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Decolonize Hispanic Heritage Month or Get Rid of It

By Adriana Maestras
 
People of Mexican, Central American, and South American descent shouldn’t have to celebrate heritage that is tied to invaders and colonizers.

Since the end of the Reagan administration, organizations and government entities have been annually celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month between Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.

The concept for celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month actually goes back to 1968 when it began as Hispanic Heritage Week. Sept. 15 was chosen because it marks the anniversary of independence of five Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. On Sept. 16, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence from Spanish rule.

Despite the history of countries in the Americas breaking away from Spanish overlords, the U.S. has insisted on celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month opting to view the history and culture of people with roots in North and South America through a European frame of reference. Nearly two-thirds of the Latino population in the U.S. is of Mexican origin, yet the powers that be, including many in the Latino leadership class, continually label things that are so obviously Mexican, like feathered danzantes or mariachis as “Hispanic” for this government created celebratory month.

“We have leaders who want to use the people because almost 70 percent of this population is of Mexican heritage, yet you never hear the word Mexican,” said Rudy Acuña, historian and Professor Emeritus of Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge. “Independence has become a Hispanic holiday when we fought against the Spaniards. This [Hispanic Heritage Month] is full of contradictions.”

If Hispanic Heritage Month starts on a day when countries were declaring independence, why would leaders in the U.S. want to tie the struggle to free people from an oppressive colonial experience back to the country doing the oppressing? Patriotic citizens of the U.S. would not like the Fourth of July to be labeled English or British. People of Mexican, Central American, and South American descent shouldn’t have to celebrate heritage that is tied to invaders and colonizers.

“The majority of the people that we call Hispanic or Latino in this country are Mexican and Central American; the majority of those people have Native roots. Between that and those who have an African culture, we’re not talking about people from Spain,” said Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, Associate Professor at the University of Arizona Mexican American Studies Department. “Hispanic Heritage Month is an imposition against people who have Native and African culture. To me, it’s very degrading. It seems like a holiday that would have been celebrated a hundred years ago.”

People with roots indigenous to the North and South American continent who the government and media label “Hispanic” or “Latino” often do have Spanish heritage to varying degrees, but a broad brush portrayal of diverse communities under the banner of “Hispanic Heritage” obscures complex histories. It erases the history of Africans who were brought to the Americas on Spanish slave ships and the diverse and complex societies that existed in North and South America prior to the arrival of the conquistadores.

This year in the U.S., Hispanic Heritage Month is being used as a vehicle to register voters because the dates coincide with key voter registration deadlines in this crucial election year. Voto Latino and Mi Familia Vota, two civic organizations in the U.S., along with dozens of partners are involved in this effort to promote Latino voting. The effort is called Hispanic Heritage Month of Action. In effect, these organizations are asking Brown and Black people to take action in the name of their colonizer, under the banner of Hispanic Heritage Month.

It’s time to decolonize Hispanic Heritage Month or get rid of it. We don’t need gimmicky attempts to get us to vote with tacos and mariachis under the historically inaccurate Eurocentric frame of Hispanic heritage. Engage our communities regularly not just during election cycles, and respect our traditions and histories without attempting to define us by the language of our brutal colonizers. Do not suffocate the continued development and growth of our communities and movements because it’s politically expedient to put us in the Hispanic box.

Adriana Maestas is a Southern California-based freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in teleSUR English, NBC Latino, KCET.org, The Electronic Intifada and Latina magazine.

Published in Telesur

Being a campesino in todays world is in itself a subversive action

Translation By: Stephanie Friede, PhD Candidate at Duke University

“It is ‘Day Q’anil, the day of the seed,” explained Antionio Gonzales of Guatemala, referencing the calendar used among the Maya people. “It is time to harvest.” This is how Gonzales began his presentation on the first day of this event – the second international meeting ofcampesinasand agro­ecologyin America. The primary themes for the event included food sovereignty, climate change, and agricultural technologies. Held at the Autonomous University of Chapingo in central Mexico, the meeting was a gathering where a multiplicities of voices from the global south could share their ideas with each other.

