15 August 2019; originally published 12 June 2019 in Vatican News
Authors: Manuel Cubías – Jean Charles Putzolu
Below follows an unofficial translation:
Transnational companies have often shown their contempt for the so-called Third World countries by plundering their resources. The struggles of peasants and indigenous people against these giants seem destined to fail. Not to fight would be to accept collective suicide.
The words poverty, struggle and commitment are a fundamental part of Latin American history. Many men and women have believed in them and have given their lives day by day, or definitively, to make them a reality in their countries or in their local communities.
Pablo Fajardo is one such case. A man who came from the periphery of Ecuadorian society and who wanted to serve the inhabitants of the social margins of his country.
He came to live in the middle of the world, in Ecuador. It is a South American country with 31 active volcanoes and nearly 17 million inhabitants.
Since his youth, the struggle for the defense of indigenous peoples has been present in the life of Pablo Fajardo. In 2011, together with the Union of People Affected by Texaco (UDAPT), an institution that brings together more than 30,000 people of indigenous and peasant origin, they obtained a ruling in their favor for 9,500 million dollars for social and environmental reparation.
The Texaco transnational left Ecuador and has not complied, not even today, with the legal ruling of the Sucumbíos Court. What is still present is the indelible imprint of death and contamination.
The mark of origin
In Pablo Fajardo’s own words:
“I was born on the Ecuadorian coast, in El Carmen, Manabí. We lived in the countryside, my family lived in extreme poverty. Everything we produced and ate was natural. We produced it with our labor. We ate what my father and my brothers produced.
Poverty drove us north to the province of Esmeraldas, where we were looking for better living conditions. After a few years, we migrated to the Amazon region. First it was my brothers, then my parents and me with them.
When we arrived in the Amazon, I experienced a strong contrast, because I was faced with two realities: one was the Amazon full of spirits, whispers, smells and tastes, full of heat, water, insects and animals, in short, full of life. The other Amazon was the polluted one, which had difficulties, which died.
Alongside these two contrasts were the indigenous peoples, the original peoples, who have lived here for thousands of years and whose relationship with nature, with water, with the air, with animals is much deeper. I came across the spirituality of the jungle, the trees. This is a much deeper experience. These are the memories I have of what life was. What I remember.
I am the fifth of ten siblings. My father is a peasant, now 91 years old. He never learned to read or write. I am fortunate because he is still alive. My mother is 84 years old, she also lives and is a peasant. She can only read and write a little. We all work for a living. None of my siblings managed to study at university. Unfortunately, some only managed to finish high school, others didn’t even do that. This happened for economic reasons. Because of poverty. She was the one who was determining who could and couldn’t study.
In my case, I was able to study at the university and graduate because I could count on the support of the people of my community, with the support of the Capuchin Franciscan Fathers and several villages that supported me so that I could study.
There’s one important thing I want to tell you. My father never learned to read or write. Written documents were of no value to him. Courage is given by the word. He said that documents can be broken, but that the given word cannot be broken. He saw this at every moment: when they wanted to do something, a job, they always made word agreements.
In today’s world, many things have changed: if it is not a written document, it is not valid. It would be nice if we could go back to that, so that the word really has its value and is respected by everyone!”
For further reading, in Spanish, please link here.
Call to action!
The Crowd vs. Chevron Oil Spill in Ecuador
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