The Caravan for water and an environmentalism of the peoples

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By: Raúl Romero*

Don Panchito turned 79 in January of this year. Doña Gloria is 62 and is an indigenous Nahua. Don Panchito and Doña Gloria live in the state of Puebla and are partners in life and struggle. Together they tell various stories of resistances in which they have participated. In recent decades they fought against the expansion of several highway sections that the precious governor Mario Marín promoted under the pretext of “detonating” the Hermanos Serdán international airport. They also fought against the privatization of water that the former PAN governor Rafael Moreno Valle undertook, a business that greatly benefited Grupo Hermes, of the Hank Rhon family.

For several years, Don Panchito and Doña Gloria have been part of the struggle against the Morelos Integral Project (PIM), in particular against the gas pipeline that passes through volcanic areas of Puebla and with which it is sought to carry gas to the thermoelectric plants iun Morelos. There they met Samir Flores Soberanes, their compañero in struggle, murdered in February 2020. The PIM, we must remember, is a project that would start to be promoted with Felipe Calderón, resumed in the six-year term of Enrique Peña Nieto and also promoted now by the government of López Obrador.

On March 22, 2021, Don Panchito and Doña Gloria heard on the radio that several people were blocking the accesses to the transnational Bonafont plant, in the municipality of Juan C. Bonilla, in Puebla, and decided to go to show solidarity with the mobilization. Doña Gloria explains the reasons for the takeover as follows: “We had a lot of problems with water, the wells no longer had a sufficient supply. They started to discuss it among the community and they saw that Bonafont was stealing water from them with the government’s permission. So, they started to organize and decided, on March 22, to occupy Bonafont.” With simple words, Doña Gloria makes the scope of their fight clear: “This struggle is not just for us, it’s for humanity,” and she concludes: “We know that they also steal water from them in Europe, we also tell them to run them out of there. Those businessmen, who are big capitalists, it’s necessary that they stop screwing around with our lands and our water.”

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Adverse to the nationalist discourse that the federal government encourages, on February 15, 2022 the National Guard was sent to evict and dismantle the Altepelmelcalli, or House of the Peoples, a species of de community center that the occupants had constructed over the Bonafont ruins. The National Guard thus placed itself at the service of a transnational, of protecting private property, that of the plant over water, over the common good.

The occupation of the Atepelmelcalli on the National Guard’s part was a hard blow against the peoples and organizations that with so much effort and creativity maintained the occupation for 11 months and managed to stop the looting of water. But it wasn’t lethal. The seeds of rebellion were already planted.

During various gatherings of peoples, communities and organizations in struggle that were held in the Altepelmelcalli, the idea of communicating, linking and making visible the various processes of defense of territory, water and life that exist in the country grew. The idea of promoting the Caravan for life and water was born like that. Peoples united against capitalist dispossession, an initiative that began last March 22 and that for 34 days will tour eight of the country’s states: Puebla, Veracruz, Guerrero, Querétaro, Morelos, Ciudad de México, Tlaxcala and Oaxaca. The entire initiative is self-managed, organized withy resources of the very same peoples and organizations that participate in this articulation and that also appeal to the solidarity of those who sympathize with the cause (http://caravana.pueblosunidosporlavida.org/).

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As its name says, the caravan is not against such or so government, it’s against capitalist dispossession and the governments that sustain it. It is against that destruction that they disguise as progress. The environmentalism of the peoples, which is constructed from below and to the left, invites us to change the questions: development for who and at what cost? It proposes a struggle of a civilizational nature, for humanity and the planet. It’s not limited to deciding if it wants to be dispossessed by national and transnational companies or by the State. It breaks with that scheme.

The environmentalism of the peoples, which in Mexico is composed principally of the resistances of Native peoples and of an important participation of women –to the extent that even in academia and in popular organizations they talk more and more about eco-feminisms–, has been struggling for centuries against dispossession and capitalist accumulation. If anyone wants to investigate “where they were when,” they will find that they have been struggling there for more than 500 years.

* Sociologist

Twitter: @RaulRomero_mx

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, March 31, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/03/31/opinion/015a2pol

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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