Tag Archives: UN Decade for People of African Descent

DECLARATORIA DE BILWI


DECLARATORIA DE BILWI


PRIMER FORO CENTROAMERICANO Y DEL CARIBE SOBRE PUEBLOS AFRODESCENDIENTES


Puerto Cabezas, RACCN, 15-17 Agosto 2017

A LOS GOBIERNOS DE CENTROAMERICA Y DEL CARIBE

AL SISTEMA DE LAS NACIONES UNIDAS

A LA COOPERACION NACIONAL E INTERNACIONAL

A LOS ORGANISMOS DE LA SOCIEDAD CIVIL

A LOS PUEBLOS AFRODESCENDIENTES

PREÁMBULO:

Nosotras y nosotros, mujeres y hombres que representamos a varias organizaciones de los pueblos afrodescendientes de Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panamá, Brasil y Nicaragua, a través de la organización Afro’s Voices Center of Nicaragua (AVOCENIC) y con el acompañamiento de la Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de las Costa Caribe Nicaragüense (URACCAN), la Universidad de Edimburgo del Reino Unido y el Instituto Nicaragüense de Cultura (INC), nos hemos dado cita en la Ciudad de Bilwi, Municipio de Puerto Cabezas, de la Región Autónoma Costa Caribe Norte, Nicaragua, para celebrar el Primer Foro Centroamericano y del Caribe: Retos y Desafíos que enfrenta la Población Afrodescendiente, para reflexionar sobre nuestras realidades y la búsqueda de alternativas que conlleven a mejorar nuestra situación como culturas ancestrales, para lo cual partimos de las siguientes consideraciones:

Primero

Los Pueblos Afrodescendientes somos herederos y portadores de los conocimientos, saberes y cultura de la civilización milenaria que le dio vida a la humanidad.

Segundo

Desde que se inició el proceso de conquista, dominio y colonización de los nuevos territorios en América y el Caribe, 173 reinos de África fueron destruidos y sus habitantes fueron convertidos en esclavos y tratados de manera inhumana y dispersos por el mundo.

Tercero

Nuestros ancestros ayer, nosotros hoy, después de más de 525 años de maltrato, humillaciones, despojos, invisibilización y discriminación; hemos resistido a todas las formas de violencia sobre nuestros derechos como seres humanos; pese a estas realidades adversas, nuestros pueblos continuaron sus luchas logrando el reconocimiento de su existencia, palpable en las reformas de las constituciones de los países, aperturando con esto otras formas de luchas para materializar los derechos negados.

Cuarto

Las naciones del mundo, a través de la Declaración de Durban, Sudáfrica, en Conferencia Mundial Contra el Racismo, Xenofobia y todas formas de discriminación y conexos en el 2001, la Declaratoria del 2011 como el Año Internacional de los Pueblos Afrodescendientes por parte de las Naciones Unidas, así como el Convenio Internacional de la OIT (No. 169) ratificadas por los países, han sido instrumentos y espacios para iniciar el debate sobre la eliminación de todas las viejas y nuevas formas de discriminación y racismo contra la población descendiente de la África Milenaria.

Quinto

Tomando en consideración que el cumplimiento de los acuerdos y plan de acción de Durban son temas pendientes en nuestros países, los participantes consideran que el plan de acción son herramientas para el fortalecimiento de los derechos históricamente negados a los Pueblos Afrodescendientes por tal se constituye en una necesidad de retomar en cada país la materialización de dicho plan con una visión de acción conjunta.

Sexto

La Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Decenio Internacional de la Población Afrodescendiente en el período 2015-2024, con los temas de Reconocimiento, Justicia y Desarrollo, se constituye en la llave que debemos usar para abrir las puertas de nuestro desarrollo con identidad, el collective wellbeing y la construcción de ciudadanías interculturales.

