Gloria Quintanilla Cooperative, Santa Julia, Nicaragua

View from a cooperative member’s house where a variety of crops are grown, including bananas and coffee (2017).

When I first visited Santa Julia I was struck by the beauty of the landscape; forested ridges and cliffs open to reveal mountainous views that can extend all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It is easy to forget the dramatic history and struggle of this community and the important role that the women-lead and –operated cooperative, Gloria Quintanilla, has had and continues to have today. Gloria Quintanilla consists of 25 female members who produce, process, and sell a variety of goods, and who work collectively for the betterment of their community. During my visit I was welcomed into various members’ homes, invited to meetings and witnessed the construction of a new coffee-processing house.

During my time in Santa Julia I was able to meet with a number of cooperative leaders, one of which was Secretary Lea Moncado. Lea and I spoke outside of her house where banana trees, coffee plants and a variety of fruits and vegetables grew. We walked along the steep slopes of her property as she cleaned quequisque, a root vegetable, with a machete and spoke about her experiences as a member of the cooperative, Gloria Quintanilla. Her young son followed behind as we walked through the shade.

Similar to most members of the cooperative, Lea uses agroecological methods of cultivation, including crop diversity, water conservation and organic fertilizers. When I visited, coffee plants were full of green buds; she planned to harvest at the end of November when the berries turned from green to red. In Spanish she explained, “my plants are young, only one or two years old, when I harvest the coffee, I take about half of the berries in order to have a good harvest for next year and for the years to come.” She learned this harvesting technique at an agroecology workshop provided by the Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo or ATC, as well as through the historical knowledge present in this community of producers.

A meeting of the members of the Gloria Quintanilla Cooperative in El Crucero, Nicaragua (2017).

Members of Gloria Quintanilla use agroecology to foster food sovereignty within their community and to develop a sustainable model for food production and distribution. With the help of the ATC, the cooperative has recently constructed a center to process and package the coffee beans they grow. This building has a drying space, as well as machines to toast, grind and package the coffee. During my visit I helped toast coffee with cooperative President Eloisa García Castro in a large cooking pot over an open fire, which was time intensive and required constant stirring and vigilance. The new processing plant will free up a lot of time for the women of Gloria Quintanilla. The plant will also enable them to process more coffee and to sell a finished product directly to the market, eliminating the intermediaries that eat up 50% or more of the profits.

Gloria Quintanilla is not the only women-led cooperative that aims to create value-added goods and eliminate or reduce intermediaries. In 2017-18, the ATC is supporting four additional women-lead cooperatives in their production of either value-added coffee or cooked beans. The work being done by Gloria Quintanilla and other cooperatives may serve as a model for other communities interested in adding value to the raw goods that they produce in order to increase profits and in turn the living conditions of women and men in the countryside.

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Editors’ Note: In collaboration with the ATC, Friends of the ATC facilitates a small internship program for learners (usually university students or recent graduates) who are committed to solidarity with social movements. Each intern has a unique experience and brings a unique perspective and contribution to the ATC while they are in Nicaragua. In this post we share with you an article written by ATC interns from November 2017, Natalie Kahn.

Campaña de libros para las escuelas de formación de la ATC

Friends of the ATC estamos emocionados anunciar nuestra campaña de libros para la biblioteca internacionalista de las escuelas de la ATC

 

 

En anticipación de la celebración del 40 aniversario de la Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC) Nicaragua, la ATC y Amigxs de la ATC hacemos un llamado a nuestras organizaciones aliadas y la comunidad solidaria para donaciones de libros sobre los siguientes temas:

 

Agroecología

Cosmovisión

Derechos laborales

Economía campesina

Economía política

Educación popular y pedagogía

Género y feminismo

Historia latinoamericana

Juventud

Libros para niños

Libros por escritores/as nicaragüenses, centroamericanos/as, y latinoamericanos/as

Literatura nicaragüense, centroamericana, y latinoamericana

Marxismo

Migración

Movimientos sociales, revolución

Poesía

Pueblos originarios

Reforma agraria, tierra, territorio

Semillas

Soberanía alimentaria

Teatro

Teoría política

 

Se dividirán los libros entre las bibliotecas de La Escuela Obrera Campesina Francisco Morazán, la sede de formación política e ideológica de la ATC y La Vía Campesina Nicaragua, y IALA Mesoamérica Santa Emilia, la sede de formación agroecológica de la ATC y La Vía Campesina Nicaragua.

