Resistencia, Convivencia, Creatividade, e Solidariedade at the Ciclovida Encontro in Brazil

Like bees
We gathered
In a swarming mass
Energy buzzing
Off each other
Vibrating through one another
With this sort of rapid, ecstatic frequency
As we sing and hum
Around the sweet scent
Of resistance

In Barra do Lemme, the home of the Ciclovida farm in northeast Brazil, it is not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by the buzzing, humming, zipping energy of bees. They seem to be everywhere: swarming around freshly cracked-open cane, curiously crawling into cups of juice, hovering over the bright colors of shirts and plants and skin. And it was that sort of bee-like buzzing energy, curiosity, and sense of community that for me was characteristic of the Ciclovida Encontro. It was a 10-day gathering of activists and ecologists of all ages: 35 coming from Brazil, 23 from the United States, 2 from Chile, and 1 from the Netherlands to learn together, exchange ideas, and take action for environmental justice, autonomy, and a new relationship with a land. For me, it was an incredible gathering that pulled together an incredible (and incredibly large) group of various overlapping values, visions, and passions, but all with different paths and forms of action. Looking back, for me it was mainly an experience of resistencia, convivencia (co-living), creatividade, and solidariedade.

Building – Construindo
Um novo mundo
Juntos
With our minds and our hearts and our hands
We stand
In a pit of mud
A mired mess
Of sticks and clay and cane grass
Of capitalism and oppression
Of injustice

We learned about many different communities in struggle and the different forms resistance is taking here in Brazil. During the first half of the Encontro we had the incredible privilege of visiting various communities here in the northeast of Brazil in the state of Ceará. Our first stop was Jenipapo-Caninde, an indigenous community south of Fortaleza that has been struggling for a long time for a right to their land. They have lived on the land for generations and generations, and only in recent decades suddenly had contact with capitalism and development projects that tried to move in on their lands. The people of Jenipapo-Caninde organized against a resort development project that was going to be built on their land, struggled to have their land demarcated by the state as protected, and continue to resist against Ypioca, a huge sugar cane alcohol (cachaça) company here in Brazil that is using up and polluting the lake water of the Jenipapo-Caninde community. We got to speak with members of the community here and Chief Pequena, one of the only woman chiefs in the network of indigenous communities in the Northeast.

Raquel, one of the youth at Jenipapo-Caninde, showed us the community museum, explaining the history of her community and their struggle

The struggle of Jenipapo-Caninde is closely connected to another community we visited, the Tomé community in Chapada de Apodi who live on a plateau where it is difficult to get water. Agribusiness has moved in and started pumping water up the plateau, not for the people, but to irrigate vast plantations. The water resources of people in Tomé are being poisoned by the company´s pesticide use and pollution. They have been organizing for years against agribusiness´ crimes there and have been a strong force. One of the leaders in resistance from the community, Zé Maria, was assassinated for his prominent role in fighting against the companies destroying his community.

The third community we visited was the Comunidade do Trilho, the train-track community here in Fortaleza. The community here is organizing in resistance to World Cup development projects that are intended to displace thousands of people living along an already-existing train track. The community is a struggling, poor community that has been marginalized by the city and the state, which have given the people living here no voice and no say in the development happening in preparation for the World Cup in 2014. The plan, for which construction is expected to start shortly in a couple weeks, is to build a passenger train alongside the existing freight line, requiring the demolition of the houses of all these people, rather than the demolition of high-rises and commercial centers on the other side of the existing train tracks.

Talking with folks at the Comunidade do Trilho (train track community), about the World Cup development projects

In all of these visits, we had the incredible opportunity to talk with people on the frontlines of organizing against these injustices of agribusiness, capitalism, and the state. I personally took away a deep sense of courage and admiration for people and communities who are living resistance, every day, together with the people around them, because that is what they must do to live. I felt an incredible sense of shared history, shared identity, and tightly-knit community within the communities we visited and hope I can carry that sense back with me when I return to the United States, to my community, where resistance, for me and people of my racial and class background, often is viewed as more of a choice than a necessity.

