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Afro-Descendant Women March in Defense of Life and the Ancestral Territories

OPEN STATEMENT TO COLOMBIAN WOMEN

We are black women from Northern Cauca. We are the descendants of Africans that were enslaved. We know, understand, and feel the ancestral value of our territories. We know that many of our ancestors had to pay for our liberty with their lives. We know about the blood that our ancestors spilled in order to obtain this territory. We know that they worked as slaves for many years in order to leave it for us. They taught us that the land should not be sold. They understood that we should guarantee our descendants’ (renacientes) permanence in the territory.

Four centuries have passed, and their memory is our memory. Their practices are our practices. Our grandmothers and grandfathers transmitted their knowledge to us. Our daughters and sons continue to reaffirm our identity as free peoples.

Many of us have raised our children on our own. The pans for mining gold, the hoes, and shovels are witness to this. The territory has been our partner, and it has been with us during happy and sad moments. Our grandmothers, such as Doña Paulina Balanta, taught us that “the territory is life, and life does not have a price” and that “the territory is dignity and it does not have a price.”

This is why we have continued to resist large-scale development projects (megaproyectos), in spite of the State’s abandonment. These megaproyectos arrived in the name of their view of development and with a discourse of eradicating poverty, but they have caused displacement, uprooting, and misery.

Today, our lives are in danger, and the possibilities to live as Afrodescendant people are minimal. Many men and women have received death threats. We have lived from ancestral mining, an activity that made it possible for our ancestors to buy their freedom and ours. This activity has been tied to agricultures, fishing, hunting, and our ancestral knowledge that our female elders and midwives inculcated in us in order to survive as people.

We have protected our lives in many ways over the years. We have sentences from the Constitutional Court, protection measures from the National Unit of Protection, hosted international delegations, and reported illegality to the Attorney General’s Office, the Personería, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, and the United Nations. We have even informed the military and police, and they tell us that we are imagining the risky and threatening situations. Meanwhile, the governmental institutions only write statements and e-mails, while we forced into a state of confinement and violent attacks. We fear for the lives of our daughters, our sons, and our own lives. We ask ourselves: What else can we do? Where else can we go to get our rights respected?

Therefore, we met and decided to walk to Bogota. We will leave La Toma on Tuesday, November 18, 2014, and we will tell everyone about our situation as we walk. We decided to walk, sing, and not fear because we know that there are more good people than bad people. We hope that the media, the Constitutional Court, and the government will not only hear our steps and songs, but also the steps and songs of all the women that will join us along the way. Our love for life is stronger than our fear of death.

We need the solidarity of all women—mothers, sisters, grandmothers, cousins, friends, professors, journalists, employed, students, politicians, religious clergy, lesbians, prisoners, Colombians, Latin Americans, and the entire world.

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