 

En abril de 2018, le invitamos participar en una celebración de nuestras escuelas incluyendo la colección nueva de libros para nuestras bibliotecas.

 

Información para donar:

  1. Se puede recibir donaciones de libros o fondos en persona en la oficina de Relaciones Internacionales de la ATC Nacional en Nicaragua (Dirección: De la Rotonda Ruben Darío, 120 metros abajo, Complejo CIPRES, 2º piso de la UTN, Managua, Nicaragua. Teléfono: +505 2278 4576)
  2. Para recibir donaciones internacionales de libros, por favor contáctenos (información abajo).
  3. Si quiere donar fondos en vez de donar libros, aceptaremos donaciones en efectivo o en línea en el sitio de Friends of the ATC: https://goo.gl/AgHWf4
  4. Aceptamos libros en cualquier idioma en adición a libros en español.

 

Le agradecemos mucho por la solidaridad. ¡Globalicemos la lucha, Globalicemos la esperanza!

 

Información de contacto:

Marlen Sanchez, ATC: WhatsApp: +505 8796 3639; marlenagroecologia.atc@gmail.com

Erika Takeo, Friends of the ATC: WhatsApp: +505 7715 3903; erikatakeo.atc@gmail.com

 

Comparten la información de la campaña aquí (en español e inglés): Biblioteca Internacionalista ATC

 

To read this post in English, click here.

Calling all readers! Campaign to collect books for the ATC’s internationalist library

Friends of the ATC is excited to announce its campaign to collect books for the ATC’s internationalist library!

 

 

In anticipation of the ATC’s (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo) 40th anniversary (March 24, 2018), the ATC and Friends of the ATC call upon our ally organizations and the solidarity community to donate books on the following topics:

 

Agroecology

Cosmovision

Worker rights

Peasant economy

Political economy

Popular education and pedagogy

Gender and feminism

Latin American history

Youth

Children’s books

Books written by Nicaraguan, Central American, and Latin American authors

Nicaraguan, Central American, and Latin American literature

Marxism

Migration

Social movements, revolution

Poetry

Indigenous peoples

Agrarian reform, land, territory

Seeds

Food sovereignty

Theater

Political theory

 

The books will be divided between the libraries at the Francisco Morazán International Peasant Worker School, the seat of political and ideological training for the ATC and La Via Campesina Nicaragua, and IALA Mesoamerica Santa Emilia, the seat of agroecological training for the ATC and La Via Campesina Nicaragua.

 

In April of 2018, we invite you to participate in a celebration of our schools, including our new collection of library books.

 

Donation information:

  1. Donations of books or funds can be received in person in the International Relations office located at ATC National in Nicaragua (Address: De la Rotonda Ruben Darío, 120 metros abajo, Complejo CIPRES, 2º piso de la UTN, Managua, Nicaragua. Telephone: +505 2278 4576)
  2. To receive international book donations, please contact us (information below).
  3. If you would like to donate funds instead of books, we accept donations in person or online through the Friends of the ATC website: https://goo.gl/AgHWf4
  4. We will gladly accept books in other languages in addition to books in Spanish.

 

We are grateful for your solidarity. Globalize struggle! Globalize hope!

 

Contact information:

Marlen Sanchez, ATC: WhatsApp: +505 8796 3639; marlenagroecologia.atc@gmail.com

Erika Takeo, Friends of the ATC: WhatsApp: +505 7715 3903; erikatakeo.atc@gmail.com

 

Download and circulate this post (English and Spanish): Biblioteca Internacionalista ATC

 

Lea esta información en español aqui

Note on the NICA Act and Mayoral Elections in Nicaragua

 

ENGLISH ABOVE / ESPAÑOL ABAJO

 

Letter on the NICA Act and Mayoral Elections in Nicaragua

Dear Friends, when we all thought that imperial imposition over our peoples was a thing of the past, recently the US Congress made the decision to approve an interventionist bill called the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, known as the “NICA Act”. This is a situation, promoted by a few US Congressional representatives and Nicaragua members of the extreme right, is a flagrant aggression orchestrated from North American territory against Nicaragua and our America to delegitimize our national sovereignty.

