I still feel stunned. Six months of planning and analysis, diplomatic conversations with NGOs and the departmental government, hundreds of phone minutes and hours of dangerous Jeep rides to communities in the middle of nowhere… and three hard, bittersweet days that were the March. There is no closure. We are, if anything, reeling after taking a big step forward- not the first nor the last, but a big and beautiful step.
We are grateful and proud, and honored to know such good people. If you look through pictures, know that every face in every picture gave it their all, and each one contributed so much. To get to the biweekly planning meetings- from October to March- most leaders paid out of pocket. Many times I would show up to a meeting on a moto, and realize that many others had walked for two or three hours to get to the truck that brought them there. At one point during the march, we had to cut up a cow into pieces to cook, and had 15 volunteers within minutes. People cleaned bathrooms, ran security in shifts through the night, cooked massive meals, and carried sacks of food from the trucks to the kitchens over and over. For one of the meals, 22 cans of sardines (on rice) fed 700 people. I heard no complaints. For those of you that are lucky enough to have visited the Montes de Maria, you know what it means for 700 people to mobilize from their homes down the mountain, and for them to donate over 200 100-lb. sacks of food. This mobilization means preparation, good communication and leadership, and collaboration from truck drivers and the people that stayed home. It means faith that every other community is doing the same, and hope enough to show up. It means power. I wish you had been there to watch the trucks come down the mountain, each crowned by twenty or thirty men and women, ready to take calm, passionate, non-violent action to make things better.
We are calm and ready. I am glad that the government pushed the dialogues forward, and that there are clear next steps. The leaders were able to see that the next level of the movement is not forcing the people to walk four more days to Cartagena (although people would have, no doubt) but to take the conversation to the next level. We will wait until the President comes with his ministers to lead a “Prosperity Agreement” process for the region in May, and we will prepare ourselves. We have learned that we must have a united front to negotiate, and we have seen our weaknesses. The communities have almost no experience negotiating, and we now know that. We now know that there is no shame in taking time to talk out decisions, and that the communities will not sit quietly if we do not always speak with- not for- them. We know that we must see ourselves as powerful and human enough to stand up to anyone, governor or not, president or not, about our rights and dignity. We are ready to don our green and white T-shirts again, and march if we are not taken seriously.
We are angry and disappointed. The structures of power do not favor the campesino and less the campesina. They do not favor the authentic language and experience of the pueblo- that comes from hard work with bodies and hands, and memories of displacement, loss and violence. We do not yet have the tools to differentiate between insulting and respectfully disagreeing with people in office. We weren’t able to hold a steady footing in front of political manipulation, and allowed debate to create rifts in our own movement. It is unjust how much power a title, an education, a political rank, a skin color, or a language can give one person over another. I am confused at my role and influence as a white North American woman, and anguish over my interactions and impact through the whole process. It is so hard how best to facilitate, how to be in the background and not a protagonist, when and how to speak up and when to not. We are frustrated at the clarity we have in hindsight. We are disappointed that we didn’t put our feet down and keep walking when the national officials didn’t come to the meeting.
We are glad to see paint going up on the health clinic in Macayepo. One of the leaders is in a meeting about avocado projects today, another in a meeting about the reparations process, another hopefully finally signing the teaching contracts for her school. All these are direct agreements we reached in the dialogue tables on Sunday. We have had an impact! We are angry- of course- that these things, if they are now so easy, were not done years ago, but we are proud that we pushed some things forward.
This is a step on the long path before and after us to awakening, to bonds of friendship and hard shared work, to realizing that many people walking patiently, peacefully and with conviction, can make the government shake. When the mountain moves, our hearts move, and the world begins to listen. ¡Que se mueva la montaña!