This will be the first piece in a new aspect of MN Mic called “MN Speaks”, highlighting pieces written by Minnesotan spoken word performers. Spoken word performers are asked to send a link to the text, video, or audio of the poem; a brief discussion of the piece and its inspiration; and a bio of themselves including where in MN they’re from.
This piece by Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria will be the first in a series featuring “political pieces”, which will run for the rest of June and for July. Writing is a powerful part of recording and also impacting history, and the spoken word medium is no exception. There’s a whole lot going on in the world right now, and we’re also looking at pieces that address political action from the past. See the MN Speaks page over on the right side of the MN Mic page for all the details on how to submit your pieces.
For The Homeland (A Poem for Bagua), by Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria. Rodrigo is “a Peruano in MN. Writing and working, living and learning. Teaching and Yearning. Word to big bird.” He lives in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul.
On June 5th, the culmination of months of organizing by the indigenous people of the Amazon in Peru turned violent when the government of Peru and its president Alan Garcia approved a law that the gave the right to sell a percentage of Amazon land to oil companies with the argument that those lands belong to all Peruvians and that it would create jobs. But those lands have been indigenous land. If you take the land away from indigenous you take away their culture. People have learned from events like Chevron Texaco and its destruction of land in the Amazon in Ecuador. Also, a week before in Cuzco, Peru, the IV Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of the Abya Yala was held. The issue of land and oil companies were addressed by leaders Pizango and Santiago Manuin who spoke about what was at stake for them. Once the law was passed there were protests in Bagua in which the military were sent, and where the confrontation and deaths happened. Indigenous people and military personnel were lost, and at this time there are still 250 indigenous people missing. Many accounts state that there are mass graves and that the military was throwing bodies in the river. None of these accounts cannot be verified due to the restriction imposed by the Peruvian government, but they can’t be denied either.
The Peruvian president many times went on national tv and called the indigenous people savages and terrorists and second class citizens. Many, and I mean many, protests happened in Lima and other parts of the world. Eventually, the international pressure as well the relentless spirit of the people of Bagua led to the the prime minister to resign, to the president to apologize and the law to be repealed.
What made me write this poem was the anguish of been not able to be there to help out. Also my frustration with the government. When I left Peru, Alan Garcia was sending the country into a economic downfall, he was also facing accusations of human rights crimes. He fled Peru and hid in Paris for 10 years. He then came back and ran for president and won because many of the people had forgotten what he had done. What also made me write was the love for my people. I have had the great opportunity to spend time and converse with members of the Ese Eja community in the Amazon due to my mother’s work. I also respect and I am proud of my indigenous heritage handed down by my parents. So the issue of indigenous rights has always been part of my upbringing.
I wrote this poem to show people my feelings of what was happening in Bagua, to bring to light through my words my feelings and anguish and to educate people about the effects of Free Trade. I also wanted to write to the people who, like me, are not there but still feel that connection to the homeland and to pay homage to the leaders of this event and to those who remind me of where I come from and why I write.
I had been meaning to sit on this poem a little longer, but when I saw Alan Garcia talk on national tv, I knew this poem had to be let loose.
The fight is not over, indigenous people who work the mines in Peru are beginning to organize to confront wage and safety violations.
After receiving this from Rodrigo, he posted a link to this article entitled Living in Peru, with the comment, “I think the govt in Peru is learning.”