The NICA Act is waiting to be debated in the senate. We don’t know what the final status of this bill will be, which would put at risk the development that our country has in this moment.

This interventionist process is similar to what has been done against other countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia. In the case of Nicaragua, it has the objective of instilling economic and financial sanctions against a legitimate government and the people of Sandino. The Nicaraguan people are realizing free and democratic elections, living in peace, and improving conditions of life for our people.

However, against this provocation, this past November 5th, the victory of the FSLN was realized with the triumph of 136 out of 153 mayorships in the country.

These elections were overseen by 60 international observers from a mission organized by the Organization of American States (OAS) and students from the National Council of Universities. The OAS’ official report highlights the normality of the elections even though in the end there were some problems in some municipalities by opposition parties that were not in agreement with the results, when these parties had weak campaigns against the programs of the FSLN government.

In general, in its preliminary report, the OAS shows a series of considerations for the electoral system as well as recommendations to advance toward perfection, focusing principally on the cleaning up of the census. It has recommended an Electoral Law reform to cover a series of vacancies that could be overcome in the future.

Many thanks

Fausto Torrez

Nov 2017

 

Carte Sobre la NICA Act y las elecciones de Alcaldes en Nicaragua

Estimados amigos y amigas, cuando pensábamos que la imposición imperial sobre nuestros pueblos era un hecho del pasado, recientemente hubo una decisión del Congreso de Estados Unidos de aprobar la denominada Iniciativa de Ley injerencista Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, conocida como “Nica Act”, esta situación promovida por congresistas norteamericanos y miembros de la extrema derecha Nicaragüenses, constituye una flagrante agresión orquestada desde  territorio norteamericano contra Nicaragua y Nuestra América para deslegitimizar nuestra soberanía nacional.

This interventionist process is similar to what has been done against other countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia. In the case of Nicaragua, it has the objective of instilling economic and financial sanctions against a legitimate government and the people of Sandino. The Nicaraguan people are realizing free and democratic elections, living in peace, and improving conditions of life for our people.

Está pendiente llevarlo a debatirlo en el senado, no sabemos cuál será el fin de esta iniciativa, que pondrá en riesgo el desarrollo que en este momento tiene nuestro país.

Este proceso injerencista es similar a lo que hacen contra otros países, por ejemplo, lo que hace contra Venezuela, Cuba, o Bolivia. En el caso de Nicaragua tiene el propósito de materializar sanciones económicas y financieras contra el gobierno legítimo y el pueblo de Sandino. El pueblo de Nicaragua realiza elecciones libres y democráticas, vivimos en paz, y estamos mejorando las condiciones de vida de este pueblo.

No obstante, frente a esta provocación; este 5 de noviembre, la victoria del FSLN fue demoledora con el triunfo de 136 alcaldías de las 153 que tiene el país.

Estas elecciones fueron presenciadas por 60 observadores internacionales pertenecientes a una misión de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y estudiantes del Consejo Nacional de Universidades (CNU). El informe oficial de la OEA destaca la normalidad de las elecciones, aunque al final se dieron problemas en algunos municipios por partidos de la oposición inconformes con los resultados, cuando ellos hicieron una campaña débil frente a los programas del gobierno del FSLN.

En general, en su informe preliminar, la OEA expone una serie de consideraciones al sistema electoral, así como recomendaciones para avanzar en su perfeccionamiento, centrándose principalmente en la depuración del padrón. Ha recomendado una reforma a la Ley Electoral para cubrir una serie de vacíos que se podrán superar en el futuro.

Muchas gracias

Fausto Torrez

Nov 2017

Building internationalist solidarity in Boston & NYC

 

In October, Friends of the ATC and the ATC, CLOC, and La Via Campesina visited Boston and New York City to exchange experiences with communities in the United States and continue building solidarity with peasant movements of the world. During this trip, Friends of the ATC was one coordinating body of visits with students, academics, and workers on three university campuses: Tufts University, Northeastern University, and New York University.