A la luz de los Considerandos arriba planteados, los/as participante del primer foro Centroamericano y el Caribe sobre Pueblos Afrodescendientes, instamos a los Estados Centroamericanos y del Caribe iniciar acciones para el cumplimiento de las siguientes peticiones:

Primero

Por la deuda histórica existente para con nuestros pueblos, los Estados deben de reparar a los Pueblos Afrodescendientes los derechos negados en políticas públicas que mejoren las condiciones de vida de las y los afrodescendientes en términos de educación y salud propia de calidad, vivienda, trabajo digno, tierra- territorio y sistemas productivos, emprendimientos socio-económicos y culturales que cuente con el espíritu y la participación activa de los pueblos afros.

Segundo

Las y los afrodescendientes, de manera unida, consensuando nuestros pensamientos, conocimientos, saberes y voces, instamos a los Estados crear las condiciones para que los pueblos Afrodescendientes sean los artífices en la reconstrucción, conservación y diseminación de nuestras historias como pueblos, para salir de los procesos de invisibilización, racismo y discriminación a los que nos hemos visto sujetos.

Tercero

Pedimos que nuestro desarrollo con identidad afro y collective wellbeing, sea del concurso de todos los Afrodescendientes y de la sociedad en general, a los que deben de sumarse el acompañamiento de instituciones académicas, culturales y de gobiernos y sus estructuras institucionales que buscan en el horizonte coadyuvar a la de-colonización del ser y del pensamiento del Pueblo Afrodescendiente, rompiendo las barreras fronterizas.

Cuarto

Exhortamos a los Estados Nacionales la apertura de procesos de diálogo franco y reflexivo que se constituya en mecanismo de comunicación, información y coordinación entre las instancias que atienden asuntos de Afrodescendientes junto a las organizaciones afros, a fin de posicionar las temáticas de desarrollo en las agendas políticas, económicas, sociales, culturales, medioambientales, entre otros.

Quinto

Pedimos a los Estados respetar el ejercicio del derecho consuetudinario como una práctica ancestral en la aplicación de la justicia comunitaria del pueblo Afrodescendiente y el respeto de las manifestaciones de nuestra espiritualidad.

Dado en la Ciudad de Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas, Región Autónoma Costa Caribe Norte, Nicaragua, Centro América a los 17 días del mes de Agosto del año 2017.

Firmamos:

Liza Lindo

Eleanor Woods

Yuri Zapata W.

Salomón Ramírez M.

Neyda Dixon

Charlotte Cruz Bush

Yilda Vanessa López G.

Ramón E. Perea Lemos

George Henriquez Cayasso

Omara Gutiérrez Thomas

Kendall Cayasso Dixon

Michael McGregor Joseph

Raquel Ribeiro

Julie Cupples

Charlotte Gleghorn

Diandra Daniels

Betsy González

Daisy George

Dolene Miller

Nora Newball

Cecilia Moreno Rojas

Zulma C. Valencia

Shira Miguel Downs

Carol Amy Forbes Medina

Karen Salomon Sinclair

Deborah Bush­­

Dixie Lee S

 

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Puerto Cabezas-Managua: The most gruelling bus journey on the planet?

Puerto Cabezas-Managua. A 12 hour journey in a private vehicle takes 19 hours by bus

Last week thanks to the support of an AHRC networking grant to develop initiatives around the UN Decade for People of African Descent, scholars and activists from the University of Edinburgh, URACCAN, African Voices of Nicaragua (AVOCENIC) and the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture held a forum in Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) on the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua to debate the challenges facing Afro-descendant Central Americans and to explore the opportunities that the Decade might offer. Participants travelled to the event from Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia and Scotland, as well as from Bluefields in the South Caribbean and joined a large contingent of local Bilwi-based Black Creole leaders and activists. It was an extremely productive event that proved to be a much needed space for knowledge exchange and reflection, that was well covered by several local media operations and that led to the signing of the Bilwi Declaration – more on all this to follow.

