December 13, 1997
Felipe Stuart, editor
URACCAN UPDATE HOME
of the "6%" Martyrs
PEACE CARAVAN TEAM HEADS HOME
The Pastors for Peace Caravan has completed its work in Nicaragua and most team members have headed north or are already back in the US URACCAN students, faculty, and staff [especially those in Siuna where most of their program took place] bade them a fond and grateful farewell and buen viaje.
Next week URACCAN expects to receive a tax exoneration from Nicaraguan Customs; after that, caravan donations can be cleared and given to nterpreters and hosts.
Our thanks to all who made this experience so rewarding. We're looking forward to the next visit.
[Translated and edited for space reasons by URACCAN UPDATE].
NEW PHONE NUMBERS FOR URACCAN--MANAGUA
Recently we sent out the new street address of URACCAN's new support center. It's located in a just re-modeled house on the south-east side of Managua: del Puente del Eden, una cuadra arriba, dos cuadras al sur, Casa D-10
The new phone/fax numbers are:
Voice: 505 248 4658 Fax 505 248 4685
Easy to remember 58 for voice, 85 for fax!
Email is fast and efficient, but it's not perfect. We lost about five items of mail sent to us on December 11 or 12 as we were attempting to download from our server. So if you're wondering why we haven't replied to your message, maybe it's lost to entropy.
Try again, please.
URACCAN SIUNA has its own campus newsletter: nicely edited and laid-out, the Spanish-language HURACANCITO EN URACCAN (little Hurricane in URACCAN)!
It carries not just campus, but local news ranging from municipal issues, to sports and cultural events. Here's a few items from the November 1997 issue (in translation) to give readers a flavor of the content:
[I] Athletes Demand Space
URACCAN students are demanding a basketball court on the campus grounds. Students behind in their fees should pay up so we can complete contraction work on the court.
In the next edition we'll publish a list of those who haven't paid their fees.
[II] Students Work on Validating Electoral Lists
URACCAN students are working with the Supreme Electoral Council [the national electoral body constitutionally responsible for supervising all elections] in efforts to validate the electoral lists [for the forthcoming March elections in the Autonomous Regions]. HURACANCITO urges them to carry out this difficult and important task for our region in all
[III] Farewell to Professor Martin
Recently we bade farewell to Ing. Manuel Marin [Siuna URACCAN Vice-Rector] who has left us to resume his studies in Managua.
[IV] URACCAN Anniversary
Diana [morning wake-up calls with clatter, music, song, etc.], marches, games and sports, food, jokes, and the election of Miss URACCAN -- all of that and more made up for our happy celebration of October 30, URACCAN's anniversary. We took the occasion to also welcome our new Vice-Rector, Lic. Thelma Sanchez. We wish her success in her new travail.
WELCOME NADYA WEBER
URACCAN-BLUEFIELDS welcomed Canadian English teacher earlier this month. Nadya heralds from York University [Toronto] where she graduated in English literature. She is part of the York-URACCAN Linkage Project and will teach URACCAN teachers enrolled in the York Masters Degree Program.
In our last issue we mentioned to readers that their contributions were always welcome.
The ambiguity of the expression was unintended - we meant articles and updates about your activities [of course, other kinds of contributions would not be unwelcome].
URACCAN's work is not just here in Nicaragua or the Central American Region. It knows no borders, only horizons. It is seen in various intercontinental and international networks. And it's found in the work of our friends and supporters here and abroad.
We'd like to hear about URACCAN-support and related activities in other lands.
SOME THOUGHTS ON URACCAN AND THE NICARAGUAN ATLANTIC COAST
West Coast Canadian Visitors Share Their Experiences with URACCAN UPDATE
by Janet Fairbanks and Wayne Bradley
As we prepare to leave Nicaragua, we would like to share some impressions gained from our time here. We -- Janet Fairbanks and Wayne Bradley, represent the World Community Development Education Society (WCDES), a small NGO based in Courtenay, British Columbia. Our society supports a small agro-forestry project sponsored by The Foundation For Autonomy and Development on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (FADCANIC) as well as URACCAN, and we have links between students in our area and students at the Denmark bilingual school in Bluefields.
No doubt, a few weeks of reflection and reading our notes will provide a more complete picture of what we have learned; however we are left with two immediate andpowerful impressions of the work that people are doing here. The first and most striking to the eyes of novice North American travelers is the sheer immensity of the physical problems faced by anyone involved in development work on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. After trying to appreciate the huge task people here face
to accomplish everyday activities, we are simply awestruck by the scope of vision that drives the people of URACCAN, FADCANIC, the Denmark School, and others who are working to develop first-rate, quality education for their people.
