Day 5 of the International Exchange: Love in Action
Today marks the three-year death anniversary of Berta Cáceres, a fierce internationally-known leader from Honduras who defended Indigenous territory and peoples from resource extraction. She was murdered on March 2, 2016, and a court ruling last November found that it was orchestrated by executives of a company that received international financing to build a hydroelectric dam on a sacred river that Berta and the members of Copinh were forcefully protesting. It is also the anniversary of her birth, March 4, 1971.
In this Intercambio are four JASS partners from Honduras, representing powerful Indigenous organizing in Lenca and Garifuna communities. They held today’s opening ritual and dedicated it to Berta, a relentless fighter who supported and inspired them. It was powerful, emotional, and painful. Through tears, they shared remembrances of her and the struggles she supported them through, making many of us realize the enormity of their sacrifice in spending these important days with us rather than with their communities. But they chose to do so because they knew that the Intercambio would be a place for them to continue carrying out the work that Berta lost her life for – building solidarity across borders.
In honor of Berta and on the last day of this part of the Intercambio, where we have been in intense multi-day exchange with local partners, it was fitting that our theme for the day was “Love in Action”. Now that we have built connections of understanding and trust, how are we going to put that into action? Given the extreme conditions in Honduras that are forcing people to leave the country and the escalation of harmful immigration policies and a militarized southern border in the United States, immigration was a good place to start.
Participants from Honduras described the violent push factors causing thousands to leave, including Hurricane Mitch, the coup deposing President Zelaya, a neoliberalism economic model anchored by resource extraction, drug and gun trafficking, human rights violations, and more. They described the pain of family members disappearing, abandoned homes in emptying communities, extreme poverty, being forced off their land, and endangering loved ones by staying and fighting. The United States, including former President Obama, is implicated in all of this.
To share more about what happens during the journey to the border and after, MEV cohort members Isa Noyola of Mijente and Monique Nguyen of Matahari Women Workers’ Center led a teach-in, challenging us to ask ourselves, “Where are we in this journey?” and how can we make intentional connections in our work between ending gender-based violence and immigrant rights and detention. Using the lens of migration and all that it is connected to, we dove deeper into making links between our work and communities and identifying opportunities for cross-border solidarity.
At the end of the day, we wound down to reflect on the last several days of the Intercambio and what people are taking with them that can continue to bear fruit. We asked ourselves more questions: How can we approach all of our work with the same love, care, and generosity that we extended to each other during this exchange? How do we use the huge collective power of women working together to deepen our strategies? How do we make the impact of these new insights and relationships bigger than just the people who were in the room? What is possible now because of our choice to be here in this Intercambio? What do we need in order to carry each other and call each other’s names even when we are not together?
And then we answered our own questions. By sharing heartfelt gifts from our communities, tangible ones like handmade Native American medicine bags but also spiritual ones like connection circles. By sharing appreciations, inspirations, and learnings. By singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow” together in English and Spanish. By dancing the night away at Frida’s, a locally- and queer-owned restaurant in Antigua. Giving and receiving. Truly seeing each other. Connecting hearts, bodies, minds. Having hard conversations. Practicing collective joy. Being in solidarity.
For Berta. ¡Presente!