Peace without Ancestral Afrodescendant Territories? Not for the Black Women of Northern Cauca

We, the Afrodescendant women of Northern Cauca, understand the ancestral value of our territories. Much blood was spilled by our ancestors and much blood was spilled by our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in order to obtain these lands. They taught us that the land should not be sold and that we should guarantee our descendants (renacientes) permanence in the ancestral territory. Four centuries have passed, and their memory is our memory. Their practices are our practices – transmitted by our grandmothers and grandfathers – and now our daughters and sons continue to reaffirm them. Our love for the territory as a source of life and belonging has guaranteed the sustenance of one of the richest natural and genetic heritage sites in the world. Our territories have been defined by life, joy, and peace.

But our lives are at risk for caring for and defending the territory that we have ancestrally inhabited since 1636. Today, the possibilities to exist as an Afrodescendant people are minimal. Today, we are threatened with physical and cultural death! We are threatened by displacement by President Santo’s mining engine of the economy that grants mining concessions and titles to multinationals that violate our right to prior consultation and consent. We are threatened by illegal miners whose retroexcavators destroy our environmental and territorial heritage that we have taken care of for centuries. We are threatened by armed groups that accuse us of being against the government’s development policies. They threaten our daughters and sons, our friends, and our communities. The national government’s rhetoric and lies are a threat that demonstrates the government’s interest in protecting its neoliberal economic interests instead of our collective rights. The structural racism in this country that displaces us and discriminates against us is a threat.

All of these threats are part of another war in our ancestral territories that steals peace from our hearts.

We have carried out many actions to protect our lives and our territories. In regards to our situation, the Constitutional Court has emitted sentences; the National Protection Unit has granted protection measures; international commissions have visited; and we have presented denouncements to the Attorney General’s Office, the Personería, and the Human Rights Ombudsman. We informed the United Nations. We have gone to the military and police forces, and they told us that we are inventing the situations of risks and threats. The institutions only write statements and e-mails, and their mouths are full of a discourse of “racial democracy” that is devoid of effect. Meanwhile, they oblige us to confinement, to attacks, to fear for the lives of our daughters and sons, and to fear for our own lives.

In defense of life and of the ancestral territory that gave us life and ensures our freedom, we march and we will arrive in Bogota today to demand the following from the Constitutional Court and the Colombian Government:

  • The immediate confiscation, exit, and destruction of the retroexcavators that exploit gold in our territories without our consent in the municipalities of Guachené, Santander de Quilichao, Buenos Aires, and Suarez in the department of Cauca.
  • Disciplinary investigation and sanctions against the officials that through action or omission permitted the entrance of the retroexcavators, which generate and/or aggravate the level of threat and vulnerability for women.
  • Evaluation and integral reparations for the environmental damages to our food sovereignty and economy, which were caused by illegal mining in our territories.
  • Recognition and protection of ancestral mining in Afrodescendant communities.
  • Guarantees for our physical and cultural integrity and the protection of the collective rights of the women, men, youth, girls, and boys in the ancestral territories.
  • Guarantee the protection of the lives of the leaders. Investigate the murders, the death threats, and the violent actions against the leaders, and bring the perpetrators to justice.
  • Comply with the implementation of Constitutional Court Order 005 of 2009, Order 092 of 2008, and Sentence T-1045A, as well as codify Chapter 5 of Law 70 of 1993, in order to guarantee (1) the prevention of the uprooting and forced displacement of our communities, (2) the evaluation of the impacts and damages caused, and (3) the integral reparation for the communities in the context of collective rights.
  • Direct communication between the Afrodescendant women of Northern Cauca with the negotiations in Havana because peace without free territories is not Peace.
  • Apply the right to free, prior, and informed consultation and consent before making any decision that could have a positive or negative impact on our lives and territories.
  • Revoke mining titles that were granted in violation of our collective rights and abstain from continuing to sell our territory to multinationals.

The Constitutional Court, the government, and Colombian citizens will not only hear rumors of our steps and songs—they will feel our presence in their home in Bogota because this must be resolved right now!

Because our love for life is stronger than our fear of death!

Territories and life are not sold—they are loved and defended!

#EscuchenNuestrosPasos – #MujeresNegrasCaminan

Contact Information: mujeresnegrascaminan@gmail.com – Telephone: (+57) 314-370-8931

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