Any one of the technical or physical problems we saw people confront daily would drive most Canadian educators to distraction. Can you imagine all long distance phone lines being down for four days? How about facing a road to the university that is impassable in the rain? Can you imagine organizing meetings when most of the people you need to contact don't have phones, or the phones aren't working?
We found the most dedicated, far-sighted people working under these conditions building a system of education from pre-school to university that will reflect the reality and meet the needs of the people of the Atlantic Coast. While we saw the work being done to establish a university -- classrooms and dorms being built, resources- books, computers, desks and paper found somehow -- we also saw that the work of developing the full potential of the people was beginning at the first opportunity for children to attend school.
We had the great fortune to attend pre-school promotions (graduations) at the end of the school year, early in December in the Pearl Lagoon area. We visited several small communities where FADCANIC has been working to establish active parent supported preschool programs, and sat in on parent meetings where the program, its shortcomings and successes were discussed. We were witnessing the development of the real foundations that will prove the success of URACCAN. We saw
proud parents encouraging their children, and we saw enthusiastic three, four, and five year-olds for whom school was a real joy. The self confidence and poise these little tiny kids showed in their presentations is clear evidence that school and education is having a very positive impact in these remote communities.
One outcome from these meetings which we didn't expect was the realization that the organizing of parent support for the pre-schools was having a real impact on the level of organization in the communities. More than once we heard comments about the effectiveness of response to last year's hurricane being related to the organizing experience and skills learned by parents working on the pre-school program.
While facing physical limitations that would drive a Canadian administrator crazy, URACCAN is instituting an educational program which is unique and far-sighted. The long-term project involves developing an educational model which promotes the autonomy of the Atlantic Coast, control of the natural resources in the region, and and development of the human
potential of people of the coast that will enable them dictate the terms of their own future. The attention being paid to the value of education from pre-school on up, makes us believe that the incredible vision which is driving these people will one day be realized.
We are very grateful to the people of FADCANIC, URACCAN, and the parents and children of Tasbapauni, Marshall Point, Orinoco, Pueblo Nuevo and La Fe for theirhospitality, friendship, and assistance in our travels. We hope our solidarity work in Canada will be some compensation for the time you took out of your schedule to accommodate us.
URACCAN DOESN'T PULP BOOKS
These days the Nicaraguan Minister of Education busies himself banning books and texts from the public school system. The list includes very good books, some donated by international cooperation in the 1980s.
URACCAN solemnly pledges never to ban or pulp books, donated or otherwise obtained. They're too precious and hard to come by. We need university level books either in Spanish (preferred) or English.
We've already had considerable help from international donations to develop our campus libraries. Last August we received a donation of 600 books from Dolores Roman, a supporter from St. Louis (US).
It's hard to say how many Costeno finger prints now etch the pages of many of those books now in our campus libraries. Librarians and students were delighted to get the books.
Dolores says it wasn't hard to find help in getting such a large shipment here. "I put a little notice in the Parks College alumni newsletter that began with the words, "DO YOU FLY TO NICARAGUA?" From there, came responses."
Thanks Dolores and friends. We understand that more books came with the Pastor's Caravan. Once the shipment is cleared from Customs, we'll be back in touch.
WE ARE MANY, THEY ARE FEW
Whatever one's cosmovision, year's end is always special. More so, perhaps, to those who recognize that we are not citizen's of states or territories, but of time. Hence, it's a season for taking stock of past gains and reverses and of coming challenges.
Ours is a time of great peril and crises. Global society has reached a point where time itself may be running out for our species.
But such awareness in not cause for pessimism nor resignation; rather it is reason to renew our energy and determination to build a new world community where all people can live in harmony with others and with nature, free from assaults on their culture and from impoverishment and environmental degradation fueled by blind market forces.
We are many. Together we can do it.
Best wishes to all URACCAN friends and supporters, looking forward to working together and sharing experiences in the New Year.
Felipe Stuart, Editor
III INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON AUTONOMY OF THE
ATLANTIC COAST OF NICARAGUA
-- FINAL DECLARATION --
Dr. Ray Hooker's inaugural address to the III International Symposium was published in the November 24, 1997 issue of URACCAN UPDATE. The "Final Declaration" is translated into English by URACCAN UPDATE.
From October 12 to 15, 1997, 505 years after the European invasion of our continent, the participants in the III International Symposium on Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, met in the city of Managua to ratify our commitment to strengthening and developing our respective autonomy processes and to the struggle for the specific rights of ethnic peoples and communities.
