Rescuing the identity of the peoples of Atrato. Building Peace
II A peace built on respect
Marcial Gamboa cmf
Parishes of Riosucio-Carmen del Darien. Chocó
In defense of the identity of indigenous peoples. Building Peace
The indigenous peoples are the original peoples of America; they were the first in this land of Colombia. They have resisted in their territory, living in distant places with thousands of problems; now, they are living in their “resguardos .”In them, they preserve the culture of family coexistence, keeping the minimum conditions of habitability in their houses, without drinking water, sewage, roads, and walking through trails and mountains. The “resguardos” is where they harmonize their ancestral knowledge and culture; they allow them to transmit the warmth of joy in community coexistence, living happily with only a roof, a floor, and the walls of their house. These native peoples inhabit an extensive territory where they can walk, feel in their bodies the relationship with Mother Nature, and harmonize with her spirit.
When people can live their cultural identity with their traditions, they live without fear, restrictions, pain, and shocks in their territory. Living rooted in the land of one’s own culture allows us to recognize ourselves as brothers of the same blood; it will enable us to express the joy of seeing the radiant sunrise on the edge of the mountain; to listen to the song of the birds in the treetops; to hear the music of the lakes in the patio of my house; to see my children smile in the morning; to be able to know when the flames of the fire of the home cover the pot of the woman who prepares breakfast.
Living from one’s own cultural identity, in one’s territory, allows us to pick up the machete and the axe and go for a walk in the mountains; to greet the spirit of the jungle that surrounds us, recharging ourselves with the oxygen that runs through our veins like a great vine that weaves life. All this is expressed smiling with the people planting, in their sincere hearts, the seeds that the ancestors sowed; seeds of healthy coexistence, without any interest, that make us share everything in the community, filling the existence of joy and peace respecting life.
In defense of the identity of the Afro-Colombian people. Building Peace
Understanding the Afro-Colombian people in their rural-populated relationship allows us to understand their harmonious coexistence with nature; we only have to contemplate their way of using and managing the land without harming the Common House, Mother Earth. The Afro-Colombians understand nature in the territory as their primary source of life, economically, socially, and spiritually; for that reason, rooted in their culture, they learned to take care of the land, making the territory their main ally.
For example, the land of an Afro-Colombian family has always been acquired by family inheritance, which has passed from generation to generation, always making good use of the soil. The land, for Afro-descendants, is divided into monte viche, montes Hecho and stubble, and primary mountain, which is left to rest for several years. Moreover, the Afro-Colombian family has always followed the tradition of “pan coger” cultivation, carried out on small plots of land large enough to feed the family, with the objective of not lacking bread every day.
The Afro-Colombian has a high knowledge of the planting dates, choosing and preparing the land for the cultivation of rice, corn, sugar cane, banana, and fruit trees, with a great capacity to preserve the seeds each year. He always prioritized maintaining a safe home environment without competing to have more than others in the village and without altering the climate. In this way, he lives in the Common House in harmony with its fauna and flora, using its resources sustainably and rationally.
Artisanal mining is part of the economic life of Afro-Colombians who, faced with few job opportunities, meet the stone and water by working it with the cacho, the amocafre (hoe), the canalón, the batea, barretón, the aventadora or the totumo. They have faced the climatic inclemency of their territory, with the social exclusion experienced by mining communities. They have made this practice a family livelihood, always without contamination of water sources or destruction of the environment.
Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples have always built Peace amid the condition of abandonment and lived in this region of Chocó without destructive practice; they have always sought the conservation of the environment.
Defending traditions and rights to build Peace
The Claretians, from their missionary charisma, together with the Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples, have dedicated time to the political, social, cultural, and organizational construction of the Colombian ethnic groups.
We Claretians have walked with them, with their vision of coexistence with the territory where their ancestors were born and grew up. We have sought to “empower” them from their traditions, where the proclamation of the Gospel is transformed into deep-rooted resistance, like the seeds that fall on the ground, germinate and bear much fruit. This work of recovering the identity and empowerment of Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples continues through training leaders and creating ethnic and territorial organizations. The accompaniment of leaders and communities allows responding to the demands and visibility of the rights acquired ancestrally in the territory through their conservation practices and land use. The Claretian Missionaries, through the proclamation of the Gospel of liberation and Justice, promote different dynamics of Peace in the department of Chocó:
Indigenous Organization OREWA (Embera Waunana Indigenous Organization) of the department of Chocó between 1979 and 1983, represented the indigenous reservations and major cabildos.
The Association (ACIA Asociación Campesina Integral del Atrato), between 1983 and 1985 with legal status, led the first peasant organization in the middle Atrato.
In the lower Atrato, the ASCOBA (Association of Community Councils of the Lower Atrato).
The presence of the Claretian mission in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Atrato, was fundamental in the critical, environmental, and political awareness born from the organizational, formative, and territorial incidence processes of the Colombian Pacific.
The Claretian Missionaries were able to understand the capacity of struggle and resilience of this country’s Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities that, for many years, lived without recognition as a subject and community of rights.
The Claretian mission, hand in hand with the leaders of the peasant organizations, defended before the National Government and the Senate of the Republic the right to the land of the peoples of Chocó. Their joint actions broke the paradigm that the territory was an empty scenario for another in which the Chocó was populated and inhabited by the native communities and the Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palanquero peoples. This reality was made visible and recognized in the new Colombian Constitution of 1991, which made Colombia an ethnic and multicultural country.
Achievements in recognition of rights. The road to true Peace.
- This achievement of recognition allowed the Claretian Missionaries to continue working on the organizational strengthening of the ethnic-territorial peoples in the implementation of Law 70 of 1993 for the Afro-Colombian people.
- Collective titling of Afro-Colombian territories.
- The reorganization of the indigenous reguardo
- The creation of new indigenous “resguardos.”
- The vindication of values in the work of Afro-Colombian and indigenous women in the territory.
- To highlight the meaning and importance of keeping alive the cultural expressions, such as their Alabao song, their dance, the funeral prayer, and others.
- To influence the new generation can build a life plan in their communities.
- To continue being a light of hope in the journey of the people, being the transverse axis the word of God, to be a focus of confidence in the life of the inhabitants that disarm the hearts in a dignified life.
Marcial Gamboa cmf