The event brought together students ,campesinos, academics, and researchers from an array of organizations and nation­states including Mexico, Venezuela, India, Brazil and Guatemala. Attendees came in search of different kinds of seeds – seeds of knowledge that could conjure potential alternatives. Participants included Brazilian agronomist Sebastio Pinheiro, who led a hands­on workshop with participants. With their hands in the dirt all together, everyone quickly forgot each other’s professional credentials. Pinheiro was explaining in this workshop the history of the so­called “Green Revolution” which changed the agricultural world after World War II. This so­called revolution was ideological, bringing the scientific developments and new technologies to speed up natural cycles. The green revolution brought a profit logic into the field. “Following 1930, and the end of the Second World War, billions of lives have been altered as a result of the imposition of chemicals into agriculture, and the rendering technical of the lives of the people, causing grave harm” explain Pinheiro.

The event was an excellent space where knowledge, ideas, reflections were exchanged, and there was even a fair share of self critique. The setting itself, however, was notable. The event was held in the School of Agro­Ecology, now celebrating its 25th year. Nelson Montoya, director of the Department of Agro­Ecology explained that this meeting was a critique of the institution which has based much of its work on the“Green Revolution,” which are obsolete. “For this reason we are having this conversation in this place, we want the institution to hear what we are saying,” explained Montoya.

There was little interest by students and professors outside of this department, perhaps because the institutions ethos is built on using technology to exploit land, and not men. Perhaps it is alive and well. “We are at a university where Mexico’s best agricultural engineers are being trained. Unfortunately, the motto of the university remains, teach students how to exploit mother earth,” explained Victor Toledo, Director of the Institute for Ecology at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM).

25 aniversario Agroecologia Chapingo

Co­evolution: Corn and Culture

The Autonomous University of Chapingo has long been both a headquarters and a laboratory for those who advocated the industrialization of Mexico’s food industry. Here is where the most strident advocates for the industrial colonization of Mexico’s food supply were taught and trained to use the technologies provided by large multinational agro­chemical corporations. “Universities have always been where world’s multinational corporations trained their representatives. They have always maintained an interest in maintaining a monopoly over the country’s food supply, and in that sense, the lives of the public We are lucky, tho ugh. Throughout Mexico, los pueblos have maintained their knowledge, the wisdom to respect the earth, what I like to call the bio­power of the c ampesino” explains Pinheiro.

The Autonomous University of Chapingo is nestled in the foothills of the mountain where the Aztec rain god, Tláloc, is said to have lived. Tláloc was referred to as the “provider,” because it was in his power to bring the rain, something everyone knew was needed for the corn harvests. This is also the same place were the Poet king, Netzahualcóyotl was said to have his baths and gardens. Nearby is the Lake of Texcoco, where the great city of Tenochtitlan, with its complex and technically advanced irrigation networks and floating greenhouses (called Chinampas), were constructed, and unfortunately destroyed upon the arrival of the Spanish. Pinheiro underscores, “This has always been a place of knowledge.”

“While science was been created during the last 300 years, but we humans have existed for more than 200,000 years – so the question is, did knowledge exist prior to science? Of course it did. It is exactly the kinds of science which existed throughout our history which allowed for traditional agriculture. This kind of knowledge is not forgotten, despite the collective

Alzheimer which was spread across Mexico. Mayan agriculture has existed on the Yucatan Peninsula for more than 3,000 years. Near the Pátzcuaro lake in the State of Michoacán, signs of pollen from maize was found from more than 3500 years ago” explained Victor Toledo, coauthor of the book, “Bio­Cultural Memory” or “La Memoria Biocultural.”

When Europeans arrived in Mexico, more than 150 languages existed. Of these, “60 to 65 languages” survived. "Simultaneously, there are more than 69 known varieties of maize,” explained Toledo, who went on to compare the evolution and diversity that exists among Mexico’s languages to the evolution and diversity of agriculture. “It wasn’t that the people of ancient Mesoamerica that domesticated corn, it was went both ways. Corn also domesticated the people of Mesoamerica. Over the last 7 to 9,000 years, our culture and our corn have co­evolved – just as we see a diversification of cultures over this time period, we also see a diversification in the varieties of corn across the region.”

Toledo is questioning the model of industrial agriculture which has become dominant over the last century, and the negative effects it brings, such as deforestation and climate change. He also throws into doubt the methods which are now being put into place to try and conserve what remains of the nature world. Toledo assures us that, “it is impossible to conserve the natural world without conserving culture as well...We need to develop a Bio­Cultural approach to conservation in Mexico” which takes the environment and culture as one, explained Toledo.

