They can burn books, destroy libraries, forbid languages, ban beliefs, delete past times,
draw new present times, order future actions, torture and execute people...
But they still don´t know how to kill the intangible and bright
bodies of ideas, dreams and hopes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

On October 12th

On October 12th

By Edgardo Civallero

All along America, October 12th receives a different name: Discovery Day, Columbus Day, Race Day, Hispanic Day...

However, none of them remembers the indigenous peoples, their slaughter, their genocide. Except in Venezuela, where October 12th has been called "Day of the Indigenous Resistance" after a controversial process in which Venezuelan native nations expressed their refusal to remember such a date with the names and the identities of the killers, the invaders, the strangers.

"What are you celebrating?" an old Wichi man asked to me in Chaco (Argentina), during an October 12th celebration, some years ago. Even if I tried an answer... no answer saved me the shame of accepting that we were celebrating ethnocide, destruction, violent contact... How could I cover these ideas with euphemisms? How could I disguise facts that cannot be disguised at all?

We have to keep alive our memory. But we Latin Americans –and other nations in the so-called "Third World"– are forgetting all our memories. It's important to remember all the time, all the facts. It's important to recover the past, to understand it, to know all the opinions, and to learn to respect the differences. Without all this, we cannot build a future as a society. As human memory managers (librarians), we have to keep these ideas in our mind all the time, so we may be able to transmit a pertinent knowledge to our users, wherever, whenever. Even if this knowledge is far from the well-trodden ways of the official discourse and the dominant ideologies.

Precisely, this is (or should be) our work: to encourage people to think, and to support independent thought and opinions, even if this became a painful or a "dangerous" exercise.

Just to keep memory alive, I want to share with you one of the texts (Text #1) of "Taki Ongoy", the most famous work of the Argentinean singer Victor Heredia. This text –and the whole work– let the voices of Latin American aboriginal peoples to come out of the silence. This way, those who were (and still are) defeated, conquered, humiliated, slaughtered, forgotten and enslaved are able to express, finally, all their pains, their fears... and their hopes.

It's another point of view. The silenced one. Now, you can share it with your users.

There was a time where everything was good. A happy time, when our Gods protected us. There was no disease then, there was no sin then, there were no bone pains, there were no fevers, there was no smallpox, there was no chest burns, there was no weakening. Healthy we lived. Our bodies were straight then. But this time finished when they arrived with their pestilent hatred and their new God and their horrifying hunter dogs, their bloody war-dogs with strange yellow eyes, their killer dogs.

They came down from their iron ships, with their bodies wrapped everywhere and their pale faces and their yellow hair and the ambition and the deceit and the treason and our secular pain reflected in their restless eyes. Nothing stood, everything was razed, was burnt, was smashed, was tortured, was killed. Fifty-six millions Indian brothers are waiting, from their dark death, from their dreadful genocide, that the little light –the one which is still burning, as example of these past great cultures– spreads and burns in a huge flame, and finally enlightens our true identity. And, if this happens, let the true be known, the terrible true of how they killed and enslaved a whole continent for sacking the silver and the gold and the land. Of how they took away everything, even our languages, our idiom, and how they changed our Gods, menacing us with terrible punishments, as if could be a greater punishment than confuse them with our own Gods and let them come inside our homes and temples and valleys and mountains.

But they haven't defeated us. Today, like yesterday, we still fight for our freedom.

[Note: A literal translation was tried here, respecting the Spanish original, which uses the Spanish dialect spoken by Andean indigenous communities, highly influenced by Quechua structure. I don't know if I did a right translation. Anyway, I hope that the sense of the whole text may be understood].