Thursday, June 7, 2007

"The South Central Farmers' Report from the United Nations Visit"

The South Central Farmers’ Report from the United Nations Visit on May, 2007.

By Rufina Juarez

This experience has widened our understanding of peoples’ struggle for access to space and land. This UN session concentrated on the displacement of people all over the world but with a focus on land, territory and natural resources of indigenous people. How we as indigenous people struggle for our culture, language ancestral rights, access to our natural resources and the right educate, designate and retain our own names for communities, places and persons, Our children have the right to all levels and forms of education, all indigenous people have the right to provide education in their own language in a manner appropriate to their culture methods of teaching and learning…this is what the model that we had in LA represented in a vary small scale with the poorest areas in Los Angeles, CA. We learned of the results and effects suffered from people who are displaced from their place of origin, be it the first generation, second and the destruction of their families when you are forced to move.

As representatives of our community, we spoke with conviction about the violent destruction of this model and how it affected these families. We spoke of our “goal” to have basic human rights to “good quality food” and that as a community we have that right by our inheritance as indigenous people. The definition of “human rights“ was developed during a time in history when repression of indigenous people was in vogue. “We” as people need to redefine what our “human rights” are. This self determination forces people to change old definitions that do not fit with or relationship to the land and our ways of planting our food.

The UN experience has marked and elevated the struggle of the SCF to an international level. We have denounced, for the record at the UN, the inhumane treatment of the SCFs by the City of Los Angeles. It was 10 days of hard work and learning how nations report on their different plans on how to save the resource of the world. Now the nations are looking at traditional people to bring back a balance with all the ‘global warming’ that is happening. We participated in the Sixth Session on the Indigenous People Forum with the help of La Red Indigena Xicana. Our intervention was presented on May 18, 2007 in front of the Special Rapporturr on Human Rights violations. Along with other peoples of the world, we waited for our own turn and spoke on displaced people in poor urban settings. ON Monday, 21 we sat on a panel as a speaker on Migration issues in an urban setting. We talked about the need to access land in order to move from a dependent community to an independent community that can feed their families and surrounding communities in order to deal with diseases in our community; obesity and diabetes. If we cannot change this cycle we will only be part of the market that is full of dependent poor communities on medication since they do not have the right to good quality foods! Yes, we will perish as a community due to the diseases that have taken over and our lack to change our behaviors.

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 6th Session

Statement by

South Central Farmers and La Red Xicana Indigena

May 18, 2007

Madam Chair, Indigenous sisters and brothers of the world:

My name is Rufina Juarez, President of the South Central Farmers of Los Angeles and representative of La Red Xicana Indigena. I would like to submit the following statement.

The corporate production of food, such as hybrid corn, soy, and wheat, has taken over the production of local high quality ancestral food (i.e., corn, squash, and beans) through the displacement of traditional agricultural communities who produce food for their own use and for trade. Corporate take over of agricultural lands forces families to flee to local and international urban areas, where they transform from a self-reliant, highly skilled agricultural society, into poor and politically vulnerable substrata of urban society. Economically dependent on low wages for unskilled labor, men, women and children loose their relationships, roles, ancestral knowledge and practices of self sufficiency. Their lack of economic resources makes them dependent on cheap poor-quality food produced by the corporations, which displaced them in the first place. Coupled with the lack of health education and basic health care they are highly defenseless to long term diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and asthma, which make them life time consumers of pharmaceuticals. The rise of childhood illnesses produces long term profit for corporations. Indigenous peoples in diaspora are in fact paying for their own oppression.

For 14 years since 1992, the South Central Farm was the largest and most biologically-diverse urban farm in the US. The farm was organized within a traditional collective structure. A variety of indigenous plants, medicine and seeds from throughout the hemisphere were cultivated and preserved on this farm. Nahuas, Seri, and Zapotecos were among the farmers who brought their traditional plants, seeds and agricultural technology from their homelands, reflecting the contemporary diaspora of Xicanas/os and newly displaced indigenous peoples from México, Central and South America in the US.

After three years of political and legal struggle to save the farm we were evicted due to not having any rights as migrant and displaced indigenous peoples in the US. I am here to put on the UN record, the excessive force and police brutality that occurred in June 13, 2006 when we were forcefully removed in the mist of litigation of the right to title. 350 indigenous farmers have been made dependent on the purchase and consumption of corporate foods. Consequently, we’ve been denied the right to grow our traditional foods and teach our children their relationship with the land. We are an example of a dispersed indigenous population that does not have any rights to practice the continuity of our ancestral traditions outside of their homeland. We are indigenous peoples in the US who need the international protections of the Declaration.