Toledo claims that within the Autonomous University of Chapingo there is a wealth of diversity, where 60% of it’s students
a re from indigenous communities or were raised in farming (campesina) communities. “If you ask students in the agronomy department what indigenous language they speak” you will hear any number of languages spoken throughout Mexico. Toledo claims that despite what some people may think, the region’s indigenous populations are not in decline. In fact, he continues, “its exactly the opposite. Around the year 2000, the government statistics reported between 8 and 10 million people who spoke an indigenous language. In the year 2010, a question was added to the census which had been removed since 1920. They started to ask, Do you consider yourself indigenous? The government was reinserting the idea of self­identification. The question was not asked because the government considered the very idea somehow dangerous or subversive. But, when the question was added to the census in 2010, the number of people who identified as indigenous reached 17 million. In 2015, the official statistics were even higher, 24 million people identified as indigenous in Mexico”

Campesino = Subversive
According to the non­profit organization GRAIN’s recently published study, while more than 90% of the world’s farmers identify as either campesina or Indigenous, they control less than a quarter of the world’s fertile terrain. “Foreigners came here asking us to produce food supplies for them. But we should focus on producing for our own children. If there is extra, then sure we can sell it, but its unfair that they come here and dictate the prices.” Pinheiro argues that the prices should be more equitable, and this fight would benefit all of us.

In their 2013 report, “Behind the Brands,” Oxfam International highlighted ten companies thy claim control the majority of the world’s food supply and fertile land. They highlighted the company Nestlé in particular.

Historically, Mexico has been an example for countries across Latin America with regards to land ownership – the ejido system which brought collective ownership to much of the public after the Revolution – proposed a logic entirely distinct from the mercantilist logic which existed before it. However, when the Mexican government passed a series of reforms to our progressive agrarian laws, they transformed its undergirding logic which was built on ideas of collective ownership into a logic based on private property. In essence, this reform, which preceded the signing of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) allowed ejido land to be sold to private developers. The effects of this change have been felt by the country’s vulnerable indigenous and campesina families who are more likely to suffer from the negative consequences of mega­projects like mining and industrial agriculture. “The effort was to take­down the agrarian reforms. Across Latin America, from Argentina to Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, the fields have been destroyed. The Mexican Revolution, which started in 1910, was an example for the world, because it was a redistribution of power. The agrarian reform that followed the revolution were an example for the world because we were able to maintain an ancient culture. The powerful forces of global capital saw this example as subversive,” added Pinheiro.

After years of debate, The United Nations Program for Agriculture and Nutrition, finally agreed to include small farmers in their policy suggestions. “They did not, however, agree to actually use the word c ampesino. It remains dangerous.

Campesino is still widely considered a dangerous word. They reported in 2014 that 60 % of the world’s food comes from small family farms, and they still refused to use it,” explained Toledo.

“If they want to be consistent, the UN should mobilize an Agro­Ecological framework and promote agrarian reform across the globe. The future of Agro­Ecology in Latin America depends on legal reform. Large land holdings need to be redistributed. They can not continue to promote large cattle farms and industrial agriculture, and also promote Agro­Ecology ­ these forms of production contradict the goals of Agro­Ecology and conservation efforts more generally.” Toledo affirms that the decision to recognize the importance of small farmers, “threw into question the international institution’s faith in industrial farming as the best way to meet food demands worldwide.”

What is Agro­Ecology?

“This meeting will help determine the role of academics in the future of this movement and how the diverse range of interested parties involved can engage with one another. How will students, researchers, indigenous peoples, and campesinos, understand their roles and work together? This meeting offered the space to question the current capitalist economic models which now dominate the agricultural sector. We need to find alternatives which can support ‘un buen vivir' or a good life for all people. The seeds of the many possible future for Latin America, for Mesoamerica, are living in communities across the globe. It is a political act to value all kinds of knowledge” explained Antion Gonzales, an indigenous Maya.

