Peruvian peasant leader on the pain and hope of indigenous struggles
This is the Editorial from the current issue of Lucha Indígena, the newspaper published by Peruvian peasant leader and ecosocialist Hugo Blanco. Translation courtesy of Christopher Starr. Derek Wall’s biography, Hugo Blanco: A Revolutionary for Life, is an excellent account of Blanco’s lifelong struggle for indigenous rights.
OUR VERY REASON FOR BEING
At times we are struck by a feeling of reporting the same news over and over again. Such as the death of a Kukama child poisoned by leaking oil, together with the memory of other deaths marked by the same, obscenely inhuman cruelty. The same news of a river filling up with crude oil or a mine tailing killing our people. And another horrific murder inside a police station, the mob of uniformed beasts furiously beating vulnerable children, pregnant women and the elderly.
It is perhaps because the people’s life of the last 530 years has been one of struggle, resisting the death that comes brandishing and bullets.
Nonetheless, we are now well aware that these attacks by the capitalist system — pollution, persecution, and prison — are neither accidental nor isolated incidents. Rather, they are planned, strategic acts of war against the people, in the service of the growth of capitalist development. That is, not for the development of alternatives but of ever-increasing profits.
The Mapuche people and the women of Iran, the communities of Colombia’s Cauca Valley, the Zapatistas, and dark-skinned immigrants are not suffering collateral damage, nor are they affected just by economic interests. Rather, they are military targets of those protecting the transnational corporations and banks that deal in gold, gas, timber, water and crops. It is all about money and power.
At times the military objective is the people’s consciousness, in which case they spread a mass of lies and nonsense that can still end up convincing the public. We can come to believe, for example, that it is a very good idea to become the world’s largest exporter of asparagus, leading to eliminating the biodiversity by planting only asparagus. The crop is kept far from us while the people starve in a landscape rendered sterile.
Or it can seem reasonable that the high mountains are worthless in their natural state, that the waters are polluted in order to make us the leading exporter of copper, and again we are left with the with the hill health that comes from living in a sterile environment.
All of this is for our benefit in name only, as those who profit from these services are not the ones who dig and sow. We are left with nothing but the land rendered sterile.
Later they will tell us that our votes are needed in order to ensure that all of this can change. We will have to participate in the elections, join the campaigns and cast the right votes. However, it is hard to believe that when we know that over there in the national government they take by centimeters what has been lost by kilometers in our forests.
And it is harder still when we catch on that official justice is just another mercenary bought and paid for. (Just look at how many corrupt prosecutors are at large in Abya-Yala, holding hands with the genocidal armed forces while in the embrace of servile news media!)
Social movements in defense of our territories — whether at the level of the community, neighborhood, individual, spirituality or consciousness — are our hope to tackle hunger, sickness and environmental destruction. And it is by organizing and sharing our experiences that we can progress from demanding our rights to recovering our lost autonomy. There are as many realities in the struggle for life as there are landscapes in our Mother Earth. Each people has its own altitude, latitude, language and history.
In the beginning God had it easy, as He only had to create where there was nothing. We, on the other hand, have to create in the midst of pain, alienation and discouragement; we have to clean up the polluted rivers while keeping up our courage.
But that is what we are here for, to transform the world and ourselves. The sun and rain will be there for us in our struggle.