Such an event was necessary because in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America, Afro-descendant populations have been forced to resist epistemic, cultural and political exclusion by mestizo-dominated governments and institutional and everyday racisms. The Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, where the majority of Nicaraguans who identify as Black, Creole and Afro-descendant live, was never colonized by Spain but was violently annexed by the state of Nicaragua in 1894. Since then, Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples of the Caribbean Coast, collectively known as Costeños, have been fighting for their rights to land, language, and culture as well as for the material outcomes of development, including clean water, electricity, education, healthcare, employment, and housing. In all these dimensions, the Costeños are worse off than the Pacific-based mestizo-identified population. There is an urgency to the demands of Afro-descendants, a sense that their culture and continued collective existence as people are threatened by the growing dominance of Spanish-speaking mestizo culture as well as by persistent racism and socio-economic exclusion. Our forthcoming book documents the state-led attempts to stifle the struggle for autonomy and land rights. It discusses how the current Nicaraguan government led by Daniel Ortega implements a strategy of ignoring some of the country’s most serious problems, especially those that affect the people on the Caribbean Coast that disrupt the ideology of mestizaje on which the Nicaraguan nation-state is built.

Our forum was held during a difficult time for Bilwi residents. The town is currently suffering both water and electricity shortages and the municipal council, led by regional and indigenous political party Yatama, is struggling to keep up with garbage collection. One of the main reasons for these challenges according to the municipal government is that the central government has only transferred just over 10 per cent of the funds – 3.8 million córdobas instead of $30 million – it is supposed to have transferred. This failure is compromising the council’s ability to carry out ongoing public works, maintain infrastructure and deliver social services. One can speculate why the funds have not been transferred but it might well be an attempt by the central government to wrest control of the municipal council of Bilwi off Yatama in the coming municipal elections in November. A lack of funds will prevent projects being executed and might therefore make the Yatama-led council look like a failure in the eyes of the electorate. Yet most Nicaraguans are now familiar with the efforts of the FSLN to maintain and extend their grip on power by any possible means. The municipal elections of 2012 and last presidential elections of 2016 were widely seen as fraudulent. The 2016 elections produced substantial protests and confrontations in Bilwi.

On Friday 18 August, our forum concluded, those of us who had travelled to Bilwi from other countries and other parts of Nicaragua were leaving. It was our attempt to leave and the manner in which we left that really captured both the current crisis and the long-term neglect of the Caribbean Coast by central government, both this one and the preceding ones. I have been working on the Coast for the past decade and I have always travelled there from Managua by plane on La Costeña. The flight takes a little more than an hour and costs about $80 each way. There are also flights three times a week from Bilwi to Bluefields that also take around an hour.

One of our party had managed to leave for Managua on the first flight in the early morning. The rest of us (12 people in total) were travelling on the midday flights to Bluefields and Managua or the late afternoon flight to Managua. Five of us had international connections from Managua to Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and the UK later that day or early on Saturday. When the second group left for the airport at around 10am they found the airport had been occupied by Yatama protestors. The protest was organized by workers of the municipal council and led by the mayor, Reynaldo Francis, and its main demand was the immediate transfer of funds from the central government. All flights to and from Puerto Cabezas were therefore suspended.

We had to change our international connections before travel or lose them. In the hope that the protest would be over the following day and we could get to Managua on Saturday, we changed them to Sunday. It cost almost $600 to do so. We got up early on Saturday morning to get to the airport by 6am but learned that it was still occupied and that no flights would be leaving that day. So we had to take a decision; stay put indefinitely while incurring huge costs for accommodation and flight changes or try and leave by bus. We opted for the latter, in part because I couldn’t get any advice from La Costeña, my employer, my insurance company or the British embassy, and also because it was likely the protest would not only last but escalate, involving also road blockades. Another factor was that at that time tropical storm Harvey, which has just hit Texas, was making its way up the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast. (It later changed course and Bilwi was not affected). In the end the airport remained closed for an entire week, endorsing our decision to leave overland.

The bus station in Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas)

The state of the road to Managua

We took a bus that departed from Bilwi at 10am and was scheduled to arrive in Managua around 5am. The road is mostly unpaved and in extremely poor condition so it takes around 19 hours to travel 500km! We needed to be at the airport by 5.30am to make the first rescheduled international flight. Those travelling to Bluefields had to take another bus and a boat as there is no land transport between the North and South Caribbean.