 

Friedman Justice League, made up of a group of students that are working to apply a social justice lens to the curriculum in their graduate programs, welcomed us to their classes at Tufts University. The concept of dialogo de saberes (“dialogue among wisdoms”) that allows LVC to continue growing over time at the international leel, the challenges of building movements made up of many different languages (sin traducción, no hay revolución or “without translation there is no revolution”), and how student-LVC alliances could help systematize experiences within the movement were parts of our discussion with FJL members.

 

At Northeastern University, in addition to an engaging conversation at the Latino Student Center with students and faculty, we participated in an exchange of experiences with worker-organizers from the dining hall workers union (UNITE HERE Local 26) and student solidarity organizers. The union had just signed a new contract after a long struggle and period of negotiation with the university, thanks to, as the workers mentioned, the solidarity of 42 student organizations articulated under the HOWL coalition (Huskies Organizing With Labor). It was an inspiration to see the successes of worker-student solidarity in the struggle for living wage, health coverage, and a just workplace.

 

Local 26, HOWL and ATC at Northeastern University – Long live worker solidarity!

 

At NYU, in an event organized with WhyHunger‘s Global Movements Program and NYU’s Food Studies program, the ATC’s Faustino Torrez spoke alongside fellow CLOC-LVC comrade Jesus Vasquez from Puerto Rico and Graca Somo of World March of Women on the construction of food sovereignty through social movements around the world. We also heard about the damage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the island of Puerto Rico: While the US government has done little to respond to these climate disasters, LVC in Puerto Rico has been organizing nearly daily brigades to farms to help clean and implement agroecological practices to recover from the storms and build long-term food sovereignty. There was a reflective discussion of what food sovereignty looks like in the United States. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance was identified as one important space. We all agreed on how important it is to have regular dialogues on food sovereignty in the US and to support grassroots organizing within our own communities in New York or wherever we are from.

 

Charla at NYU

 

Social movements of the world, unite!

 

In addition to many other topics, one common thread throughout the tour was solidarity with Colombia in preparation for LVC’s 2nd International Mission to Colombia (November 21st-27th, 2017), made up of delegates from 26 countries, to evaluate the implementation of the Peace Accords in the Colombian territories. La Vía Campesina, along with the UN, FAO, and EU, is one of the official guarantors of the first point of Peace Accords, which focuses on integral agrarian reform and the creation of a new countryside in Colombia.

 

We saw on our trip that the peoples of Boston and New York City are in solidarity with peasant movements around the world. There is a lot of thirst, especially with the rise of the ultra-right and fascism, the urgency of climate change, and the chronic disease epidemics in our communities, for organizing and movement-building. An internationalist solidarity can nourish us all!

 

Watch the Facebook livestream of the NYU talk here.

Inauguration of the Central American Vía Campesina School in Chontales, Nicaragua

Attendees at the 2017 inauguration of the Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA)

Friday November 10th was the inauguration of the Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA) campus located in Santo Tomás, Chontales, Nicaragua. The 233 acres are now a center for agroecological production and experiential learning among peasant farmers, workers, rural women and youth in Central America. Agroecological techniques will be applied within the school as a reflection of the united efforts towards food sovereignty in Central America and the world.

Festivities for the Inauguration began the day before the event, as members of La Via Campesina organizations from throughout Central America met in the Managua-based Francisco Morazán International Peasant Worker School for the movement’s Political Commission meeting. The next morning the 30+ participants traveled together by bus to Chontales, a three-hour trip of singing and chatting with advocates from brother and sister organizations around the world.

The Inauguration began with a mistica, led by Maria Canil, a Central American representative on the International Coordinating Committee of La Via Campesina and leader of CONAVIGUA in Guatemala. During the mistica we centered around different colored candles and designs made of corn kernels, beans and other seeds, recognizing and respecting our Mother Earth and the power that we have as a united group. Afterwards, leaders from Vía Campesina organizations in Central America shared their experiences as leaders in this movement, past experiences in the war and appreciation for the peace that exists today.

After the speeches we came together once more around the mistica and were asked to embrace those standing next to us. Santo Tomás’ inauguration was an exciting international event of solidarity and the beginning of many years to come of agroecology workshops and programs. The school is an important step towards food sovereignty in Central America and the world.

