Monday, April 18, 2005

Formosa, Argentina

Sarita and I are at the bus station in Formosa, Argentina. Very close to the Paraguay border. We´re stuck here for the day until the next bus for General Belgrano leaves tonight. We´re on our way to a meeting of the campesino (peasant or low-income farm worker) movement organized by MOCAFOR (movements de Campesions de Formosa).

It has been awhile since I have posted anything on this forum. I wonder if anyone is reading it anymore. It has been really difficult to keep up with email let alone this blog on the road. We have been moving from one spot to the next with out much downtime. I have also been experiencing complete writers block. I find it very difficult to express an honest opinion in a public forum connected to Organic Volunteers. I´m learning so much about the environmental and social movement in South America. The entire trip is becoming a jumble of new friends, farms, activists groups, new climates and long bus rides. I haven´t been able to materialize a clear concise story to write about. Now I´ll just have to start rambling about what we´re doing.

After IPEP we went to Uruguay on our way to Buenos Aires. We stayed with a couple that had been trying to start an ecovillage that never took off for all the reasons most ecovillages don´t take off. They were wonderful people with a lot of insight into the ecovillage movement in South America.

We stopped in Buenos Aires for a few days. We visited a recuperated shoe factory called Cooperativa Unido por el Calzado. The workers have successfully taken over the factory and are now producing their own line of shoes, without the help of bosses. Eat your heart out Phil Knight.

I traveled to the outskirts of Buenos Aires to visit the Movimiento de Trabajadores Desocupados (MTD) de La Matanza, a hardcore group of activists from a very poor part of Buenos Aires, working together, horizontally and autogestionado (translation pls?) to solve their own problems. La Matanza looks like warzone on the frontlines of the battle to globalize the freemarket economy. It is where people who are forgotten by the capitalist system come to live. That is how my friend from the MTD defines the Desocupados.

The MTD has started a bakery, clothing design studio, neighborhood barter and artesian market, cultural center and free kindergarten. The day I arrived the MTD received a letter from the government declaring the school "clandestine" and ordered it to be closed. After many rounds of mate and jokes the MTD decided to keep the school open anyway.

I was at the MTD to offer one of their members a scholarship to a natural building course being put on by Kleiwerks. The accepted the scholarship and the next day we were on the bus to El Bolson in the northern edge of the Patagonia.

We spent almost a month in Bolson, a wonderful hippy town in the mountains with many organic producers.

Then we took the 24 hour bus back to Buenos Aires for a 10 day, silent vipassana meditation course.

We had meeting after meeting in Buenos Aires. We meet with MAPO and The Working World among others.

Then we went to Cordoba and stayed with family friends. I lived with them 10 years ago in Cordoba during my first trip to South America. This is number 4.

We traveled north 2 hours to Yacu Yura also known as Aguas Claras near Capilla del Monte. Aguas Claras was a community but broke up a few years ago. Now there are a few new people there trying to transform the project.

We visited farms around the area including the biodynamic farm Los Jardines de Yaya. There we were told about the 20th conference of Biodynamic producers in the Southern Cone.

We were at the conference the past 4 days. And if you look at the 9 new hosts in Argentina, very productive for Organic Volunteers.

Naturaleza Viva, the conference location, was an amazing example of production ecological agriculture. On 200 acres the produce excellent dairy products, four kinds of meat, vegetables, flaxseed, soybean oil, sunflower seed oil and much more. The also barter with growers all over the country to complement their products. Almost all the food for the conference was from the farm. They even have a bio gas digester that powers all the cooking and value added product processing.

The owners of the farm were persecuted under the dictorship for organizing the campesino movement. They abandoned their daughter with a campesino family, hid in the jungle for 4 years and then in Europe for 4 years.

We left their farm last night. Tomorrow we meet with MOCAFOR and other campesino organizations from around the region. We have been told that MOCAFOR is made up of 5,000 families or about 45,000 people. Big families. A major problem the campesinos face is that many of them have been farm on land for generations without official titles. The owners are mysteriously appearing and kicking them off the land to plant transgenic soy. China imports 2/3rds of its soy from Argentina.

There is a cute little street dog sleeping under my computer in the internet cafe. All is well.

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