But we dig our feet deep
And we reach our hands in
Because we see beauty
And potential
In the changing form
This brown muck could take

An afternoon meeting

The second part of the Encontro was spent at Barra do Lemme, a land settlement that the Ciclovida farm is part of, where we had the incredible experience of the culture of convivencia there on the farm. I´ll never forget the incredible feeling of the first night at the farm when we had our first opening circle, 50 people sitting in our opening circle, with that sort of buzzing energy, finishing dinner as Ivania opened up the Encontro on the farm saying, “We are here to live together, learn together, and work together, sharing in our resistance and building a new world in resistance to and outside of capitalism.” I felt this surge of excitement to think that this could be possible and all of the faces, all of these people, would share with me in doing that. The following 5 days were spent living an ideal sort of life, all sharing the work of constructing projects that foster autonomy, sharing in the tasks of cooking and cleaning, sharing food, exchanging ideas, sharing poetry, songs, and music, celebrating together, and taking care of each other. Every day we would wake up, have breakfast together that was prepared by a group of people who started their day´s work 2 hours prior, make announcements about the projects and activities of the day, break off to do work for 4 or 5 hours (each person free to go to projects as they desired), regroup for lunch mid-day, take an hour or two to rest, jump in the reservoir, take a nap, take a walk during the hottest hours of the day, then gravitate back to the projects to work more in the afternoon, re-group for workshops and discussions early evening, have dinner, then have activities after dinner like workshops, presentations, discussions, open-mics, and even a foho dance one night!

We can make
Beautiful creations
From the scraps and wreckage
Of a broken system
We hold it in our hands
Even as it cuts us
Breaking our skin
There is pain
And courage
In the act of
Building something new

Working together on the natural building "healing house"

For me one of the main sentiments I experienced during the Encontro was the incredible sense of creativity. Together we physically accomplished constructing a cistern and filter system that will catch water and then filter it so it is potable. We completed a bike-power system that uses 3 pedaling stations to produce energy stored in a battery.  We constructed a healing house out of all natural materials found on the land there that will be a place for people in the community to receive and share natural therapy and treatment. Less tangibly, we built incredible strong connections between ourselves and our movements and our projects. I was incredibly inspired by the creativity of folks working on media during the Encontro: capturing stories, experiences, and moments with video, photo, and recording. As well as folks who created poetry, music, food and drawings; all of these things created using the resources at hand.  We talked about our movements and what we hope to create in the future moving forward together; we surely have built an incredible foundation for collaborating and working in solidarity with each other.

But our actions
Are rooted in love
And we will heal
Ourselves
The world
Each other
Taking care of one another
Through pain
Through borders
Through the hurt we feel in division
Forced upon us by capitalism
We are cut
We bleed
But together will heal
And grow
Like this wild forest
Bringing life and wonder
And resistance
In what others have deemed a dry forsaken place
But in it we see
Fertility
Potential

And to me, this experience of solidarity is much deeper than any I have ever talked about before because it is rooted in the personal relationships and friendships we built during this experience. It is the power of understanding more deeply that there are people organizing and struggling in other parts of the world at the same time and with shared purpose. The power of knowing we are organizing and struggling for each other and with each other. In general I just feel so grateful to have had this experience of connecting with folks from different parts of the world to openly and explicitly share in the struggle against capitalism and for autonomy, horizontalism, and a new relationship with the land and with each other. This experience has built a strong network of solidarity and shared resistance that will continue to build as we move forward together, overlaying this new set of connections with the other movements and connections we all already have. I hope you´ll be a part of this with me as we continue to work together!

Against all odds
We will take root and reach upward
In spite of beating sun and crippling heat
Dryness wearing at our feet
We will take what has been tossed away
And make art of it
We will revive what we can
And evolve as we can
Taking lessons from the ants
And the plants
And the snails
And the fungi
And the fish
Because we all wish
To be whole again
Part of the cycle
The ecology
Exchange
Interchange
Interdependence
We are descendants
Of a long-time-life
We are ripe
For change

-Ashley Trull

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4 Responses to Resistencia, Convivencia, Creatividade, e Solidariedade at the Ciclovida Encontro in Brazil

  1. Rob H. says:

    Thanks for such thoughtful sharing

  2. Pingback: Primeiro relato da caravana Ciclovida « Casa do Alpendre

  3. Pingback: SEM FREIOS: UMA CARAVANA DE BICICLETA E A ENERGIA IMPARÁVEL DO ENCONTRO DE CICLOVIDA | Ciclovida Tour: Writings from the Road

  4. ashleytrull says:

    Reblogged this on Collecting Colors and commented:

    Here is a cross-post of a blog I wrote for Ciclovida!

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