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Location: Redding, CA, United States

Friday, February 05, 2010

Ecuador Part 3

We had a tour of the "marginalized urban communities" near Malvinas and Flor de Bastion I believe they were called. Much like the folks out on the island we saw the day before, these folks had a spirit that burned bright in each and every one. We went to one house where, much to my chagrin, I learned the woman who was deeply involved in the community action network had passed away. I was unprepared to enter this house and worked my way back to the door to listen as the children of this woman explained how the struggle was so great but that their mother carried them through. I was reminded of the women in my life who have passed and the struggles they saw us through and felt a great empathy for these young people, now on their own.

We went to another house where the folks gathered to talk with us and we heard how the water agencies were not meeting their own standards and how the people were still without sufficient water or sanitation. Much like our own central valley communities, these people need access to clean, affordable, reliable water systems for their daily needs (wait that sounds like the human right to water that we fought for here in California but saw vetoed by the Governator this past session!) The Ecuadorian government has added this Human right to their constitution, as well as greater protections for women and children and a reserved Right for Nature! I wonder if the US will ever progress beyond these so-called 3rd worlders who seem to be so much better adapted to change and acceptance of the natural world.

Eventually, we made it back to the hotel to cool off a bit, gather our thoughts and then, for me, a presentation for and meeting with indigenous and social movement leaders in an auditorium of the Central Bank of Ecuador.

I may have mentioned that upon my departure to Ecuador from Atlanta, the plane was delayed. Apparently my luggage sat on the tarmac in the rain for several hours, soaking up the local flavor I guess. Any way, all of my clothes was soaked and as luck would have it, also stained a pretty shade of pink from my cheap suitcase. Anyway, I had to buy a shirt..the final cost for this masterwork was $35 American - I say this like that because, while it fit around me, it was too short in the body and in the arms.

So, wearing my new shirt, I walked into the building with my colleagues, and was immediately set upon by a news camera crew (who were supposed to interview me the day before) for an interview...just before speaking with the folks who came to the auditorium. Being a guest in this country, I talked with the news people because when local people have an issue in any country, I have found, if the norte americanos show up, they will get their mugs on the page. I accepted the challenge and the interview I gave was about the Mi Cometa and Observatorios and the issues they had presented to me during the preceding days. If they wouldn't talk to the locals, I would use my big American tribal voice to speak for them. (Sort o like our commitment to the salmon don't you think?).

I talked for about an hour after that about our issues here in Winnemem land as well as the condition of tribal people in this "great" country, much to the enjoyment of the audience. A Q&A session followed and I found that many of the folks, after my talk, openly expressed that they too were indigenous tribal people, but had been told not to tell. They were moved to step up and joined with their fellows in pledging to help the environment and the needs of all their relations. They also, in the form of the people who were heading up the Observatorios, pledged in the open forum in front of those who came, to included tribal people in the highest levels of their programs and in the government agencies they represented. Not a bad days work for a big old Winnemem on walk about eh?

We closed the day with a farewell dinner for our group and had any of the people who are risking it all for the betterment of their people on hand to share a last meal together. Many of our group were headed to the Galapagos for a tour, I and Charlie and Myrna were heading to the banana plantation in the morning. So we ate, laughed and shared contact information. Hopefully we will be able to assist each other and can recruit others to aiding these folks way down south.

The Banana Plantation and the return to California when we next meet.