Quick Hit: Mayan Women Fought Monsanto—And Won

dsc_3884There’s nothing like an indigenous victory against Monsanto to make my heart sing. Unless it’s by indigenous women, then my heart grows wings.

“For months, indigenous women in Guatemala have been protesting against a tough foe: biotech giant Monsanto. Last month, the country’s indigenous-led social movement won a major victory when the congress voted to repeal the so-called “Monsanto Law.”


The Monsanto Law would have granted exclusive ownership rights of a few genetically modified seeds to a handful of transnational companies. Social organizations in Guatemala claimed that the new law violated the Constitution and the Mayan peoples’ right to traditional cultivation of their land in their ancestral territories. Corn is integral to the history and culture of indigenous people in Guatemala, explains human right activist and member of the Mayan Peoples Council Lolita Chávez. “Corn taught us Mayan people about community life and its diversity, because when one cultivates corn one realizes that there is a variety of crops such as herbs and medical plants depending on the corn plant as well,” says Chavez. “The corn shows us how to resist and how to relate with the surrounding world.”

Read the rest of the article on Bitch.

08. October 2014
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Conference Addresses Fisherwomen’s Rights in Brazil


In case you didn’t hear, the (Brazilian) National Conference of Fisherwomen (ANP) will be taking place this year in Paraná, Brazil. The conference will gather over 100 groups of fisherwomen from throughout Brazil, representatives of the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment and Fishing to discuss the health risks associated with the fishing industry and the specific rights of people working in the industry.

What are some of the hazards of feeding Brazil’s pescatarians? Fisherpeople* – people who work in the fishing industry – have to deal with constant sun exposure and long days of physical labor. Many also suffer from frequent contact with polluted waters, just another reminder of why environmental degradation has everything to do with social justice and feminism: it usually affects the most marginalized populations, who may have few resources to fight back against it. In general, fisherpeople work in hazardous conditions with very little protection from the state.  Continue Reading →

01. October 2014
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Lately in Environment and Land Rights in Latin America

An indigenous looking woman wearing a long dress rands in front of a field. Next to her are two small children.

Image Credit

Around the world, women – particularly indigenous women and women of color – are consistently excluded and prevented from owning land, controlling land use, or even living safely and comfortably on the land. Time and time again, we see that the effects of pollution, mining, natural disasters and mega projects that hurt the environment tend to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. Here are a few happenings that are affecting women in the environmental justice movements throughout the Americas:

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18. September 2014
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On Feministing: Violence Against Afro-Latinxs


My last two posts on Feministing focused on the African diaspora throughout the Americas. Here are a few excerpts:

Like in the US, Black women in Brazil face racist state violence

The violent policing of low-income communities of color speaks closely to what is happening in Ferguson, reminding us that though racism looks different throughout the Americas, the legacies of slavery and white supremacy continue to threaten Black and brown lives in similar ways. In Brazil, about 2,000 people are killed by law enforcement every year, most of them Black or dark-skinned, many of them women. And in the same way that state violence against young men has a color, in Brazil, six in ten women murdered are Black. Last month, Joana Darc Brito was shot in a favela in Rio de Janeiro and died en route to the hospital.  Maria de Fátima dos Santos and her daughter Alessandra de Jesus were executed in an ally. Claudia Silva Ferreira was shot by law enforcement back in March, and died after falling out of their car and being dragged for two blocks.

Continue Reading →

11. September 2014
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Which Afro-Latinxs Deserve Reparations?


I’m really enjoying Roque Planas’ two part series for Huffington Post on the current growth of – and pushback against – quilombos in Brazil. These communities are said to be the descendants of runaway slaves, and if recognized officially by the Brazilian government are granted protected land. In a country where land ownership dictates class – and women of color own a tiny percentage of land – this is no small offer.

Critics of the government’s new program argue that people are trying to take advantage of it by falsely claiming that they are quilomberos. However, it’s almost impossible to be Black in Brazil and not have ancestors who were slaves. If quilombos are a small form of reparations, as Roque Planas argues, then don’t all those whose families were enslaved in a brutal system of oppression and violence deserve to access them, whether or not their ancestors managed to escape?

Here’s an excerpt from the first piece, but be sure to check out both.

By and large, black Brazilians live in the worst housing and attend the poorest schools. They work the lowest-paid jobs, and they disproportionately fill the jail cells of the world’s fourth largest prison system. This lopsided state of affairs, Afro-Brazilian intellectuals and the country’s social scientists largely agree, is a result of racial discrimination with roots in the country’s history of slavery.

Brazil has never experienced anything akin to the U.S. civil rights movement or South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. But the quilombo movement, while still in its infancy, is challenging Brazil’s deeply ingrained racial inequality. Ratified in 1988 after a two-decade-long military dictatorship, Brazil’s constitution states that residents of quilombos are entitled to a permanent, non-transferable title to the land they occupy — something analogous to the United States’ Native American reservations, minus the self-government.

Now, more than 1 million black Brazilians are calling upon the government to honor their constitutional right to land. Among them are Luiz Pinto and his family, who have fended off decades of eviction attempts and managed to remain ensconced in their quilombo, known as Sacopã, in a neighborhood gentrified long ago by wealthier, whiter Brazilians.

10. September 2014
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Secure Communities Doesn’t Reduce Crime & No One Is Surprised

Well would you look at that. A new study conducted by two law professors reaffirms what we’ve been saying all along: that tearing families and communities apart under the guise of crime reduction has “no observable effect” on crime rates.

More specifically, the professors argue that the government program known as Secure Communities is not achieving its central goal. The program was started under the Bush administration to allow the Department of Homeland Security to obtain information about individuals who have been apprehended or come into contact with local law enforcement agencies. The argument was that it would help the federal government to find and deport more violent criminals.  Continue Reading →

04. September 2014
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Women being deported back to life-threatening conditions in Latin America are fighting back

A prison guard frisks a female detainee before embarking onto a bus to be taken to the airport at Willacy Detention facility in Raymondville, Texas on December 18, 2008 early morning.

My post on Feministing this week covers the treatment that migrant women are facing as detainees in my “land of the free,” aka the United States of America.

Last week, civil rights groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of migrant mothers and children being held in a detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, arguing that they were being denied a fair deportation process. According to the complaint, “Plaintiffs have an indisputable right to seek asylum and related relief, and to a fair hearing to present their claims.” They also have the right to legal counsel.
But there a number of barriers standing in the way of that theoretical right. How is it possible to access anything when Artesia is 200 miles from the nearest city? One cannot claim one’s right to legal counsel when there are no legal service providers in New Mexico who are funded to represent people in detention centers. Currently, detainees are being served by volunteer lawyers who fund themselves to travel to Artesia and support these women. When women are forced to recount their horrific experiences with violence and rape in front of her children, or next to strangers she does not know, how accurate can her statements be? After hearing their stories, how can anyone possibly argue that they are a national security threat?

Read the rest of the post.



31. August 2014
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