Indigenous peoples have had to fight since colonization for their right to exist – and this is no small thing – but also to exist free of poverty, inequality, exclusion, state abandonment, institutional violence, racism, etc. On August 9, the international day of indigenous peoples was commemorated, a date to insist on their rights, to reject the dispossession of their lands and the plundering of the natural resources they guard, to remind the world that they have been part of the population most affected in the midst of the pandemic and also the least attended. In short, to insist on their citizenship.
So in the framework of this date I want to talk to you about a powerful ancestral community, which is organized to guard the peoples and their territories: The Indigenous Guard. It is not a military community, it is the same community organized to protect itself against any threat and to exercise its autonomy as a people. Indigenous and rural communities in various Latin American countries have this social organization, with more and less nuances each; Thus for example Ecuador, Mexico and Peru – the latter has the peasant rounds, precisely one of them belonged to the current president of the country, Pedro Castillo -.
However, I want to tell you about an Indigenous Guard that, by sharing origin, I have seen many causes fight throughout my life: the Colombian Indigenous Guard. To tell you about it, I must briefly put you in context. As of the 1991 constitution, indigenous communities were granted jurisdiction and autonomy within their territories. In Colombia –according to the National Indigenous Organization- there are 102 peoples, which are 3.4% of the population, approximately 1,378,884 indigenous people who are organized into committees, associations, etc. The Guard was born in the Cauca region in 2000 and is made up of around 60,000 people –according to the Cauca Regional Indigenous Committee-. I am going to tell you that few things make me feel as much strength, admiration and respect at the same time as her. It is made up of boys, girls, women and men of all ages, whose work is voluntary.
It is a body of civil resistance that protects and disseminates its ancestral culture. The only thing they carry to do so is their “chonta” or baton of command, which is covered with an enormous symbolic value of authority, it is the materialization of the mandate that their community has given them; but also a spiritual power capable of balancing whoever carries it, giving them the necessary skills to be a guard. It is an organization with humanitarian and peace-building functions. It intervenes in the liberation of kidnapped people, participates in the search for the disappeared in the massacres, prevents the recruitment of girls and boys in the armed conflict, offers security in the mobilizations and events of their towns, etc.
The Guard also mobilizes against collective causes that transcend its territory and does so by following the decisions made in the “Minga”. The word “Minga” alludes to a form of collaborative, group, community work that in fact is not exclusively used by indigenous people but also by the rural population. I remember, for example, that in my grandparents’ town the community called Mingas to fix the roads because the State never did, or to fix the house for a neighbor. Even at home when I was a child, my mother to motivate the deep cleaning work at the weekend, she told me that we were going to do a Minga to make the house beautiful and of course, that sounded like teamwork to me so I was motivated .
The Minga is then the entire indigenous community, whose associative work transcended the social and political incidence in the face of the urgency to intervene in the face of constant human rights violations and there within that Minga is the Guard. Her participation in the social mobilizations of recent months in Colombia has been decisive and for this reason she has been attacked with firearms by paramilitary groups, violated by the police and criminalized by the State. When the Minga appears in the demonstrations, hope is rekindled, it is like a huge shot of energy, you can imagine that it is like in the movies when battles are lost and reinforcements arrive out of nowhere and suddenly music with an air of triumph sounds. . A meme was circulating online that read “Every time I see that the Minga joins the strike (protest), it seems that the Avengers are joining.” Well that, likewise.
On the 9th, I listened to the Anthem of the Guard several times and shared it on my networks, yes, it has an anthem, one that is a true declaration of intent and a symbol of resistance and the fight for rights – the one that motivated me to write this column-. Each word that is said there has a unique power and that is that for the indigenous people the word is an ancestral force, the word is woven and the word is walked. Which means that it is something like giving value to the agreements through dialogue and also recognizing the other in their truth. So today I came to weave a word with you, to walk it too, because this is also my truth, because I am a mestizo and Amazonian woman who speaks from what she has learned, whose indigenous blood runs through her veins, that is why every time I listen to it, -I don’t even know how many times I’ve done it-, I can’t help my eyes watering up and I remember how much history, resistance and example there is in them and I couldn’t keep this beauty all to myself , which, far from being the typical military march with a solemn tone, is made of dance music, enjoyable and a source of enormous wisdom:
“The earth knows, the earth thinks
Guard, Guard, strength, strength
guardians of life, guardians of the planet
of this wounded land, of this land of ours ”
So with you: the hymn of the Indigenous Guard. Enjoy it!
“Guard! Strength! For my race, for my land.”