Saturday, October 4, 2008

Reflections of Trip to Black communities in Ecuador

Reflections of Trip to Ecuador

I wanted to take a moment while it is fresh in my mind, to share a few reflections of my trip to Ecuador.

The purpose of my trip was the 6 month report back of the Commission of the Red de Mujeres Afro and also to learn more about the Black community in Ecuador.

Once again, it superseded my expectations. I continue to be moved by a group of amazing Black women from Latin America, the Caribbean and the US. The commitment to improve the lives of our communities, to tell our history in our own words, continues to bring clarity in the work that we do that, as Dona Berta from Honduras says, is our mission.

Our ancestors were present, as I think they always are when this group comes together. We had many difficulties arriving to Ecuador. Yet, once we were all together, the energy, love and ache of each woman, created a safe space for all to say, I'm good.

I was moved to tears during our visit to the Black communities in Valles del Chota. This is truly a special place. You sense such a strong presence of the ancestors that at times it became overwhelming. I had recently participated on a panel with Jose Chala of the Chota community. His passion and dedication to his community was heard and felt. To be then given the opportunity to connect his words to a real place was moving. During this visit we all kept saying, "It is the same picture." You can take Chota and place it in Colon, Roxbury and New Orleans.

This community is 500 years old. Some of the names, Juncal which is were Ecuador's star soccer player Agustine Delgado grew up. Dona Barbarita who is from the area shared that, they play on the dirt fields with poles with no net as the goals. It is now since the players who mostly come from this area have brought some attention to the country, that they are now paying attention to the area. We stopped in Mascarilla which makes beautiful African mask. We learned about Martina Carillo one of the first Black female heroes. They are 38 communities in this area. They are working on the land to create an income. The River Chota runs through the entire area.

This community has preserved their African roots. It is in their faces, clothing, and their resiliency to keep moving. I saw the most beautiful faces. Young boys that looked like my nephews and women who looked like my grandmother. The food was so fresh and smelled so good, you wanted to take your time and enjoy every bite.

I then ask myself and ask you to reflect, How can we all not be connected? Why is the connection so clear and visible to some and not to others? Why are we not doing more together?

It is truly a blessing to be given the opportunity to visit Black communities in Latin America. I then think it is my responsibility to share these experiences with you. To share our common history.

This trip also validated the use of the word Encuentro and the many meanings it carries, in Spanish. The gathering, acknowledging, connecting, the seeing who we really are. That is Encuentro Diaspora Afro. I look forward to sharing more about this trip and I thank you for your continued support.

ache, Yvette

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