For more information about IALA please visit:

ATC Nicaragua Facebook

Francisco Morazán School Facebook

CLOC-Via Campesina’s continental encounter on agroecology

Representatives from IALAs throughout Latin America

 

From September 27th to 30th, 2017, the historic Florestan Fernandes National School of the MST in Brazil hosted La Via Campesina’s continental gathering on the processes of formación in agroecology within the movement. The objective was to study and debate the current state of the action of capital in the countryside in its project of globalization and see how the implementation of agroecology by social movements is confronting this challenge. Over 50 representatives from 21 different countries from the Americas and Caribbean were present, including the ATC and other organizations from Nicaragua and Central America.

 

Ada Farrach of Nicaragua speaking in the seminar

 

Part of the seminary included presentations from ten different peasant agroecology schools in Latin America, including the network of ATC-affiliated schools in Nicaragua, IALA Mesoamerica. Ada Farrach of La Via Campesina Nicaragua (who is part of the Friends of the ATC collective in Nicaragua) presented on the advances of IALA Mesoamerica.

 

 

The seminary produced document describing lines of work (original in Spanish here). Here is a translated selection from the document, which can be read in full on LVC’s website:

Agroecology: a way of life, struggle and resistance against capitalism. Agroecology is the basis for peasant agriculture and food sovereignty. Agroecology continues to be open to debate and dispute; from the perspective of our movements, it is the guarantee, care and protection of our Mother Earth. For that reason, it is transversal in all the spaces of the land, subsoil, territory, water and space.

The cosmovision and epistemology of our peoples tell us that agroecological practices are the center of our ancestors’ production, since they are the coexistence of all living beings. The land does not belong to us; we belong to the land. We are balance and equity, solidarity, integrity, diversity, territorial defense, the ‘buen vivir’, the dialogue between ways of knowing, expressed through the peasant-to-peasant method.

We do not want sustainable development, we want sustainable life. Agroecology gives our identity back to us. Women played a historic role in the evolution of peasant and indigenous agriculture.

 

 

The seminar also expressed its solidarity with various communities of Latin America. In particular they called to attention internationalist solidarity with the Mapuche peoples, who are struggling for territory and recognition by the Chilean government and who have 4 political prisoners who have been on hunger strike for four months, putting their life on the line. The full solidarity statement with the Mapuche peoples can be read online in Spanish.

The participants in the seminar returned to their territories inspired by the advances in agroecology made by LVC in the past decade and by the Florestan Fernandes School, a strong example of how formación is much more than a class. The value of internationalism was present and alive in the school, which is a school for all organizations of struggle around the world.

 

LVC published a video on the seminar (en español) that shows some of the highlights:

Women Banana Workers Focus Group in Chinandega, Nicaragua

El Movimiento de Mujeres del Campo or MMC, an articulation within La Via Campesina that supports and advocates for rural women, traveled to Chinandega, Nicaragua, on October 15th 2017 to facilitate a focus group for women working in banana unions. This meeting was one of many in the MMC’s long-term efforts to identify solutions to existing challenges related to gender in the workplace. There were twelve attendees in the focus group representing eight unions in Chinandega. Three participants were men, the rest were women from fifteen-years-old and up. Specific responses during this session remain confidential but questions centered on two topics: 1) women’s voice and place in unions, 2) the political and systemic support for women in unions.

Participants spoke about their experiences for close to three hours while members of the MMC took notes. Topics such as reproductive health, safety, machismo, division of labor, voice and leadership were addressed. The banana sector is a historically male dominated industry and the MMC provided a safe place for women to share their experiences and perspectives. Participants were asked to identify specific clauses that they would like to change, remove or add to the Manual of Clauses on Gender in the Collective Agreements. The MMC will negotiate the proposed clauses with the unions and businesses, a process that can take weeks to months. The intention is to establish a more equitable and safe work environment for women in the countryside who are disadvantaged by transnational corporations, imperialism and patriarchal systems in order to better the working and living conditions of rural women.

Reflections from ATC Interns – Youth Movements in Nicaragua

Building a New Class Consciousness: El Movimiento Juvenil del Campo in Nicaragua

By ATC intern Matthew Bridges

 

Editors’ Note: In collaboration with the ATC, Friends of the ATC facilitates a small internship program for learners (usually university students or recent graduates) who are committed to solidarity with social movements. Each intern has a unique experience and brings a unique perspective and contribution to the ATC while they are in Nicaragua. In this post we share with you an article written by ATC interns from July 2017, Matthew Bridges.