Across the dozen or so universities in Mexico where there are Departments of Agro­Ecology, “there are at least 600 specialists in Agro­Ecology who are searching for new ways to incorporate traditional agricultural practices into our food system. They will continue to search for new and better alternatives” to what currently exist, explains the Director of Chapingo’s Agro­Ecology Department.

At the end of the three day conference, participants agreed to form the “Network of Education Programs for a Degree in Agro­Ecology.” Sebsatiao Pinheiro of Brazil agrees that “Agro­Ecologists can be involved in helping to solve food sovereignty issues in Mexico, and across the globe.” But first, Pinheiro goes on, “we must leave our academic bubbles.” Academic Agro­Ecologists need to leave their academic departments and head to the fields where they can learn to listen to and respect the knowledge of indigenous peoples and small farmers. The agricultural sector needs to abandon production methods based on increasing profits, and shift their focus “instead to life – this is Agro­Ecology’s true goal”

The ideas of self­determination over territory which has gained widespread support in recent years places Agro­Ecology within a broader geopolitical debate. When the Zapatistas began building their autonomous regions, they integrated concepts from Agro­Ecology into their broader geopolitical message. In coming years, Victor Toledo explains, “I imagine we will see other kinds of autonomous regions emerge where decisions are build around four key principles: self­management, autonomy, self­reliance and self­defense. Across Mexico there are already some examples of this. This is where specialists in Agro­Ecology need to work.”

CNTE: Negotiations or Burnout?

August 18, 2016
Translated by El Enemigo Común

Oaxacan teachers and community members know that it was the assassination of 10 common citizens during recent mobilizations, primarily in Nochixtlán on the 19th of June, which drew  the attention of national and international press to Oaxaca and the CNTE´s struggle, and which gave way to the re-initiation of dialogue committees and government negotiations with the teachers.

Through several sessions in three different dialogue committees (the political committee, the educational committee, and the social committee), on Tuesday the 16th of August the political committee closed its session with no further solutions resolved between the Secretary of Governance and the CNTE. Meanwhile the CNTE´s assembly, which took place on the 17th of August in Mexico City, agreed upon the re-activation of blockades of major roadways throughout the state of Oaxaca.  They also agreed to not beginning the new 2016-2017 school year until  their demands are met.

On the other hand, the spokesperson for the Section 7 from the state of Chiapas, Pedro Gómez Bahamaca, stated that the union  gave the government an August 22nd deadline to give a favorable response to their demands; otherwise “we have decided to continue an indefinite strike, which includes not returning to work nor initiating the school year.” The states of Guerrero and Michoacán will also be joining the indefinite strike.

“The government is clever and is trying to wear us out and divide us. That is why they created the political committee, the educational committee, and the social committee”, pointed out Marcelina Linares Arrollo to Avispa Midia. She is a PTA member who participated in the Nochixtlán dialogue commission with the federal government regarding the assassinated and injured.

Vicente Mateo Rodríguez Manzano, member of the Asunción Nochixtlán Popular Committee and one of the attorneys who aided families of the assassinated and injured, expressed that the state had to weaken the escalation of demands regarding not only the abolition of the education reform, but also the abolition of the  structural reforms as a whole, which has now become a popular demand for the people of Oaxaca. “The first division was created when the government opened separate negotiating committees for the injured and the teachers as if the situations were separated.  The situation in Nochixtlán is rooted in the teacher´s struggle.  The end result was the government taking the injured to Mexico City and the people of Nochixtlán no longer had a voice to demand justice. Once again they are trying to divide us”, stated the attorney for Avispa Midia.

Despite being persecuted and harassed by unknown individuals, Linares speaks with indignation and determination about her experience during the negotiations with the state. “There is nothing happening within the committees. When you sit down to speak to them there is no seriousness, respect, truth, or commitment. All they are looking out for is who they can buy out and who they have to look out for.  That is what they created the committees for. That is what I felt when I participated. If the negotiations were public, only then would they offer a serious commitment”, declared Linares.

“We know the government´s strategies very well. They co-opt, they persecute selectively, they harass, they buy off leaders or incarcerate those who won´t sell out or will not follow their orders,” Linares added.

Hacienda-Blanca-barricade-oaxaca-teacher

What is left to be done

Linares insists that if the people of Oaxaca and Mexico do not take the reins of this movement there will continue to be cases such as in Ayotzinapa which exist in impunity to this very day.  “Today we are strengthening ourselves as parents of students along with the teachers. In addition, as communities with our municipal and agrarian authorities and with organizations, because the government will not stop until they have divided us once again.”