We were evicted and more than 500 trees and all our traditional medicinal plants were destroyed in the name of economic development. This is a story commonly known through out the world, especially when it comes to the exploitation of ancestral land, territories and natural resources. However, here we are referring to a fundamental human right to grow our own ancestral foods and medicine and to pass it on to the coming generations. The nation-states refer to this as “Food Security”, however, if as indigenous peoples in diaspora we can obtain the protections and right to grow our traditional foods it would mean “food sovereignty”.

For this reason we would like to make the following recommendations:

1) We urge the UN member states to adopt the UN Declaration on the Right of Indigenous People as approved by the Council of Human Rights, without any addendums.

2) We invite the Special Rapporteur on Migration and the Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights to look into the abuse of indigenous peoples rights, especial that of children who are in diaspora in the United States and are suffering from the vulnerability of malnutrition and under nutrition, which in effect is affecting the alarming rate of chronic illnesses such as child/youth diabetes, asthma, cancer and lymphatic diseases.

3) We endorse the Women’s Caucus Statement on Human Rights, specifically the statement and recommendations relevant to Indigenous Women and Migration, which urges UN Member states to address the issue of large number of indigenous migrants within and beyond national borders and the particular vulnerability of indigenous women migrants.

4) We endorse the Caucus of Abya Ayala Statement, specifically item #6 and 7, which recommend’s that UN Agencies (such as UNESCO, FAO-Food and Agricultural Organization, CHR-Council on Human Rights, Special Rapporteur’s) work to influence and/or develop appropriate mechanisms, instruments and indicators that would allow for the collection of disaggregated data that would identify the specific conditions of indigenous peoples in diaspora within the United States.

Contact information:

South Central Farmers

SCF Hotline: 1-888-SCFARM-1

Rufina Juarez:

La Red Xicana Indígena

Celia H. Rodríguez (California):

Rosalee Gonzalez (Arizona):


onein3 said...

We are a group of friends that know and worked with a young woman named Joy Loftin while she was employed at the Vanderbilt YMCA here in New York City. During the length of her employment, several extremely disturbing incidents occurred that cause us to be concerned and call into question the motives and the integrity of Shan Colorado Finnerty, Hortensia Colorado, and Elvira Colorado.

On several occasions, Joy came to work with visible bruises on her neck and arms. She eventually explained to us that Shan had punched, beaten, and choked her and she asked us for help. As wardens for the community, we tried to place Joy in women’s shelters around the city in an effort to mitigate the abuse. However, at the urging of Shan’s mother and aunt, Hortensia and Elvira, she returned to their apartment and refused to press criminal charges against Shan Colorado Finnerty. The abuse continued and one day, she came to work very early, visibly distressed and crying, with more bruises and abrasions. She said that Shan had verbally abused and beaten her once again; that she wanted to return to California, and that she was going to quit her job and reunite with her family. She tendered her resignation later that week. Out of concern for her safety and in an effort to find out what happened to her, we requested an officer from the domestic violence unit of the 5th Precinct conduct a welfare check at their home on Kenmare Street. However the officer was unable to find anyone at the apartment, and therefore could not verify that Joy was safe. We realize that she is suffering from battered women’s syndrome and may be unable to help herself due to the isolationist environment that the Colorados have formed around her. Abusive men are often enabled by their family, while the victim is persuaded to believe the abuse is her fault, and the pattern of emotional and physical trauma continues. Taking into consideration what has happened to Joy Loftin, it is especially deceitful that their display "Altar: El Llanto De La Resistancia" at the American Indian Community House was in part dedicated to victims of domestic violence.

In light of these events, we are dismayed, disappointed, and outraged to know that members of the American Indian Community would commit, condone, and perpetuate domestic abuse and violence, while simultaneously conducting workshops, writing and performing plays, and displaying works and art that would have the public and those who support them believe otherwise. It is a vulgar and offensive misrepresentation of American Indian Culture, and further support of Coatlicue Theater, Hortensia Colorado, Elvira Colorado, Shan Colorado Finnerty and their work is tantamount to supporting domestic abuse and violence. Considering their duplicitous behavior, having them represent American Indian Culture is an insult to the dignity of American Indians and an affront to human beings.

We therefore will not attend nor support any Coatlicue Theater productions or events where they will be featured. We will be encouraging others that might consider attending, participating, or funding them to do the same. Our actions are warranted, and to be associated with the aforementioned individuals and Coatlicue Theater would be equivalent to enabling and contributing to such offensive behaviour. We are urging everyone to reevaluate their support of Coatlicue Theatre and the Colorados, and question the individuals concerned. Until the responsible individuals are held accountable and measures are taken to verify that the abuse is no longer occurring, we will continue with our boycott of Coatlicue Theatre and we will strongly urge others to do the same.

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