We travelled on one of the discarded US school buses, ubiquitous in Nicaragua and which aren’t too bad if you’re on a short daytime journey between Managua and Leon but are not suitable for long distance travel. Furthermore, this bus was in a truly appalling condition. There was of course no bathroom so we had to limit the amount of water we drank. It was bumpy, dusty, and frequently required the need to hold on. Passengers often let out screams when it felt like the bus was about to topple over on the uneven surface. Some passengers bumped their heads on the metal luggage racks above or were hit by items that fell down from them. The bus also broke down several times. The first time the drivers got out spanners and cables and got it going after about 20 minutes. Another stop involved jump leads to get the battery going again. In Rosita, we had to wait while they found someone who could weld a bit of the engine. Twice in the remote darkness the lights failed and we had to wait again for the battery to power the lights sufficiently, provoking fears we might have to wait until daybreak to continue our journey. The back door kept opening by itself, risking the lives of those sitting at the back of the bus. I don’t know much about bus standards but I feel certain that that bus would have long been condemned anywhere else in Latin America, deemed not safe for public or private transport.

We spent 19 hours in this space

The first of several breakdowns

The bus had two drivers who took it in turns to drive. They do the 19-hour journey twice a week: from Bilwi to Managua leaving Saturday and arriving Sunday, and from Managua to Bilwi leaving Wednesday arriving Thursday. Tickets cost around $20 for the entire journey and the bus has about 40 seats. They pick up a few standing passengers too who are just travelling parts of the journey. They stop very briefly for lunch and dinner and the passengers can use the bathroom in these two comedores en route. They were polite, serious and conscientious and I wished for more dignified employment for them both.

Arriving in Wawa Boom

The distance from Bilwi to Managua is not much further than the distance from Managua to San José where there is a decent road and a comfortable air conditioned bus in which you can sleep, read, and watch movies. You can get there in around seven hours including a border crossing. The whole thing makes you wonder why the Coast and indeed the people of the Coast are not deemed worthy of this much-needed social investment? Costeños need to travel the capital to do all kinds of thing and the plane is too expensive. I chatted to a Miskito woman sitting behind me who told me she had frequently made that journey as she was suffering from a heart condition and had to visit the hospital in Managua for treatment. I could not imagine putting myself through that journey more than once in my life but there are Costeños who routinely need to make this journey. This seasoned passenger knew the names of all the villages and small towns we passed through; Wawa Boom, Cuarenta y Tres, Mani Watla, Las Breñas and so on.

The ferry at Wawa Boom that took us and our bus across the River Wawa

During the interminable journey, it occurred to me that this might well be the most gruelling bus journey on the entire planet. It is not just very uncomfortable, it is very dangerous. It amply captures and illustrates the on-going neglect of the Coast by the government. As one of the Creole members of the forum wrote on my Facebook timeline:

We are so invisible …so only with those type of protest…maybe it will be on news papers but only in Spanish language. Sorry Julie you had to live the hard experience. ..the electricity, the lack of water…, the airport.. …

I felt like I had put everyone’s life at risk and feel so relieved we arrived safely. It shouldn’t have to be like this. So I really want to know the following:

Where is the paved road from Puerto Cabezas to Managua? Why has the building of this road still not commenced? It has been 30 years since the passing of the autonomy law and 27 years since the end of the war? There has been plenty of time to do this, but seemingly no political will.

Why is it deemed acceptable to the authorities that Costeños who need to travel to Managua for medical treatment, to visit relatives, apply for a visa, access a legal service, or do an exam must risk their lives?

Where is the government scheme to lease buses that would meet international safety standards to entrepreneurs? Why can’t the two young men who run this service access any kind of state support to replace their bus with something reliable and comfortable?

Why has the existing government spent more than $3 million on metallic trees in Managua before investing in essential public transport to and from the Coast?

Why does the government not send the funds to the municipal council that it is legally required to send?

Where on the road from Puerto Cabezas to Managua is the socialist, Christian and solidarity government?

