Last night I went to a performance by two Honduran activists and artists on tour in Kansas City in honor of the life of Honduran Indigenous and Environmental activist Berta Cáceres. On stage beside them was a painting of Berta with the words “Volvere y Sere Millones,” meaning “I will be back, and I will be millions,” in Spanish. Melissa Cardoza is an Afro-indigenous autonomous feminist, poet and writer. Melissa’s new book is called “13 Colors of the Honduran Resistance,” and is about women resisting violent repression and finding strong and rebellious hope. Karla Lara is a feminist who voices resistance through song and writing. Together, they spoke of sisterhood, the need for equal dialogue with the people of the world, and resistance. They introduced one another as feminist comrades.
The event was hosted by the Cross Border Network, a nonprofit seeking to unite workers across borders. They take delegations to Honduras to advocate for human rights, and also fight power in the United States by advocating for policies that attempt to end the cycle of violence toward other countries.
The entire program was in Spanish, and so headphones for interpretations were passed out for the people who didn’t know Spanish. Unfortunately the headphones were not working, but the interpreter improvised and spoke on the microphone for the room instead.
Melissa and Karla dedicated the evening in honor of “all the comrades assassinated in the struggle.” They mentioned Berta Cáceres and also her coworker, Nelson Garcia, whose family was in the audience. Karla addressed Garcia’s children: “Please. That you should never stop speaking Spanish. That is the navel, the belly button of our identity.”
Berta Cáceres, a Honduran indigenous environmentalist activist, was assassinated on March 3, 2016. She was part of the organization Copinh, which is an Indigenous Lenca organization struggling for the rights of the Lenca people, including environmental, cultural, economic, social, health, education, and Indigenous rights. Berta was an anti-capitalism, anti-hierarchical, anti-patriarchal, anti-racist leader in the world.
“It is not easy to find a leader that embodies all these values together. We typically tend to focus on our own struggles, and not be intersectional. But Berta knew that all oppressors converge, therefore, the resistance should also reflect that. Because of that vision, she was assassinated by paid men,” Melissa states.
The people who assassinated Berta were paid by the construction company that was trying to build a dam over a river, and Berta was fighting against it with her community. This construction company was paid to build the dam by the government of Honduras. Berta was vocal about her persecution for years before her assassination.
“The imperialistic powers of the US financed the weapons of her death,” Melissa says. “We don’t need your money for weapons. Your money is sustaining murder and persecution of so many in Honduras.”
They mentioned that there is a misconception that Honduran people are violent, since it is the country with the highest murders in the US. Melissa says that this misconception is due to “neoliberal hate,” and it is important for her to say and denounce this perception of her people. She says that she is attempting to tell who Hondurans are through art, and rebellion. And she loves it. Karla said that they “wouldn’t trade their rebellion for anything.”
Karla sang a song about how she was told to live her life for a man when she was growing up. She married a man, had kids, and he left her. She went to her priest, and he told her to pray. She went to other women, and that’s where they all learned to be a different kind of woman, together. And that’s where love came, and it gave her the strength to be a very “mujere feliz,” (happy woman). She sings about how the women she knows are experts in surviving oppression, while taking care of so many.
The post-performance dialogue took a look at parallels between current struggles in Honduras and the U.S. Melissa says that the dictatorship had time to settle in Honduras, and it attempted to make the people think that democracy had returned. Yet, Melissa says that democracy has never been a part of Honduras while she’s been alive. She speaks about the new colonialism we see happening today, with the multinational corporations taking advantage of people and workers and influencing communities in violent ways.
There is currently the Berta Cáceres bill in Congress right now, that is seeking to stop US funding of weapons in Honduras. One woman asked the question, “how can Americans help Hondurans?” Melissa responded by saying that if American people rebel in their own country against injustice, that will help Honduras.
“This dynamic of Honduras asking for help, and Americans trying to ‘help’ needs to end. We don’t need your help, what we need is to be treated like equals, and have an equal seat at the table. Just as I as a woman want to be treated the same as a man, so I as a person from the Global South want to be treated the same as a person from the North. We want dialogue on equal levels,” Karla said.
Melissa comments that “Americans need help as well. Because you guys are really fucked.”
She goes on to explain that Americans live under a police state of surveillance, and have normalized it. She says Americans have also internalized this sense of obeying the status quo and the order.
“This cordiality in America is a distraction. ‘Excuse me,’ ‘I’m sorry.’ You never get the root of the issues. It’s learned behavior, it’s control over you. You need to rebel. In America you isolate yourselves in neighborhoods, and disrupt natural communities. It’s something I’ve noticed while being here. You think no wifi and no technology would not be a good life. But is that true?”
Melissa and Karla both speak about the emerging voices of Black and Indigenous people in the resistance in Honduras, as is happening in the US as well. These voices have always been there, but now they are actually being heard. Indigenous people were seen as ancient history and folklore before, but now they are on the front lines of the resistance, and people are realizing they exist. In Honduras the people of color were before just associated with entertainment and dancing, but now they are strong voices leading a movement as well. Melissa notes that Black and Indigenous people in Honduras have discovered that they are the most interesting part of the resistance.
In closing, Melissa spoke about her own journey to the resistance, and how she found writing to be the way that she personally could best help the movement.
“People write their own stories, and it takes the writer to take people’s stories and put them to words, and return the story to them.”
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