The presence of Costeno men and women at the Symposium, coming from the North and the South Autonomous Regions of our Caribbean Coast -- delegates of their peoples and communities; natural leaders; regional officials and functionaries of the central government; members of different political, social, and work-related organizations; priests and ministers of various religious organizations; mayors and municipal councilors; regional councilors; councils of elders and traditional authorities; businessmen, intellectuals, artists, and academics; outstanding leaders of Costena civil society -- expresses the high degree of representativity, pluralism, and transcendence of this Symposium. Likewise, it expresses our unity, despite differences, about the present and future of our autonomy.
The participation of men and women from the Pacific, of well-known politicians from various national parties, of personalities from the academic, intellectual and artistic world, and of the communications media shows that autonomy has ceased to be considered as a matter that only concerns Costenos; it has entered the ambit of great national interests.
As well, the arrival at the meeting of men and women from the most diverse, distant, and nearby countries, people knowledgeable about the autonomy issue, representatives of cooperation agencies, and leaders of Indigenous, Afro-American, and Caribbean movements, indicates that autonomy is being built in all latitudes and regions of the planet. It
starts through collective resistance to interior conquest undertaken by states to impose on the many peoples who make up our nations one law, one language, one culture, one history and but one monopolizing and exclusive identity.
Over these days we went over the course of our major problems and obstacles; we shared successful and failed experiences, dreams, and aspirations.
Above all, however, we came to the conclusion that autonomy is one of the key democratizing instruments for multiethnic societies to build national unity in diversity; one of the most direct ways to modernity in the organization of state and society; one of the more secure ways to link into current globalization processes, from regions, municipalities, and communities, while conserving our identities, resources, environment, and our economic and political sovereignty.
It has been clearly demonstrated that autonomy, far from stimulating disintegration, atomization, separatism, and national hatred, helps to increase the feeling of belonging and solidarity with all peoples and ethnic groups making up national entities.
Neoliberalism represents contradictory and menacing trends to nation states -- debilitating them to the point of disappearance. In some cases they become fused into new entities such as is happening with the majority of European states. In others, they are broken apart. This is happening on every continent through the manipulation of national ethic problems.
Autonomy leads to new forms of resistance to those trends, re-knitting and restructuring the unity of national states on a more solid, permanent, sustainable, and durable basis.
Obviously autonomy, at least in Latin American countries and in some other latitudes, is intimately related to grassroots struggles for equity, social justice, rights for women, children and youth, and the building and development of identities. Such processes are far removed from fundamentalism, messianism, and ethnic exclusionism that are just as dangerous and damaging as the integrationism and indigenizing that gave rise to nation states in the XIX century, and that even today some governments are attempting to maintain as State policy. It's worrisome indeed that generalizations, comparisons, and parallels are made between our autonomous struggles and the integrationism and ethnic hatred, evident in such cases as Yugoslavia. It's done in order to discredit us before national and international public opinion. That's why the communications media should think clearly and truthfully about the libertarian essence of our movements.
Over these days we have analyzed with interest autonomous experiences and struggles for Indigenous rights in other countries. We also discussed the challenged faced by autonomous processes.
We can conclude from this that these movements express themselves in quite various forms. Hence proposals made to achieve autonomy are likewise varied. But we hold that all these cases offer one fundamental lesson: the need to deepen the building of autonomous political subjects. Autonomy is not a gift; it is conquered by grassroots, community, and sectoral movements with a high degree of group identity and consciousness.
The key concern of organizations of ethnic peoples and communities must be consciousness building, education, and spreading awareness about autonomous rights and practices. How far this process can reach depends on the political strength marshaled and the negotiating capacity of those autonomous subjects. Autonomy, by definition, implies ongoing dialogue and negotiation over areas of jurisdiction, fiscal and natural resources, and opportunities to influence national policies; likewise, debate over the overall conditions needed for exercising specific social, economic, and cultural rights.
Protruding into this issue -- in other national settings and also in Nicaragua where it seems the practice is being repeated -- is a state policy of promoting migrations of majority sectors of the population into target areas in order to change the balance of forces and the national ethnic compositions of ethnic villages and communities; a state policy of fragmenting a people between various national states or between different internal jurisdictions; of economic and financial strangulation of autonomous regions; of co-opting and corrupting leaders and authorities of autonomous governments and exacerbating internal contradictions in
order to break the internal unity required to develop our autonomy.
