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Posts Tagged ‘solidarity’


Wednesday, January 14th, 2009



What do they do?

Avaaz.org is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. The aim of Avaaz.org is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decisions. Avaaz.org members act for a more just and peaceful world and a globalisation with a human face.

How can I get involved?

Sign up! – Avaaz’s online community has grown to over 3.2 million members in just over one year. It represents people from all nations, backgrounds, and ages. The core of their model of organizing is their email list, operated in 13 languages. By signing up to receive their alerts, you are rapidly alerted to urgent global issues and opportunities to achieve change. Avaaz members respond by rapidly combining the small amounts of time or money they can give into a powerful collective force. In just hours they can send hundreds of thousands of messages to political leaders telling them to save a crucial summit on climate change , hold hundreds of rallies across the world calling for action to prevent a genocide, or donate hundreds of thousands of euros, dollars and yen to support nonviolent protest in Burma.

Mapuche, the people of life

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

By Gonzalo Garcés
Translated by AJ McDougall

Mapuche CeremonyThe Mapuche, are a people originally from the south of Latin America, whose name means “people or persons of the earth”, and whose worldview has been intimately connected to the natural environment. It is said that “Mapu à‘uke”, or Mother Nature, has given the Mapuche culture and society the knowledge they possess. This knowledge is transmitted through conversation in sacred places of the natural world linking Mapuche to the earth and to family.

SnakeEvery part of the natural world, including human beings and the dead, possess a spirit. Amongst them there are caring and guiding spirits of nature. For example, stones and serpents have an important role in the Mapuche way of life. Even now, the Mapuche ask permission to pass through certain places that are considered sacred. On such occasions, the Mapuche people take time to appreciate these places and ask for the protection of the earth and their families, as part of their attempts to overcome the unfortunate realities for their people.

The sacred places, such as the paliwe and the nguillatuwe, are spaces where the Mapuche pray, give thanks, and share with the spirits their desire to see them respected and to see the Mapuche culture survive.

The history of the Mapuche people is a history full of battles in defense of the earth. These battles have continued for more than 500 years, since the attempted takeover of the area by the Inka and the Spanish, and later the battles against the genocide attempts of Chilean and Argentinean governments at the end of the 19th Century. These attempts have not ceased, and Mapuche FarmlandChile and Argentina have increased their efforts to transform their culture into spitting images of Western society. Big business has also appeared on the scene. These businesses have claimed — and continue to claim — to those same governments that Mapuche land would be better utilised through the development of economic projects such as single-crop forestation. Yet they do so without planning nor providing for the harmful effects on both human and environmental health.

Historically a system of private property did not exist on “Mapuche territory”. There weren’t any fences nor were there extensive plantations of single-crop forestation like that which exists today, but instead the people were free to roam. They could take freely whatever was needed for the continued sustenance of Mapu à‘uke.

Mapuche DanceThe Chilean government has, throughout history, pushed through “social integration policies” which have attempted to destroy the unique customs of the Mapuche people, and in this way the Mapuche social organisation has been twisted and modified through the imposition of unknown and destructive social models. These politicians, who are not part of the Mapuche culture or way of life, do not understand or value the traditional lifestyles of the Mapuche people, instead imposing new lifestyles upon them.

This is but a brief snapshot of the relationship the Mapuche people have with the state and big business.

There currently exists a situation which is worrying. Seven Mapuche political prisoners are on a hunger strike that has recently reached 42 days. The strikers are our Mapuche peà±i (brothers) and lamgnen (sister). They are striking for: the freedom of all Mapuche political prisoners throughout various Chilean jails; demilitarisation and an end to the oppression of various roaming Mapuche communities so that they can exercise their political and territorial rights; and an end to the political-judicial conspiracies against Mapuche organisers and leaders.

Mapuche ManTo speak of Mapuche political prisoners, and to speak of their ethnic, political, and territorial demands, has been criminalised by the Chilean government, placing the interests of big business over and above those of the Mapuche communities involved. Because of these events, Chile has received international condemnation and many recommendations to end the criminalization of the Mapuche people. One such recommendation came from the UN’s Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

Mapuche men and women are not the violent people they are made out to be by the government through their utilisation of the media. The continued struggle of our Mapuche brothers and sisters tells us that they are not ready to renounce that which is most precious and beautiful to them: the earth, la mapu.