Linares makes a call: ”We ask that the community not stop struggling, and we have to raise the blockades once again throughout Oaxaca. People are still not taking into account the serious impact of the structural reforms.  The education reform is just the tip of the iceberg.  We will not forgive or forget nor will we rest until the structural reforms fall apart,” declared the mother.

No to Murat taking office

As part of the agreements taken during the teacher´s state assembly in Oaxaca the 12th of August, the teachers have agreed to continue meeting with municipal authorities from Oaxaca´s 8 regions this Saturday the 20th.  Another decision was to “not allow the new governor to take office.” Incoming governor Alejandro Murat is set to take office the 1st of December, 2016.

The reform is an international doctrine

There are 11 reforms which accompany the educational reform as part of the Programs for Structural Adjustments (PAE) set into motion by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank.  These reforms were set into motion prior to the 2008 economic crisis. They follow the line of thinking espoused by Milton Friedman, the ironclad economist who promoted neoliberal politics through terror and violence in Latin America.  He argued that it is important to “wait until a crisis is taking place or a state of shock is initiated, to then sell to the highest bidder the pieces of the state to private agents while the citizenry is recuperating from the trauma, in order to ensure that the reforms will be permanent.”

Terrorized by Police Raids and Mass Displacement, Rio Prepares for Olympics

Translated by Martha Pskowski prepared this article for publication in English.

At least 77,206 people have already been displaced from Rio de Janeiro as the city prepares to host the Olympic Games on August 5-21, and police raids -- predominantly against Black youth in favelas and working class neighborhoods -- have intensified.

According to Larissa Lacerda, a member of the Rio Cup and Olympics Popular Committee, since the start of 2016, police raids in the favelas have provoked mass killings of poor, Black youth. Lacerda's organization is a collective that brings together unions, NGOs, researchers, students and impacted communities. She said she expects the situation to only get worse in the final days before the start of the Olympic Games, just as abuses worsened before the Panamerican Games and the World Cup.

"We are seeing an increased militarization of the city, in the context of a violent and racist security policy that particularly impacts Black youth who live in working class neighborhoods and favelas," Lacerda told Truthout. "These youth are murdered on a daily basis by police. But everyone is impacted by these policies that are based in fear, that create walls, both visible and invisible, and promote the social and spatial segregation of the city, and the increasing criminalization of social movements."

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be the first Olympics to be held in South America specifically and only the second Olympic Games to be played in all of Latin America (with the first being in Mexico in 1968). Rio's transformation began with the World Cup in 2014. The projects undertaken for the World Cup -- including modernizing sports facilities, new transportation infrastructure, urbanizing marginal neighborhoods, and the restructuring and beautification of public spaces -- supported Rio's bid to become the host of the Olympic Games as well.

Since Rio de Janeiro was selected as host, mass media, politicians and various analysts have emphasized the benefits of increased investment in the city. In contrast, activists and social organizations have decried the mega sporting events as a direct attack against the most vulnerable sectors of Brazilian society.

Displacement and Police Raids

The Rio Cup and Olympics Popular Committee has reported that at least 22,059 families -- in total 77,206 people -- were displaced in Rio de Janeiro, between 2009, when Rio was chosen as the Olympic host, and 2015.

While the government avoids providing official statistics about sporting events, based on research in their communities and state statistics, the Popular Committee estimates that at least 4,120 families have been displaced and at least 2,486 more are at risk of displacement due to the infrastructure projects required for the Olympic Games.

The majority of displacement takes place in neighborhoods where real estate speculation has led to big returns for investors. In the past three years, the value per square meter of real estate in Rio de Janeiro has increased on average 29.4 percent, but there are some parts of the city, such as the Vidigal favela, where it has gone up as much as 481%. Of Rio de Janeiro's 11.8 million residents, between 1.5 to 2 million are spread between 900 to 1,000 favela neighborhoods. The favelas are settlements characterized by informal buildings, low-quality housing, limited access to public services, high population density and insecure property rights.

"The relocations related to the Olympic Games have affected thousands of families through coercion and institutional violence, gravely violating human rights,"

SAYS THE POPULAR COMMITTEE'S REPORT.

