Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru
At the beginning of October we welcomed two wonderful women to Cajamarca to share their expertise in trauma healing and dealing with stress. Patty Abozaglo and Orla Quinn are both trainers in the practice of Capacitar – a multicultural popular education approach to transforming trauma.
The communities of Celendin, Bambamarca and Cajamarca have experienced much trauma while fighting to protect their water from mining multinationals – during the violent oppression of protests over the past two years five people were killed by the national security forces, hundreds injured and thousands terrorized. The three provinces were subject to eight months of militarization and they continue to live under the constant threat of extinction as the mining companies and the government continue in their attempt to force through their destructive activities against the wishes of the people. This obviously has left many people traumatized and has generated a culture of fear – debilitating their involvement in the campaign and affecting the physical and mental health of the population.
Patty and Orla came to Cajamarca, supported by Capacitar Ireland and Laban Dance Ireland, with the aim of sharing with local organisations and community activists tools to facilitate trauma recovery and help sustain their activism. Capacitar’s program of trauma healing and wellness education grew out of 23 years of experience collaborating with grassroots and professionals in many cultures. It began in 1988 during the war in Nicaragua and has been helping people in conflict situations across the world ever since. So we were delighted when we were offered the chance to learn some of these practices for ourselves.
Over the course of two weeks seven sessions were organized and approximately one hundred people attended. These took place in Celendin, Cajamarca, Bambamarca and in the lagoons of Conga.
In Bambamarca we faciliatated a workshop with the Rondas Femininas who are part of the larger Rondas campesinas which is a social justice organisation protecting rights of communities across rural Peru. Bambamarca has been subject to 200 years of mining and their last source of uncontaminated water is threatened by the Conga mining project. This town has seen much repression; during wide spread protests against the Conga mining project last year, hundreds were injured and one man was killed by state forces. Many of the Rondas Femininas are mothers who have to balance activism with motherhood. This stress was acknowledged because women´s role in this society has been traditionally confined to the home. The group also run on a voluntary basis so lack funding for many of the activities they want to do including renovation of their building where we carried out the Capacitar training
For the next session we travelled up to the lagoons of Conga to visit the Chaupe family who have suffered greatly over the past number of years due to the mining company`s desire to possess their land. In 2011 the police, accompanied by the mine workers attacked the family and burnt their house and killed their animals. As well as sustaining horrific injuries they had to sleep outside in the freezing conditions for 7 nights. The oppression has continued as the police station themselves directly outside their home. The mining company have also taken to harassement through the legal system so the family are now also fighting a skewed legal battle.
Doña Maxima and her children enjoyed the session which provided some light relief from the constant state of fear in which they live. Hopefully the practices will also be of service whilst struggling with the trauma of the past and their on-going ordeal
In Cajamarca we held sessions with Grufides – a local human and environmental rights organization who have been heavily involved in the anti- mega mining campaigns in Cajamarca and whose workers have been personally terrorized (see Operacion Diablo), and also a grassroots women`s organization – Women Defenders of Life who are very active in the anti- Conga campaign.
In Celendin we held four workshops reaching a wide selection of activists, peasant farmers, youth, children and professionals.
The groups involved consisted of:
The Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendína (PIC) – a coalition of 40 community based social groups who campaign against the mega mining project CONGA and the mega hydroelectric project Chadin II.
Promotores de Salud – a coordinating body of health promoters who raise awareness and share practices of good health among the community.
Families of the Bereaved who were killed on 3rd July 2013 by state security forces; 4 males (including a sixteen year old boy) were killed as state security forces opened fire on protesters protesting against the Conga mining project.
Proyect Yannick which provides support to children with Down Syndrome and other learning difficulties.
The neighbourhood of Rosario.
The public in general (invited through two local radio programmes).
Immediate impact: from what feedback was given at the time, and from participants` demeanor and mood, participants felt more relaxed, lighter, happier, freer, and left with a sense of group spirit and comradeship. It was a period of relief from their grief, stress, sense of oppression, hopelessness, worry, anger, or general life weariness. Seeing grieving mothers and wives enter with sad faces and leave laughing was a clear sign that the session had a positive impact.
One participant – the special needs teacher of Project Yannick, who normally has problems sleeping, said she had the soundest sleep that she had had in a long time the night after the session.
A large amount of participants showed an immediate desire to continue learning the practices. The deeper, longer term impact remains to be seen according to who follows on with the practices either individually or by joining following sessions.
In Celendin attendees of the workshops have organized weekly Sunday afternoon meet ups in the Casa de Promotores (beginning at 3pm). This new Healing and Wellness group hopes to practice Capacitar exercises and also allow a space for people to share their own wellness practices with the group (music, yoga, meditation etc). The aim of this group is to encourage healing and wellness thinking – and to learn useful practices together. Hopefully this will lead to a deepened sense of community and provide a support network for those in need of healing.
A huge thanks to Orla and Patty for coming all the way to Cajamarca from Ireland (via Colombia) to share such a beneficial practice. For giving their time voluntarily and for organizing the funding to make the trip possible with Capacitar Ireland and Laban Dance Ireland. Thanks also to these organisations for bringing these two wonderful women to us.
Thanks to all who helped organize the sessions in each place and to each receiving organization.
May we heal and grow together as a community and continue to defend Mother Earth and the rights of her children.
Capacitar International: www.capacitar.org
Capacitar Ireland: http://www.capacitar.org/country.asp?CID=20&lang=1
Facebook page: Capacitar and Laban Dance for Peace and Wellness in Colombia and Peru