Sunday, July 24, 2011
After visiting remote areas of rural San Pedro Departmen Laura and I headed to Paraguay River, where we embarked on a lazy journey up the river on board the Luz María, an old wooden boat. The Luz María was commanded by Mr. Jacquier, an 80 year old kind man who had spent 50 years of his life sailing up and down the same river. He lived, worked, dreamt and breathed the river... He was proud of the Alfa Romeo engine that propelled us, which didn't deterred butterflies from caressing its carcass as it kindly advanced...
After witnessing a scenic sunset we stayed overnight in the Luz María, before setting foot in the city of Concepción.
Fighting transgenic seeds is just the first part. Tesai Reka has gone beyond and created CEI (Centro de Educación Integral) where students receive agroecological education. The school has 30 acres of its own property.
We shared our views in a debate group formed by community radio activists, complaining recent laws limiting their power range and possibility to cashing advertisment. We were surprised to learn that university students traditionally don't get involved in social struggles sustained by oher sectors of society.
Isn’t this butterfly beautiful? Considering travel to South America? Be welcome, but also note there are social problems beyond the beauty of ruins and landscapes. Paraguay is a country where 46% of population lives below the line of poverty and 60% have no access to the health system. In this context it’s paradoxical to see Colorado party politicians complaining that the government of Lugo and social organizations hadn’t been able to heal in three years the poverty they themselves contributed to establish in the previous sixty.
Luckily for Paraguay, there are people striving to change this scenario. In San Estanislao we met the people of Tesai Reka (the search for health, in Guaraní) a foundation who has been working for over 13 years in order to bring tools and primary health attention to rural areas, empowering communities.
We stayed for nearly a week in their base at Punta Suerte, taking it as a basis to visit surrounding communities. In that way we met Ña Juana, this lady as lovely as commited with the social struggles of its people. She is trying to organize rural women into a cooperative to produce poultry.
In San Pedro Department land is concentrated in few hands. Land Reform has never reached humble farmers, while other own as much as 50,000 acres. Ña Juana tells us that in Cururubó, landless farmers managed to “recover” 1.004 acres of land from one large cattle ranch. Police force tried to withdraw them seven times they finally settled. When Brazilian farmers occupied recently 800,000 of state owned land to produce soy they were tacitly welcomed and forgiven since their massive agroindustrial activities are perceived as improvements for the land.
This is Piña Poity rural women’s league.
Farmers teach us how to chuck corn by using our thumbs as we talk and butterflies fly around, as if they were absorbing the pain and healing the wounds of Paraguayan history.