You can find more information on how to support the Mapuche cause at:

You can sign a petition to President Michelle Bachelet and the Chilean Government led by at

Gonzalo Garcés is from Chile and is an Oxfam International Youth Partner. He recently attended Kaleidescope in Sydney, check out Pip Bennett’s article on her experience at this event.

All photos are from www.mapuche-nation.org

Beyond fair trade - brewing hope

Friday, April 7th, 2006

Grace Leung
hand holding green coffee beans
The Fair Trade movement has been growing significantly over the years and many more cafes and shops now sell fair trade coffee. However, a campus group at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, called “Brewing Hope” works to take a step beyond fair trade by creating relationships between consumers and the communities which grow and harvest their coffee. Brewing Hope buys coffee directly from the autonomous, Zapatista-affiliated coffee cooperative Yachil in Chiapas, Mexico. Taking Fair Trade a step further, Brewing Hope organizes exchanges programs. It brings coffee farmers and cooperative members from Chiapas to Ann Arbor to teach communities about their struggles for autonomy and freedom. Conversely, Brewing Hope brings delegates from Ann Arbor to Chiapas to learn about the stories behind their daily cup of joe.

In July 2005, I was one of 12-person delegation to visit San Cristobal de las Casas and nearby communities in Chiapas.

Our visit included meeting with local and international social and economic justice groups ranging from Chiapas Peace House (an organization that supports overseas volunteers) to CEDICI (a research and advocacy group that investigates into the Mexican military’s oppression of autonomous communities). We visited a vocational training school for indigenous youth so we could see how the next generation acquires skills to bring back to their communities, so that they may be autonomous and independent of government agencies.
4 mexican coffee farmers
We were also fortunate enough to stay the night in Chixilon with a community affiliated with Las Abejas, a non-violent group with similar principles to the Zapatistas. In accordance with the community’s needs, we brought with us medical supplies and other provisions to improve their water storage system. We also visited Acteal, a community who lost 45 members to an attack by paramilitaries, with the aid of the Mexican military, in 1997. It is highly likely that the attack was a response to the community’s quest for autonomy and independence from a corrupt government. We were all deeply inspired by the determination for true justice, and rebellious dignity of the people that we met at Acteal.

One particular woman at Acteal, who had introduced us to the women’s handicraft cooperative, recounted the murder of her brother and father in the 1997 massacre. Speaking only her native tongue of Tzetzal at the time, the event provoked her to learn Spanish, make contacts in nearby cities and organize a women’s handicrafts cooperative to revive and bring economic independence to her community.

Despite the benefits of Fair Trade, many potentials remain to be fulfilled. Indeed, despite getting the certified fair trade price of US$1.26 per pound of unroasted coffee beans, the community that we visited must still walk up to 2 hours to the nearest source of marginally potable water in the dry season. Moreover, with the global price of coffee rising, Fair Trade prices are beginning to be less lucrative for farmers, many of whom are tempted to avoid the processes of fair trade and cooperative participation and selling to middlemen (locally called coyotes) instead. Although in the short term, this means less work for the farmers, it leads to the loss of their Fair Trade certification and leaves them vulnerable to the price fluctuations determined by the coyotes.

Because of the recovering prices of conventional coffee on the international market, the next few years will be testing for the Fair Trade communities to continue to comply with the Fair Trade regulations. Many communities also face labour shortages due to the migration of young people to urban areas in search of waged labour. These were some of the concerns that the community shared with us that consumers usually give limited thought

The delegation provided a valuable opportunity for a reciprocal interaction between consumers and coffee growers, the complexities of which go far beyond a cup of coffee. Visits like ours are a small but significant way of showing solidarity with people struggling for justice and freedom. Perhaps this is a future direction for the Fair Trade movement, one in which the consumer looks beyond the latte in their hands and indeed, all goods, creating a new global economy which brings consumers and producers together in the fight for justice and sustainability.


Read more about Brewing Hope

Find out which cafes near you use fair trade coffee

Learn more about Fair Trade from Trade Aid and the Fair Trade Assosciation of Australia and New Zealand