This was the exchange between six communication collectives of indigenous peoples from Central and South America.
What might the Mixe (Ayuuk) people of Oaxaca in Mexico have in common with the Yudja people of the Tuba-Tuba village in the middle of the jungle of the Xingu Indigenous Territory in Mato Grosso, Brazil? How might the Wayúu women of Colombia come into contact with the women communicators of the Mayan people of southern Bélize, or with the youth of Altamira in the middle of the Xingu? What are the common problems they face, or how can the policies of the governments of the different countries be similar, to the benefit of extractive interests and, consequently, at the cost of the destruction of nature and native peoples? But also what do the struggles and processes of resistance through communication have in common?
The peoples of Central and South America share a powerful territory that hides the secrets of the life of the planet we inhabit. Today our territories have been hit by exploitation, extractivism, multinationals and industrial and economic projects that involve both individuals and governments themselves. Unfortunately, just as we share ancestral roots, we also share the suffering that this exploitation has left behind. That is why this “Intercultural Encounter” of experiences of popular environmental communication collectives from different countries in Central and South America was created. Different languages, different countries, but the same connection with the earth. After this meeting it is possible to see that communication is a very important tool for the protection of forests and the native peoples who inhabit them. Popular environmental communication is key to containing the climate crisis and transforming our planet. This virtual space was created to share the results of this experience. To join forces to defend the earth.
You can browse this page to learn their stories about the experience of being communicators in the territories and you can also enter the menu of each territory to learn a little more about their work. Follow their social networks.
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Istmo de Tehuantepec, MÉXICO
Juana Ramírez Villegas is part of the communications collective UCIZONI (Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo). She is an indigenous woman from the Mixe (Ayuuk) people of San Juan de Guichicovi, Oaxaca, Mexico. They are currently facing the construction of the inter-oceanic corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, with which the Mexican government intends to link the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean by means of a train. Along this route, they are building industrial parks and completely changing the territory. The Mexican government has achieved this by manipulating prior consultations in order to divide and confuse the indigenous peoples who live on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the ancestral inhabitants of this territory located in the state of Oaxaca. The corridor project will completely change their way of life and will affect culturally and socially the life of these peoples, historically abandoned by the Mexican state. Thanks to UCIZONI’s communication collective, they have been able to reach out to the different communities and to the national level, demanding respect for their territory and the defence of the rights of the Mayan people of Oaxaca. In the Intercultural Encounter project, this communications team was further strengthened.
Sarstoon Temash National Park, BÉLICE
This is the story of Elvia Bo, an indigenous woman from the Mayan people of southern Belize. She is part of the organisation SATIIM (The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management), which works to defend the rights of the indigenous Mayan peoples of southern Belize. For them, communication is very important, because the indigenous territories are very remote from each other and they do not have access to important information about the rights of indigenous communities. On several occasions, both governments and companies have tried to explore for hydrocarbon exploitation and other mega-projects within indigenous territory. For this reason, the aim is to install a radio with a signal powerful enough to reach all the peoples. In the Intercultural Meeting of Indigenous Communicators project, an important step was taken towards the creation of this indigenous radio station.
Resguardo Provincial, COLOMBIA
Laura Brito Boriyu is part of the Wakuaipa Communication Collective of the Wayúu de Provincial indigenous reservation in La Guajira, Colombia. This collective is made up of young communicators and audiovisual producers who, through communication, denounce the reality that the south of La Guajira has been suffering for more than 40 years with the presence of one of the largest open-pit coal mines in the world. This extractive mega-project has destroyed the territory and displaced dozens of Wayúu communities, affecting their ancestral practices and turning them into workers for an extractive multinational. The story of the Provincial reservation is dramatic, as the mine is located 700 metres from the community. In Provincial, they suffer from direct contamination by coal dust in the air, daily explosions and water pollution. This is why it is very important to train young communicators from the Wayúu people so that they can use their own worldview to denounce the profound impact of the multinational and to counteract the heavy investment in propaganda that the company makes to keep its face clean in the public eye while it destroys Wayúu ancestral territory.
Altamira, Medio Xingú, BRASIL
Mitã Xipaya is a young communicator from the Xipaya people in Medio Xingu, in Altamira, Para. Altamira is the largest municipality in Brazil. The Belo Monte dam, one of the largest dams in the world, was built there. The construction of Belo Monte brought serious social problems to Altamira for both the indigenous and non-indigenous population. Altamira has shown a very high degree of social decomposition since the arrival of the dam, affecting mainly the youngest people. So much so that the suicide rate among the youth of Altamira is very high. This is why Altamira’s youth communication collectives are so important, not only to denounce the failure of Belo Monte, but also to motivate young people to transform the present and the future of Altamira. Mitã is part of the UJIMX (Union of Indigenous Youth of the Middle Xingu).
Territorio Indígena do Xingú, BRASIL
Arewana Juruna and Kujaesage Kaiabi are indigenous communicators and filmmakers living in the Xingu Indigenous Territory in Mato Grosso, Brazil, where 16 indigenous peoples live and protect the forests of the Xingu river basin. The entire Amazon is threatened and seriously endangered by deforestation for timber, mining, cattle ranching, industrial agriculture and other extractive projects. The Brazilian government has implemented policies that favour the destruction of the forests, putting at risk the survival of both the Amazon and the indigenous peoples who inhabit and protect it. Over the last few years, deforestation has increased more than ever. Indigenous communicators in Brazil have played a very important role in raising awareness about the importance of protecting the forests and have denounced the destructive policies of the current Brazilian government. Moreover, Brazil’s indigenous communicators have a great track record and serve as an example for other indigenous communicators in Latin America. The Intercultural Meeting of communicators was able to support the process of communicators from the Indigenous Territory of Xingu. communications.
Dedicated to the Memory of Lilo Clareto
During the accompaniment of the Altamira communicators’ process, Covid took away Lilo Clareto, a photographer and a very important colleague for the Altamira community and the work with young people. Perhaps the death of Lilo and thousands of others could have been avoided if the Bolsonaro government had implemented an effective vaccination strategy. But the Brazilian government’s policies denied the severity of the pandemic and this severely harmed the most vulnerable populations. We dedicate this project to the memory of the great Lilo Clareto.