Someone asked me today, ‘De que color es su tierra?’ – What color is your land? Confused I asked him what he meant and he responded ‘Mi tierra es verde por todo que hay que ver’, (My land is green, for all that you see). I thought about this and could not come to a conclusion – not only becauseCanada is a four season country but because I have long stopped considering one place ‘my land’.
But this land, this land is stunning and yet there is something wrong about the picture. I continued chatting with this man, a sweet elderly man whose bakery shop is central and known to all in Rockafuerte – a small town in the parish of Rio Verde. He went on to tell me about the beauty of the land, of this there is no doubt; and of the greater number of wonders that the land produces naturally: Fruits of all varieties, natural virgin forests including mangroves and an abundance of seafood; Rio Verde is actually host to the infamous cevicangrejo (Crab ceviche). I have looked out into the forests many times, hiked on trails where nature is the only one I interact with and I have of course dived with adoration into the waves that carve out the Esmeraldas coast line – I knew what he spoke of. This land holds a kind of beauty that you never grow accustomed to, so you can’t simply ‘forget’. Everyday you need only to look out into the hills and the sea to find it. You also of course, and above all, find it in the people; like the bakery shop owner, or like the participants I had worked with today and you just know that you are in the presence of very precious and genuine people. However as I said, there is something wrong with the picture. What’s wrong is that even if the land is abundant, these communities are not receiving everything they can from it. Mostly, I learned, because they simply have not received enough training to have the skill to do so and of course there are always other forces that are more powerful than you. External actors – who assume the resources for themselves.
The people as I said are wonderful and yet I really need to discipline myself not to get disheartened when someone chooses to not participate in a personal or community development process. My point in saying this is not to sell the merits of the 100 voices project but to acknowledge the fact that being a participant in the community or a contributor to your own development is not always the most natural thing. Sometimes what is easier is to spend hours by the beach, the street, or watching television. Even if someone presents you another opportunity – you may not see it that way, as an ‘opportunity’. We are reminded that some people are not born into a go-getter society like the one I come from but that some are born into a survival society. Where all you want is to ‘ser una persona importante carajo!’ Be someone important damn it! Important not in the sense that you have a power over all others but that you have a life and work purpose that gives you meaning.
I wonder to myself why I choose to make these observations now given that the group in the community of Palestina is bigger and more gender equal than any other before. I would venture that I took note now because someone asked me today what my land looks like and in turn it made me look closer at theirs. I love what I see and because I adore this tierra verde (green land) I want to give it and its people all the attention it deserves. This asks me to look past the beautiful façade and work in the day-in day-out conflict – but I am ok with that. In fact, surprisingly comfortable because so often I get to meet wonderful souls who think their land is the most beautiful place on earth despite its defects.