 

Youth in the Past

While every social movement is born from a different context, youth participation tends to be fundamental to the success of social movements. Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution, which triumphed in 1979, relied heavily on the participation of youth in political and social programs. The Sandinista front was made up almost entirely of youth. Upon winning the revolution, it was these youths who were tasked with redefining and rebuilding their country. Notably, in 1980, a nation-wide literacy campaign was launched, where the ministry of education facilitated 100,000 educated, urban youths to stay in the countryside and urban outskirts, teaching literacy skills. This movement proved successful, as the country’s illiteracy rate plummeted from 50% to 12%.

 

Youth Today

Today in Nicaragua, a youth is defined politically between the voting age of 16, and 30, while within the ATC, one is considered a youth between the ages 16 and 35. In the countryside, youth have distinct challenges. If they can attend school past the junior-high level, attending university is often rarely attainable without scholarships. If this is not an option, youths will seek formal and informal employment without higher education. Informal employment is any kind of work which does not include the benefits of a salary and social security. Some examples include selling tortillas and produce in the streets, as well as services such as handy work and taxi-driving, when not affiliated with a cooperative. Another option for rural youths is emigration. During a rural community visit near Somoto in northern Nicaragua, community members stated that youth from their communities have migrated to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and the USA to find work and send money to their community.

Gender is one of the most important aspects of the youth struggle. Just as in the rest of the world, in Nicaragua the culture of machismo remains strong, a word which describes a general patriarchal attitude among men as well as women, especially in rural communities. Machismo, combined with a general lack of sexual education, and limited availability of contraceptives has led to one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Central America. As a result, women, especially in rural areas may be limited in their career and education opportunities.

Recognizing the situation youth are facing, the government is actively working to support youth development. For example, they have passed Law 392: Promotion of Integral Development of the Youth. This is promoting youth employment in public and private businesses, demanding a minimum of 30% youth employment in each business, as well as integrating more technical agriculture training, as well as other types of vocational training into over 600 schools in the nation.

 

ATC and the Movimiento de Juvenil del Campo

The ATC, with its revolutionary foundations and ties with the international peasant movement, La Via Campesina, is fostering the youth generation by working to re-build a youth class consciousness. This means that the young leaders who are active in the ATC are aware that they are taking part in lucha (struggle) against patriarchal, neoliberal, and consumerist national and international forces.

The ATC’s youth articulation, the Movimiento Juvenil del Campo (MJC, or Peasant Youth Movement) is composed of youth from the various organizational branches of the ATC. In a general sense, the work of the ATC can be divided into three parts: farmer cooperatives, individual producers, and labor unions. The MJC encompasses each of these foci, with an overarching theme of gender representation. In each region of Nicaragua, there are currently five MJC coordinators, including two youths (one man and one woman) representing labor unions, two representing the cooperative sectors, and one representing the producers sector (campesinxs who are not affiliated with cooperatives). The ATC is currently looking to double the number of youth coordinators in every region, as a part of a strategy to further strengthen their organizational raíces or roots.

If the leaders of the MJC are successful, then they are charismatically transmitting their experiences, and thus spreading the movement to others in their communities. As the founder of the ATC, Edgardo García put it, “We are not fighting for future generations, without fighting for the present ones first. In this sense, our commitment [as youth leaders] has to be tangible.” The ATC actively promotes the presence of this type of leader, in large part, through their formación trainings, which take place during fifteen day periods at the Escuela Francisco Morazán in Managua. These trainings focus strongly on building class consciousness in each youth present. Political and social learnings take place using a pedagogy which facilitates “the development of an identity in practice”, which is seen by the movement as more important to long term movement building than specific skills or knowledge drawn from the training (McCune 2016).