Brazilian authorities, to guarantee their bid for the Games in 2009, promised improved public security. According to the Brazilian government, public security planning began with the Panamerican Games in 2007 and the 2014 World Cup.

Youth are murdered on a daily basis by police.

Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report, "Violence is not part of this game! Major risks for human rights violations in the 2016 Olympic Games," warns that Brazilian authorities and the Olympic organization have put into practice the same security policies that led to an increase in murders and human rights violations by security forces since the 2014 World Cup.

Since 2009, police have killed 2,500 people in the city. "Justice was served in a small fraction of these cases," argues Atila Roque, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Brazil. The vast majority of the victims have been Black youth in favelas and working class neighborhoods.

Authorities recently announced that close to 65,000 police officers and 20,000 military troops will take part in security operations during the Olympics, making it the largest operation in Brazilian history, according to Amnesty International. The plan foresees part of this security force carrying out raids in the favelas. In the past year there have been high rates of human rights violations in the lead-up to the Games, with continued murders of youth in the favelas.

"Social Sanitization"

Since 2011, to prepare the city for mega sporting events, what Lacerda terms "social sanitization" operations, including clearing homeless children and youth, have taken place in areas in the city with tourism potential.

"In spite of the difficulties in obtaining specific statistics, reports have increased from youth and also adults who live in the streets," explains Larissa Lacerda.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Children, in its 2015 report on issues facing youth in Brazil, denounced the government initiative to "clean up" the city for the 2016 Olympics and issued the following call: "The Committee is very concerned with the high number of children living in the streets who are vulnerable to extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearance, recruitment by criminal groups, drug abuse and sexual exploitation." The committee also indicated it is necessary to promote laws against arbitrary detention of youth in the streets.

A Failed State

A wall in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo: Aldo Santiago)

There is less than a month until the Olympics begin and Brazil is in the midst of a political and economic crisis, following the Senate decision to suspend president Dilma Rousseff for 180 days. Many people in Brazil and internationally consider Rousseff's ouster a coup d'etat. During the 180-day period she will be investigated for manipulation of public funds between 2014 and 2015.

"Rio de Janeiro is in the midst of a social and economic chaos," says Felipe Araújo, a resident of the Banqu neighborhood and researcher at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. "Professors in the state system and at two universities have been on strike for more than three months. Teachers' salaries are frozen. Students continue to mobilize and demonstrate solidarity, despite the repression they have faced. The civil police are striking over their salaries and a lack of infrastructure, and the health system is in a serious crisis."

Meanwhile, Michel Elías Temer, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), affirmed on the day he assumed the presidency that the Olympic Games are an opportunity that "will improve the image" of Brazil and will contribute to "the international positioning of our economy."

The governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Francisco Dornelles, decreed a public emergency in the state's financial administration: The state was no longer able to maintain public services like health, transportation and education. Temer's interim government approved on June 22 a sum of $895 million for security and the completion of a subway line to connect visitors to the Olympic venues.

"The priority is not the people and their quality of life, but these big events, which in reality are a way to justify the flow of public resources for construction, favoring the contracting companies and a supposed growth in the tourism sector. In practice, this does nothing to help poor people, because all of the income is concentrated in big companies,"

SAYS ARAÚJO.

In terms of public security, it is important to mention that Brazil does not have riot police. It is the military that is sent to the streets to contain social discontent. Brazil's military structure was inherited from the coup d'état in 1964 and leaders were trained according to US and French military doctrine. This repressive and abusive legacy is on display today.

The United States suggested anti-terrorism security measures to Brazil, which appear to have been very influential in mega sporting events, such as the World Cup and the Olympics.

In 2010, under former President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, Brazil signed a cooperation agreement with the United States which allowed for the US company Academi, previously known as Blackwater, to train the military police to prevent terrorist activities during the World Cup and the Olympics. Even though during the World Cup there were no terrorist attacks, in the Olympics the interim president is adopting the same discourse.

Unfulfilled Promises

A favela in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. (Photo: Aldo Santiago)

The state's expressed motive is security, which has justified increased segregation of rich and poor in the city. Yet the Popular Committee shows in its report that the authorities are not complying with the majority of its promises to improve quality of life in the city.The projects that they are carrying out lack a basic respect for human rights.

