“Our language indicates conscious decision about who we want to talk to”.
Donna Hightower Langston
How do I write to you all at once: old and new friends, family – each one different, my past and present lovers, my old colleagues, fellow rising tide and espacio participants, and people who I’ve maybe never shared an intimate space with but are curious as to what I am doing in Colombia.
You play a part in shaping me as I am. Each of you has your own past which has shaped the reality of how your/the world. I want to share with each of you what it means for me to be here in Colombia, but my words could builds walls between you and me. Perhaps they already have.
I have nurtured and grown my own evolving political ideas in my reality in the UK. I have clashed with you, oppositional thinking has dominated. Yet I also know that there are places where we meet and smile together.
Now in Colombia, my political ideas will continue to mature as I experience, participate, reflect and have periods of clarity. I want to share this process with you. I dream my words create a bridge of understanding between peoples’ lives here and your life.
My words may get tough to relate to. I ask you not to become defensive, or to see only difference but; to go beyond the differences and look for common ground. I ask myself to do the same.
And so I tentatively search for words to describe to you only one week’s worth of newness. I have spent the week since I arrived in Bogota, capital of Colombia and home to 8 million people.
Life for people here appears either the same or very different to yours – depending on how much money you have. As I walk the streets sorting out boring admin stuff, I see people dressed as diversely as I would in bristol, I see people selling sweets and cigarettes on the street, bored looking police on duty outside shopping centres, banks, monuments. I see Mercedes and hand pulled carts laden with fruit.
I hear the chorus of car horns as vehicles swerve in and out of each other, avoiding the buses that stop to pick you wherever you want, I hear the sound of guitars practicing Nirvana songs from garage doors.
I hear people asking me so politely for money to buy some food for themselves. I struggle to look her in the eye as I feel powerless to change her world with a few pesos, but yet I want her to know she is not invisible.
And I smell mainly bakeries, roast chicken and trafffic fumes.
Daily normality for people in the capital city.
While this goes on in the city, I have been taking part in other events: the Andean Forum against Large Scale Mining where people from all over Latin American came together to talk about how the mining industry affects them. This declaration emerged from the event.
What I found inspiring about the forum, and there was several things that weren’t, was that it brought together indigenous people, farming communities, small scale miners and workers in the mining industry.
Each group has their own problems with multinational mining companies: labour rights, water sources drying up, destruction of indigenous ways of life…. Each also has their own regionally specific vision of what kind of mining, if any, they would accept in their communities.
This difference is respected, and common ground is found – an opposition to the current situation where by the majority of people in Latin America still live in poverty despite such huge quantities of wealth beneath their homes.
And as I sat listening to so many peoples testimonies about mining and later looking at a map of Colombia which marks all the mines in operation in the country I re-remembered so quickly that everything we see around us must come from somewhere. Everything has a root, and then thrown into the pot of the market and comes out somewhere, it’s history unknown and so it often convinces me that it came from a peopleless, cultureless, nothing kind of place. At the forum I was reminded that isn’t the case.