Day of the American Aboriginal Peoples
In Argentina, the week including April 19th is called “Aboriginal Peoples´ Week”, and a lot of good events, conferences and parties are carried out. For closing this “special” week, the Third Meeting of American Originary Peoples has been held in Formosa (northeastern Argentina, indigenous area) during last weekend. It´s been held during the last 3 years, and even if I couldn´t go there, I am sure that I´ll have news from them very soon (and I´ll share them with you).
Last weekend, instead of being in this interesting meeting in Formosa, I was in the other side of my country, in southern Patagonia, also a very important point for Argentinean native cultures. I participated as a speaker in the First Meeting of History of Western Buenos Aires province, held in the beautiful city of Trenque Lauquen (an araucanian name, meaning “round lake”). I have been there, invited by the local public library “Bernardino Rivadavia”, for speaking about oral tradition and its management. I enjoyed a very exciting and interesting meeting, with a lot of people participating there, coming from every corner of the big Buenos Aires province.
But, at the same time I enjoyed this event, I felt I was in a city founded during the famous “Desert Campaigns”, a set of military campaigns launched by Argentinean national government during late XIXth century, aimed at conquering the whole Patagonia, still kept as territory by several indigenous nations. This war was terrible, specially because the aboriginal groups (belonging to the Araucanian and Tehuelche peoples) were fierce warriors, defending bloodily their lives and their lands.
Anyway, their long spears and their frightful knives were useless against the “Remington” rifles of the Argentinean soldiers, and the indigenous nations were totally defeated and exterminated. The few survivors were confined to poor and isolated lands, their culture was almost forbidden and they were relegated to the lowest layers of society.
This happened during the last years of XIXth century. Today, nothing has changed.
The city of Trenque Lauquen exhibits a good number of monuments to the heroes of the “Desert Camapign”: streets with their names, squares with their statues, museums with their weapons... The descendants of the aboriginal nations still walk these streets in shame, looking everywhere the names of their killers...
It happens in Trenque Lauquen, and it happens everywhere in Argentina and in the rest of this continent. It happened before, when Europeans arrived, and when national states became independent from Iberian powers and wanted to take control of their territories (some of them held by a lot of indigenous peoples). They were killed, they were forgotten, they were discriminated, they were used as slaves...
And it still happens here, in my own country, in front of my eyes. In NW Argentina, in Jujuy, children die because of the cold weather and the lack of clothes. In Misiones (NE Argentina) and Chaco, they die because of malnutrition and diarrhea (you can believe it, they have died in my own arms). In Santiago del Estero (central Argentina), they are killed, and their lands are stolen by landowners. In Patagonia, they live in wilderness while “gringos” like Mr Bennetton enjoy their best lands, and extract oil from their sacred places, and burn the air and fill the waters with poison. In Chaco, Corrientes and Catamarca (northern Argentina), indigenous men, women and children (yes, children) work all day long for getting just a couple of cents for each kilogram of cotton or sugar cane they get. And in Buenos Aires, Córdoba, La Plata and Rosario, our biggest citires, the native girls are used as sexual slaves (yes, as you read it) and men are children are used as slaves in factories (last week, this situation was discovered when one of this illegal factories was burnt and a lot of Bolivian inmigrants died).
And in the rest of Latin America, it´s the same thing. Don´t you believe it? You can check it everywhere...
What we can do as librarians? Well... There are thousands of native communities that need our help. If you feel that they are very far from your place, you can help the colleagues who are working with them, or you can work with those aboriginal people living in your place (i.e. inmigrants). They need a lot of help. And, if you can´t do anything like this, you can still spread the native cultures from your library. You can make their voice to be heard by everybody....
When I left Trenque Lauquen, travelling southwards for discovering other cities in southern Argentina –and for enjoying a couple of days in the cold and windy sea-coast- I said goodbye to a beautiful city and to a very nice group of people... But I was also saying goodbye to a land dyed with pain and blood, covered by years of tears and silence... I said goodbye to nice wide boulevards covered by lovely trees, but also to discriminating fingers pointing out the different people... And I thought that this is such a common reality in this world, in this beloved continent, that nobody seems to notice it, nobody seems to realize that it exist... And, while travelling southwards, I remembered the mapuche voices of all the warriors dead in these “pampas” (prairies), and a poem came to my mind, a poem from the Chilean mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf, singing about the freedom of their people. With his words, I say goodbye by now...
Elel mu kechi malall, kalli amulepe ñi ko.
Elel mu kechi malall, wiño petu kuyfimogen,
Feypi Willi kürüf ñi vülü, mogenley ta ti
Inchiñ ñi kom pu che, ñi pu wenüy, mülfen ñi mogen.
It is a country where a million different landscapes can be found. But I have discovered that all this lovely continent shares this feature: to be a kind of mosaic where all the environments, all the races, all the cultures can be found. Bolivia is a kind of miracle-land, where you can travel from Amazonian rain-forest to high snowed Andean peaks in a couple of hours. You can scratch in the sandy ground of the southern deserts and find a stone-arrow from 5000 years ago, and at the same time you can speak with your indigenous guide, who is a descendent of the people who created this stone-arrow.
I´ve travelled all around lake Titicaca, visiting the ancient town of Tiwanaku, and other places in southern Bolivia.
Hay maneras de amar diferentes, te quiero contar
que en mi pueblo se quiere mi gente que no tiene igual.
Y en mi pueblo latino se siente, en mi pueblo latino se crece
una forma de amar diferente que hoy quiere cantar
¡¡Qué manera de amar sorprendente!! Te quiero llevar,
que es tan buena y tan noble mi gente. Te voy a enseñar
que en mi pueblo latino se siente el calor del abrazo del cielo,
y se cuelga el amor de un lucero que amanece brillando en el suelo.
Es mi forma de amar, latino.
En mi tierra hay un ángel de ensueño que anda triste surcando mi empeño:
atender de la fruta del campo que madura junto a mi sembrado.
Y se abraza a luz de la luna por la paz y la buena fortuna.
Y le dice sus penas al viento pa´ que no se regrese ninguna.
(There are different ways for loving. I want to tell you
that in my homeland, my people loves like no other.
And in my Latin homeland it can be felt, in my Latin country is growing
a different way of love, that wants to sing today.
What a surprising way of loving... I want to take you there,
cos´ my people is so noble and good. I will show you
that in my Latin homeland it can be felt the warm hug of the sky,
and love is hanging from a star that appears shining in the earth at dawn.
It´s my way of loving, Latino...
In my country, there´s a dreamy angel who is sadly crossing my worries:
to take care of the fruits of my lands, which are ripening in my sown fields.
And he embraces the light of the moon, wishing us peace and good luck.
Adn he says his griefs to the wind, so they are carried away and never come back
I am a Colombian, a "Southern", a "hispano" from Third World...
I am from the American continent...
I´ll be Latino, and I´ll live Latino, and I´ll sing Latino...).