Rio de Janeiro's government promised, for example, a "revolution in public transportation" in the infrastructure projects for the mega sporting events. However, the Popular Committee shows that the enormous investment in public transportation is distributed unequally. Investment only benefits a small portion of the population, concentrated in the rich neighborhoods of the city. Meanwhile, transportation lines that connect the rich neighborhoods with poor neighborhoods have been cut.

Working conditions have also suffered. For example, the Popular Committee denounces the repressive measures the government has taken against street vendors. This is due in large part to the construction of exclusive commercial zones, promoted by FIFA and its sponsors, surrounding the sports stadiums.

Another serious human rights violation, reported by the Public Labor Ministry of Rio, was carried out by Brazil Global Services, one of the construction companies contracted to build the Olympic Village. The company held 11 workers in conditions that the Public Prosecutors office compared to slavery. They were held in a house that was infested by cockroaches and rats and reeked of backed-up sewage.

According to the Committee report, since the selection of Rio to host the Olympics, environmental protection has been lauded as an important component of the construction projects. However, among other damaging projects, the Transolympic Via, which was built for the games, resulted in the destruction of 200,000 square meters of the Atlantic Forest. These projects violate the same environmental laws that in other instances have been used to justify the violent expulsion of entire communities in the name of conservation and to combat global warming.

According to Larissa Lacerda, the Olympic Games' legacy in Rio de Janeiro will be an even more segregated and exclusionary city. "Olympic City's design was premised on the deepening of socio-spatial inequalities, and it was built on a foundation of a policy of 'cleaning up' the city," she said.

Published in ⇒ Trutout

Sylvia Federici: Primitive Accumulation of Capital and Violence Against Women

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An interview with Sylvia Federici, during a stop in Quito, about primitive accumulation and violence against women

"You destroy a community by terrorizing its women."

By Manuel Bayón, for Agencia Tegantai

Translated by Brian Gruters

Agencia Tegantai: You describe in Caliban and the Witch the connection between violence against women and the origin of capitalism. How should we view this connection today in Ecuador when abortion is criminalized at the same time as the petroleum and mining industries are expanding?

Sylvia Federici: There’s a direct relationship between what the State is trying to do today, not just in Ecuador but at an international level, to expand its control and vigilance over women's bodies, the drive toward extractivist policies, and as a consequence, an increase in violence against women's bodies. It is an increase that begins to resemble femicide because quantitatively and qualitatively it has no precedent. The number of women who were beaten and killed, and the appalling nature of the violence, make it appear that this is something new in our time. I believe that the common element is in the attempts by governments today, in the new wave of primitive accumulation, to extend control over all natural resources and all territories, rural and urban, as well as over women's bodies. Capitalism, the governments that represent it, and the objectives of capitalist investors, have attempted to control women's bodies because they see them as a natural resource, a tool for the production of a workforce and something that should be controlled.

AT: How do they achieve this control over the production of new bodies for capitalist labor at the same time that they unleash violence against women?

SF: Today, at the international level, control over women's bodies and over procreation does not appear in a single form. In some places women are sterilized. During the ‘90s a policy of the World Bank was adopted at the international level, which was called population control, because it accused women of producing too many children. Women were accused of causing poverty in their communities. And for that reason they adopted a policy of sterilization. And in other parts of the world women are required to procreate. The common theme is that the State wants to control the bodies of women, just as it wants to control natural resources and territory. Regarding the land, an extractivist policy of the sort that is being applied today, as destructive as mining or petroleum are, truly requires the control women and attacking them directly. Through violence against women you destroy the resistance of the community.

AT: So then for extractive capital, is violence against women among the main strategies of territorial control?

SF: They try to displace entire populations from their ancestral lands in order to excavate petroleum, diamonds, or coltan, and in doing so they terrorize women. It's what happens today in so many parts of the world: this unjustified terror, which appears to be an end in and of itself, is so disproportionate. Because women are generally unarmed, they don't pose a threat to any community, but nevertheless they are killed, tortured...it's appalling. Rita Segarro has spoken about this on many occasions and has said some very interesting things, highlighting that today violence against women is not just domestic violence, but rather public violence, violence that comes from paramilitaries, which is connected, with its deepest roots in this extractivist policy, in the objective of general population displacement. You destroy a community by terrorizing its women.

