Peacebuilding en Las Américas – September 16, 2015

Tolupan Community Defends Land

In any situation of great difficulty, it’s hard to find clarity and make decisions that lead to positive change. A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. Its origins come from the Greek meaning for ‘decision’ or ‘decide,’ which describes how a crisis can also be a time when difficult or important decisions must be made.

In our work, we meet people where they are in their lives and support them in handling difficult transitions. AVP and Trauma Healing workshops offer individuals new ideas and strategies to move forward in whatever crisis they might be facing at that moment.

Sometimes, we are able to engage with an entire community in a moment of unrest or instability and offer crucial support through workshops that heal or create openings for dialogue.

We have been part of this work in the indigenous Tolupan community of San Francisco de Locomapa in Honduras. The Tolupan people live on Montaña de la Flor. The mountain is about 170 miles from San Pedro Sula, about a seven-hour drive through the department of Yoro

In 2013, the community created a roadblock to prevent all vehicles from gaining access to their land. After carrying out peaceful actions for twelve days to defend their territory from the illegal exploitation of natural resources and forest clearing, three activists were killed.

The Tolupan community says it has identified the men who carried out the killings, but the authorities refuse to act on arrest warrants and to capture them.

Despite continued threats, the Tolupan people continue to defend their territory from mining, logging and hydroelectric dams.

One of the natural resources in the area is antimony, a mineral which is used in flame retardants, ceramics, glass, and lead-base alloys.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has issued ‘precautionary measures’ for members of the Tolupan community. This can be requested by an individual or community when they face a series of acts of violence and threats against them. It is meant to ensure the recipient’s safety and provide protection from physical threats.

Unfortunately, the Honduran government has failed to do its part to protect many of the Tolupan who have been granted protection.

There were two more murders of land rights defenders Luis de Reyes Marcía and Erasio Vieda Ponce in April and June of this year.

When the killings took place in 2013, a basic AVP workshop had been planned with the San Francisco de Locomapa community for the following week. The facilitators decided to adjust their arrival so they could be present to offer a workshop that focused on the immediate needs of the community in response to the killings.

Facilitators relied on their skills and knowledge from the AVP and the Trauma Healing workshops to offer activities that felt like an appropriate and effective response to the crisis the participants were experiencing.

In July of this year, Honduran facilitators gave a Trauma Healing workshop to Tolupan women in San Francisco de Locomapa.

Our workshop participants build a community of trust, share their challenges and losses, and find ways to effectively communicate their needs. It’s not easy to know how to respond to the most difficult situations in our lives. But when we have the tools to manage crises, it’s easier to find the clarity we need to make decisions that move us forward.

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