Cucapa camp report: The first month
March 28, 2007
Together with the adherent family to The Other Campaign and members of the community it was decided to construct a space for the camp as well as for use of the community.
We first leveled an area of 40 by 45 meters using a tractor that by it’s age and condition didn’t provide the results we anticipated but it was good enough to be able to finish the rest by hand and then add a layer of 4 – 6 inches of sand to provide a cushion for those camping out.
Items such as 3 latrines, a shower (2 more to come) and a sink have been installed as well as a small fence in order to provide some space for cars to be parked.
Finally we built a pavilion that is 6 meters wide by 18 meters in length that provides some much needed shade as well as a common area for all to use. A community kitchen is being built alongside the pavilion in order to accommodate the camp participants with a space for cooking.
During this process the family has opened it’s doors and we have shared food, words, hopes, traditions, customs, laughter, stress, struggles but more than anything they have showed us what El Mayor is about such as it’s sacred spaces it’s history and that which comes from each person as well as all those places.
Those deeds that are usually overlooked.
At first the community was distant because they mentioned over and over that people always came to help but never really did anything or ever returned.
This we already understood because it was something the family and many of us spoke about at length but there was much work to be done and little by little people from the community began to integrate themselves in the work and interact with all of us here at the camp. The family of Francisco and Susana has put in lots and lots of work and it is their house that seems to be the focal point of the community because people from the community go there to borrow coffee, sugar, a tomato and basically any such thing.
The youth from the beginning took part and helped out but more of them come here now and help out in whatever they can and now they themselves are starting to initiate activities and asking us to participate in them.
Some of the women here provide us with fresh hand made tortillas and other such things for our meals but of course we make sure they are compensated for their work because we’re here to help things blossom and not be another burden on the community. They too have now started to help out with the camp. Overall the parents have been the last ones to partake in all of this but since they have started helping out the work here has progressed at a faster pace.
The kids also come and help. They are really interested in what’s going on and there is this 11 year old boy who resembles the doughboy that from day 1 has come here daily to help and he says he learns more here at the camp than at school and the progress shows that even his own teacher has recognized it but to keep him from getting in trouble with his mom we ask him to go to school and learn what he can because if he doesn’t he can’t help out at the camp.
Our commitment has been and will be to support the indigenous communities in defense of life, culture and mother nature: below and to the left.
The call out made by Comisión 6xta is to support our brothers and sisters in existing in manner they chose too
and in this case for the Cucapá it’s by fishing. Since we have been here and prior to the camp we earned a sense of trust with the community and we have found out a great deal of things such as the problem of repression and people taking advantage of the community. The struggle for water is the same that Zapata fought for on land.
Before any member of the community of El Mayor can go out and fish they must first secure a buyer who then in turn loans them money to buy the necessities such as gas, fishing nets and other items. If there are no buyers then there is no reason to go fish because well they rather it remains in the ocean than it spoil on land. In this scenario the buyer has the upper hand and sets the price for the fish which range from $.90 – $1.50 per kilo in which the buyer then sells it at $6 – $8 dollars on the market.
Storage is the key here because it’s a hot area. If the community can store their catch while they arrange for a better selling price it will help them take the steps needed for self sufficiency and autonomy. With help from many people and searching for the right type of cold storage container we finally tracked one down and acquired this much needed utility so that they one day reach the point of controlling how and who they sell too and put an end to the buyers taking advantage of the community.
The day came to go out on the first moon tide and so we accompanied the community’s cooperative which consist of 17 members but only 4 boats which they share. All the supporters camping here broke up into two groups in order to help aid with the fishing. The first group accompanied the Cucapá in their boats equipped with digital & video cameras as well as gloves to protect their hands from the nets and the second formed a surveillance team on the beach that as soon as the boats returned with its catch helped in loading the fish from the boats onto pick up trucks. From there it was straight to the community to gut, clean and ice the fish and get it ready to be loaded onto the buyer’s semi truck.
(National Indigenous Congress)
On March 13 the brother Alfred Ozuna representing the body of elders from the Mayo-Yoreme of Sonora arrived at El Mayor and after speaking with the family and analyzing the situation here he opted for working hands on in the camp installation despite his age and ailments. He took part in accompanying the community during the fishing expeditions and every task that comes up he has taken to picking up the machete and putting in work.
It’s been such a blessing to have him around because he embraces the youth in ways that we don’t usually see from elders and when he speaks he catches everyone’s attention because of his wisdom and his poetic words.
Less than a week ago two more members of the CNI joined the camp and added to the mix of wisdom being passed onto all of us and that along with out nightly gatherings of sharing stories, songs and experiences has enriched this camp that much more by having them here with us.
So much hard work deserves a little bit of recognition and celebration and what we are doing is having daily circles in which everyone even those just arriving at the camp can express how they feel and why they are here. Everything is open and everything is transparent.
When we can and get the chance we let ourselves be carried away by the youth and partake in their activities.
Due to the nature of us documenting our work here and the reality of the community, the youth here have taken to certain interest that existed before we arrived but through all this they have been able to more easily ask to borrow our cameras and video cameras so that they can capture how they see their reality and this camp. At night we usually gather around with the community and tell stories, jokes, sing songs, etc and through this type of exchange we have been able to facilitate workshops based on the youth’s interests such as music workshops (guitar, cajon, bongo & birembau), video and digital camera use and capoeira.
Some of us at night while everything else is going on have taken to tutoring the kids in math, reading & writing and not because we came here to do this but because the kids have seen that we are able and willing to provide them the attention and care that the mediocre educational system that has been imposed doesn’t and won’t provide.
The youth have shown us the community inside and out and there is a special place for them called La Poza that the sun hasn’t managed to dry out or the gringo managed to steal. It’s a small hidden wash surrounded by tule and salted pine that creates a lagoon type hideaway that serves as their getaway.
As expected soccer here is an important part of the community and the youth has a team that plays against other nearby communities. Some of us have taken part in their games and they have even asked one of us here to be their technical director (coach).
Several videos have been shown here at the camp and one specifically called 1932 that the brother from El Salvador shared with the community and after the showing there was a brief discussion about the film. We hope to continue these types of movie nights.
During our time here people have come and left something here before they leave be it food, walkie talkies, hope, joy, tears anything in support of the camp but one of the most vital things has been the reconnecting of relations between indigenous communities and one specific exchange took place here with Wambley a veteran of the American Indian Movement who was a bodyguard to Dennis Banks whose nephew Dujon Banks also was in attendance. Present as well were Xican@s, Don Alfredo of the Mayo-Yereme, Mario of Pipil origin from El Salvador and of course the Cucapá. All shared experiences but especially those of rebellion.
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