AT: What is the role of women against this looting, against the destruction of communities?

SF: This is another reason for the violence against women: they are on the front lines in the defense of the commons. Women are not only victims of violence, but are particularly victims of violence because they are on the front line in the defense of the earth, the forest, and ancestral knowledge. It’s really important to highlight this. And also because women, more than men, are defending the noncommercial use of natural resources. They are defending, for example, the organization of resistance. And in much of Africa, subsistence farming is carried out by women. This is a true war by the World Bank against the subsistence agriculture. The World Bank that accuses women of producing too many children and impoverishing their communities with excessive procreation also accuses women of being tied to this backward method of cultivation and production. According to the World Bank, only money and business create social prosperity, and it accuses women of being tied to subsistence agriculture, and that this is the cause of poverty in their communities. For this reason it has pushed programs such as microfinance, which has been a complete disaster because it has not reduced the onset of poverty, but rather has increased it, creating a whole population of indebted women.

AT: One fundamental thesis of Caliban and the Witch is that the counterrevolution that initiated capitalism required patriarchy in order to be effective. Does this mean that we must do away with inequality in order to do away with capital?

SF: This is the challenge, the most important question facing us. I have always said that capitalism's power is not solely in nuclear bombs, prisons, and torture, but, more importantly, the divisions that capitalism has created historically within the global proletariat. Divisions in labor hierarchies allow the creation of different experiences, different realities, which permit the delegation of power to banks and salaried workers, the power to control women, people of color...

AT: How can we confront these divisions in order to strengthen our unity in the fight?

SF: We can confront them in various ways. One that I learned from my experience with the feminist movement is that those who have the least amount of power must be capable of organizing themselves autonomously. The feminist movement was born in the United States among women who had become active in various mixed movements--the antiwar movement, the student movement, organizing for civil rights--always realizing that they were unable to speak, analyze their specific situation, their specific exploitation. Because in this mixed organizing no room was given to the exploitation of women. When women left these male-dominated organizations and began to unite amongst themselves, there was an explosion of creativity, because when they began to share their experiences they realized that the problem was not caused by individual shortcomings, and that they were confronting a common concern. This allowed them the ability to think about the struggle. At the same time, this was important because sharing their experience and analyzing their situation allowed them to discover an entire history, and an area of exploitation, that until then had been obscured. If women had remained alone in mixed organizations, an entire area of capitalist exploitation would have been ignored and would have continued. Capitalism would have been able to continue with this form of exploitation. The same thing happened with the struggle for civil rights in the United States. The Black Power movement was when black people began to organize autonomously. This does not mean that you can't have common struggles or that unifying should not be an objective. But we can't organize ourselves around unity that doesn't exist, one that is an affirmation of the interests of those who have the most power.

AT: What is the role of men in overcoming these hierarchies that might reestablish unity against capitalism?

SF: It's also clear that the difficulties of the feminist movement should be concerning to men as well. Femicide is not just a problem for women. Women suffer directly, but it's also a problem for men. Today it is very important for men to organize themselves, educate other men, and mobilize themselves. Why is there no men's march against femicide? Why is it women who always must march against femicide, or against other forms of exploitation of women? Why don't men march in support of abortion, or in support of women controlling their own bodies? The mobilization of men against these examples of patriarchy would be extremely important. We women we have been waiting a long, long time for men to mobilize, because this problem is not one women should face alone. Through this type of exploitation, capitalism has spread its roots into the body of the proletariat at large, not just the bodies of women.

Published June 2, 2016

México: Documentary of Nochixtlan, Oaxaca Land of the brave people

The following documentary is a collection of testimonies from the people of Nochixtlán who lived through the massacre of June 19, 2016, where the police assassinated at least 11 protesters. After several attempts of negotiation by the government, with the family members of the dead, the people of Oaxaca maintain their position of rejecting both the Educational Reforms and the Structural Reforms.

“We don’t negotiate with our dead, rather we ask the federal government to leave, and the state government to move aside, because they don’t know how to govern the people and communities of Oaxaca,” said a mother who was part of Nochixtlán’s committee to dialogue with the federal government."