“We were born here. It is our land and our river…”
Photograph by Daniel Cima. Via CIDH
From Yale Environment360:
Much of COPINH’s power lies in combining political radicalism — anti-military, anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist, and anti-American — with a deep conservative attachment to the Lenca peoples’ heritage and land. In COPINH’s Women’s Wellness Center, a new and heavily guarded building in La Esperanza where abused and intimidated women can take refuge, I met 75-year-old Pascualita Vasquez. She was the longtime chair of the council of elders, established by Cáceres to revive cultural traditions and links to the land. They bless rivers, bless soil before harvests, and bless new houses.
“Before Berta, our ceremonies were being forgotten. I remembered them as a child, but we no longer did them,” she told me. “But Berta emphasized for us how important it was to rescue our traditions, and to hold ceremonies before discussions of current issues like dams. We revere our ancestors, and now that Berta is dead, we see her as an ancestor, too.”
Now, reviving local herbal remedies and seeds — of corn, for instance — is central to reclaiming their land, she said. We spoke beside a shrine to Cáceres set up in the middle of the room, with candles, corn cobs, pine cones, and a flask of water from the river that Cáceres was protecting before she was killed.
The next day I traveled to Rio Blanco, the distant village that became the focus of Cáceres’s last campaign, against the Agua Zarca dam. It had been a violent and bitter struggle. In 2013, local activist Tomas Garcia had been shot dead by soldiers during protests at a camp established by Chinese construction workers set to begin work on the dam.