The experience of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast and of other areas analyzed in the Symposium points both to positive aspects and obstacles to be overcome. However it must be emphasized that despite the considered existence of cumulated problems and adversities, autonomy arises as a way to strengthen complementary loyalty to both ethnic identity and national identity. Also, with only a degree of autonomy, in whatever level, the material and political basis for negotiating future progress is being forged. Hence, for example, the Statute of Autonomy approved in 1987, notwithstanding criticism made against it, is considered to be a solid
foundation for the gains made in the eighties regarding rights for ethnic peoples and communities on the Nicaraguan Atlantic Coast. It was also a firm ba sis for the 1995 Constitutional Reform that extended autonomous governments' rights over the natural resources within their territories.
Constitutional guarantees, in all cases, are considered fundamental for the recognition of the right to free determination through autonomy. They arose from historical and political struggles that cost ethnic peoples and communities endless struggle and blood.
That's why, in the case of Nicaragua, we are determined to deepen the normative and institutional juridical framework of the autonomy system. Reforming or regulating the autonomy law would enable achievement of part of that goal. The Autonomous Regional Councils must begin the corresponding studies to prepare a regional integration proposal which must be based on consulting communities in both North and South regions. Likewise, this juridical instrument, or one more specifically tailored, must define communal property and demarcate communal lands.
In tandem, financial and technical support should be promoted to guarantee ecologically sustainable, economic, and social management of natural resources; and to imbue regional enterprise with that spirit.
The Symposium recognized the particular challenge of harmonizing the powers and attributions of different levels of government -- communal, municipal, and regional -- both with respect to laws and with day-to-day management. Likewise, the challenge of achieving optimum levels of coordination, cooperation, and effectiveness between them.
Civil society's participation in strengthening autonomy is not just transcendental. It is necessary to involve universities; movements of Indigenous peoples, youth, and women; unions; elders' councils; student organization; business people, NGOs, and professional associations. An important challenge before the autonomy is to open up all avenues of participation and inclusion of diverse social, economic, and cultural sectors. That's indispensable.
Autonomy can't be left solely to the autonomous governments. Autonomy is a matter that goes beyond autonomous institutions and political parties. Unity of ethnic communities and peoples, above and beyond particular and group interests, must be a fundamental imperative for defending and developing autonomy.
Forming regional political parties and organizations that above all defend autonomy and the vital interests of ethnic communities and peoples of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua must not be postponed.
The conduct of our autonomous governments must respond to the interests of their people. Political management must be carried our efficiently and transparently, with a high level of representation of the demands of the governed, along with their ongoing participation in propositive monitoring of government performance.
Public administration must be effectively decentralized. Included in this policy should be institutional and financial strengthening of regional and municipal governments, as well as those institutions responsible for planning and execution of policies key to the autonomous regions, such as health, education, culture, natural resource management, and productive and services' infrastructure. Civil society should be integrated into decision-making and social control of those institutions.
Autonomous processes necessarily lead to reassessing history, culture, and linguistic patrimony of the ethnic communities and peoples of our nations. Intercultural concepts must be the driving force behind the cultural socialization and educational polices of autonomous governments and institutions.
The future of autonomy depends in large measure on the ability to prepare technicians and professionals to take charge of distinct areas of regional administration and development.
Women's participation in all aspects of decision-making is already a requisite for the sustained advance of the autonomy process. Promoting the struggle for gender equity is indispensable, addressing specifically women's needs in a joint struggle to win overall social and political rights for ethnic communities and peoples in our counties.
The work of this III International Symposium on the Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua is an important reference point given its level of discussion, its achievements, and the maturity of movements for autonomy and for the rights of ethnic communities and peoples. The autonomy process, both in Nicaragua and in other countries, is by nature irreversible. The importance of reviewing the present and future of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast autonomy was clear to all participants. The meeting reaffirmed that thepeoples and communities of Costena society are not alone. Strong solidarity networks were woven in these convivial days, linking the Costena family with those who have joined their struggles as brothers with the cause of autonomy.
Let governments listen to this appeal from the bottom of our hearts. Let them listen to our words so charged with reason and justice.
October 15, 1997
Coming issues will include:
- reports from two important conferences held in Bluefields in December: the first on the international NGO community, autonomy, and development of the RAAS; and the second on an interchange on the experience of autonomy in the Spanish state between Spanish universities and URACCAN and BICU.
- the coming March 1998 elections on the Coast
- Digital networking for indigenous networks
OPTIONAL HUMOR (Or is it?)
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The following was a page put on the McDonnell Douglas Internet home page by a worker with a sense of humor. The company took exception.
Our thanks to reader J.K. for passing this item on.
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