in various peasant mobilizations in the quest for a better future.
The FUNDACION DESPERTAR (Awakening Foundation) is responsible for coordinating communitarian activities such as Asocomunal, organized production units, cultural organizations and housing committees among others.
HISTORY OF POPULAR SOCIAL MOVEMENTS IN THE LA VEGA MUNICIPALITY/CAUCA
The La Vega municipality social movement had its beginnings in the small town of San Miguel in October 1987 with the founding of the association of community councils. We started out with a Municipal Development Plan, but it took the state of Colombia six years to turn the development plans into administrative instruments.
In more than 20 years of uninterrupted communitarian work the organizational dynamics have become more complex as new foci of work have been developing and have been identified as such in the course of dealing with organizational tasks at hand.
Our community association was initially named ASOCOMMUNAL because for many years it constituted the sole focus of our work. But today the ASOCOMUNALES are completely well established and in our case allow for training and for communitarian organizing within the La Vega social movement framework.
The Communitarian Municipal Administration Project or Communal Movement was started in 1991 to have a municipal administration in place that would serve the community. As a result of this effort we were in a position to be part of the municipal administration without any incidents and also took part in other electoral affairs as for example the referendum. Our candidate for mayor and councilman won the 1992 election and in 1995 six of our candidates won a city council seat. We were the first to introduce participatory budgeting, which aside from not being anonymous any longer offered citizens involved in this process a new educational experience. For our efforts toward the Constitution of 1991 we were chosen as the Communal Capital of Colombia. We did not realize, however, that this Constitution, in spite of all good intentions and some interesting legal measures, would also provide some basic mechanisms which in turn would provide the Colombian State with the legal framework for neoliberal economic politics. The focus of our work shifted since 1998 so that other activities could take center stage, but we have not abandoned communitarian work which has given rise to and keeps providing us with new interesting ideas and will sooner or later help us to concentrate on organizational tasks in a democratic way.
The project ‘La Vega Awaking’ ( Despertar Vegueño) was initiated in 1992 and offered cultural and health activities for children of the municipality. The project was reorganized and became a foundation (Fundación Proyecto Despertar Vegueño) in 1996. As a legal person the foundation is in a position to deal with Public Law Bodies as well as private bodies and allow for the centralization of decision making processes for the La Vega social movement and the organizational forms under its umbrella. Since 1999 the foundation is known as Awakening Foundation (Fundación Despertar).
The Awakening Foundation focused initially on strengthening agricultural production and began to develop a strategic plan known as ‘Plan for Sustainable Agriculture Aurora’ (Plan for Sustainable Agriculture). This plan ultimately called for a different type of work with a different political economic focus. The foundation has more than 35 five committed grassroots peasant leaders working in different areas even though the selection process is very rigorous. Today the foundation focuses on Human Rights, Women’s Rights and the Rights of Peasant Children. The foundation centralizes the administrative workflow in all areas the grassroots movement is engaged in, thus becoming an instrument of organizational support dependent and guided by the movement which implements its popular politics and carries them out. The foundation is not an NGO, that is to say, neither in the neoliberal nor in the sense of practice.
In the year 2002, with the’ Plan for Sustainable Agriculture and Health Aurora’ in place and some structuring yet to be done, the producer association- based political economic focus began to be significant. These associations had been active for some years already concomitant with the organizing activities of the Farmers Movement but at this point the political economic focus with its own dynamic begins to be of paramount importance. Political economic issues have become central in our work with programs such as ‘Cooking for Autonomy,’ ‘ Protection of Native Seeds,’ ‘Wisdom of the Elders,’ among others such as water resources and a look at the future which in turn led to the project ‘Complete Collective Appropriation of water resources and micro-watersheds,’ which is being implemented in different communities to make the slogan no privatization of water a reality.
Starting in 2005 the new political-cultural focus was added in order to organize communal activities in arts and communication. More specifically, the emphasis is on music, theater, dance and other manifestations of culture that celebrate and strengthen peasant culture. The organization tries to provide an environment in which these forms of culture can be flourish and have an ever widening scope.
The political-cultural focus is being communicated today via the periodical “Pure Country- Voices of the Colombian Massif” (Puro Pueblo, voces del Macizo Colombiano), cf. www.procesocampesinolavega.org and via initiatives such as “Cinema for the People” (Cine al Pueblo) and “Arterritorio”, which are proof of the fact that the people who live in this region cherish it, think it, have culturized it and are not about to let themselves be robbed of it by whatever class interests.
We work toward educational progress of peasant women and children, we work for Human Rights in cooperation with other organizations as part of a network called “South-West Human Rights Network ‘Francisco Cifuentes” (“Red de Derechos Humanos”) And since 2007 we are trying to deal with the negative consequences of massive mining operations in our area, which may ultimately lead to expropriation and ruination of our land.
With all of these projects and initiative we keep moving forward and remain the voices of the seeds (las voces de las semillas…)
Below are letters with more information regarding Chomsky and La Vega