I’ve just heard that the occupation of the airport has ended. I’m not sure whether the Yatama demands for the immediate transfer of funds have been met and am still trying to find out. The journey has however had a profound effect on my psyche. It has provided me with indisputable evidence that the Nicaraguan government values the lives of low-income Black and indigenous Nicaraguans less than those of mestizo Nicaraguans. I’m immensely grateful to all my travelling companions – all of them dedicated in a range of ways to courageous anti-racist struggle and Afro-descendant liberation – for their ethic of care, solidarity and friendship and for their collective approach to the situation in which we found ourselves.

The 12 people who were stranded by La Costeña after Yatama occupied the airport

 

Call for Proposals: Politics and Poetics of Afro-Latin Visibility University of Edinburgh, 2-3 November 2017

Across Latin America, Afrodescendants occupy distinct symbolic and cultural spaces within their national polities, framed according to varied racial and spatial ideologies. Despite the significance of their cultural and economic contributions to the nations of Latin America since the colonial era, they are enmeshed in colonial state and international politics which continually invisibilise and marginalise their presence. Afrodescendant struggles for dignity, human rights, cultural citizenship and well-being are compromised by enduring acts of racism and discourses of mestizaje which seek to assimilate difference and uphold established systems of privilege.

In order to resist and overturn the prolonged abuses enacted against their communities, Afrodescendant intellectuals, artists and civil society leaders mobilise audiovisual tactics to enhance their cultural and political capital, influence the political agenda and draw recognition for their vibrant cultural practices. Organised as part of the AHRC-funded International Network, ‘Afro-Latin (in)visibility and the UN Decade: Cultural politics in motion in Nicaragua, Colombia and the UK’, this two-day gathering at University of Edinburgh will probe how film and media intervene in debates of cultural and political recognition and articulate nuanced connections between aesthetics and politics. These two privileged representational forms offer crucial intercultural possibilities where Afro-descendant peoples can articulate their demands to diverse constituencies, including international audiences and diasporic Black audiences. Many communitarian groups seek to build connections with kindred organisations and facilitate dialogue in order that Afro-descendants might strategise and share experiences for their cultural and political survival in conversation with other experiences from the diaspora. The Edinburgh seminar is organised in this spirit and with a keen interest in how the arts channel cultural imaginaries, subvert the geopolitical gaze, and envision Afrodescendant cultural politics and transregional linkages.

We are delighted to announce that the confirmed keynote speaker is Juliet Hooker, from Brown University, who will open the two-day gathering on Thursday 2nd November at 5pm. The event will also draw on the experiences of invited speakers Ramón Perea Lemos, from the Colombian organisation Carabantú, responsible for organising the international Kunta Kinte film festival, Dixie Lee, Director of the Institute for the Study and Promotion of Autonomy (IEPA) at URACCAN university in Nicaragua and presenter of Building Our Wellbeing Together, Canal 5’s fortnightly Afro-descendant issues programme, and Roberto Zurbano, activist, literary critic, researcher at Casa de las Americas, Cuba. Hosted in association with the film festival Africa in Motion, the second day will culminate with a selection of films curated by the Network steering committee and Africa in Motion. A featured strand of the festival will also include works curated by the Network.

Proposals are sought for presentations – 20-minute academic papers, 10-minute position presentations, roundtables – which engage with the topic of Afro-Latin film and media and which are invested in expanding the networks of collaboration between UK-based initiatives and the Latin American participants in the Network. We are particularly interested in interventions that highlight the power and possibility of comparative and transnational solidarities; however, participants should be aware that the official languages of the event will be BOTH Spanish and English. Please indicate whether or not you are able to work in both Spanish and English.

Expressions of interest and a brief outline of the proposed contribution should be sent no later than 15 September 2017 to the organisers Julie Cupples and Charlotte Gleghorn at:

afrolatinresearch@gmail.com

We can offer a small number of bursaries of up to £100 for participants. Please indicate whether you would like to be considered for a bursary and the likely amount you wish to apply for. If you don’t need a bursary or only need a part bursary (because you live in or close to Edinburgh and/or you have somewhere to stay), do let us know as that will help with our planning. For approved expenses to be reimbursed, we will need official receipts for travel fares and/or accommodation.