A thriving example of the MJC in action is the tabacalero (tobacco worker) unions in the Estelí region of Nicaragua. In Estelí there are around 33,000 workers in the tobacco industry. 70% of these workers are youth under 30, and 65% are women. Only 2,000 are affiliated with labor unions or sindicatos, as many of the tobacco businesses prohibit workers from being involved. Working to promote unions in Estelí, which support fair wages and healthier working is ATC’s Escuela de Oficios (School of Trades) located in Estelí’s city center where youth can become certified in cigar rolling. Most of the students in the ATC’s school are young women, often single mothers, for whom paid work is a necessity. With a foundation of skills to enter the workforce, these young women and other youth in Esteli are set on a more secure path to employment.

 

Women in cigar factory CubaNica work sorting and preparing tobacco leaves.

Providing youth with mobility is a prominent theme in the formación, or holistic education offered by the various schools of the ATC. In Nicaragua’s most prominent coffee growing region, Matagalpa, the ATC operates the Rodolpho Sanchez Bustos Northern Agroecological Institute, one campus of IALA Mesoamerica which is part of a growing international network of agroecology schools organized by La Vía Campesina. In this school, rural youth can become Agroecological Technicians after participating in a bi-monthly practical course for three years. As Agroecological technicians, the youth are able organize for food sovereignty and security in their communities. They might also have a better chance at securing one of the few paying jobs available on more industrialized coffee and cacao farms.

 

Youth at the Rodolpho Sanchez Bustos Northern Agroecological Institute participate in a practicum planting a garden bed. 

 

Students participate in theoretical aspects of agroecology in the classroom.

 

Internationally Speaking

Empowering youth to lead their movements is a strong theme within Vía Campesina. In 2016, representatives from the MJC, as well as other affiliated youth organizations in Nicaragua attended the International Meeting of Youth Engaged in Struggle in Brazil. This Via Campesina event was hosted by Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST). The meeting was focused on building capacity and alliance for resisting imperialist, neoliberal, as well as patriarchal forces alongside a youth presence from forty countries. Youth, women, peasants, farm workers, laborers, indigenous people, and other historically marginalized peoples are fighting against the same structural and ever encroaching forces worldwide. Only with a strong emphasis on the involvement of youth in these movements, will they succeed in representing their members and fighting back.

 

Hasta Siempre, Comandante Ranulfo

Editor’s Note: The ATC lost one of its leaders on August 23th, 2017. Read below the translation of an article written by ATC communicators in memory of Ranfulo Vasquez of Estelí. See original article on the ATC’s Facebook page post here.

 

ATC General Secretary Edgardo Garcia & Ranulfo Vasquez

 

Until Forever, Comrade Ranulfo

by Dionys Melgara and Karla Oporta, Communicators’ Network ATC-UNAPA

Today the ATC in Nicaragua is in mourning: one of our greatest directors has died, Ranulfo Vasquez Camas.

Ranulfo was born in the Department of Esteli, coming from a peasant family that lived 11 kilometers from the capital city. When he was 18 months old, his father died, so with his mother and 5 siblings, the family planted their parcel of land together.

From a young age, he liked organizing, and he was part of the radio schools installed then, and at the age of 16 he was part of Cursillo, a Christian movement. In 1972 he became part of a guerrilla training group of the Frente Sandinista.  In 1977 he was responsible for mail and logistics, and coordinator of a network of collaborators of the southwestern column Comandante Julio Ramos. The 14th of August, 1979, he headed the takeover of a farm in Esteli, in the area of Villa Vieja, now a tobacco farm known as Villa Nueva.

At that farm, the ATC chose him to participate in a course of popular theater promoted by the Peasant Cultural Theater Movement (MECATE). That same year the first Constituent Assembly of the ATC, became official in April 1980, when he became the Secretary of Propaganda of the ATC in Esteli.

In an interview by El Machete in 2011, he described to us what it meant to take on this great responsibility, and here we quote his words, “I remember at that time we had no vehicles, and we traveled by foot long distances, up to 25 kilometers, to reach the communities. “

There was a difficult moment in his life in which he left the organization for a while; nevertheless, he continued trade union organizing.  He returned to the ATC in 2000 to take the position of Secretary of Labor, and later Secretary of Organization, until he became Secretary General of the federation.

In that same interview in 2011, he affirmed that he was in the ATC as a matter of principle; it always formed a part of his life, and as Fidel once said “Life will absolve me” because he had his tough encounters but he never forgot the class struggle; for him the ATC has been an instrument of struggle.

Ranulfo loved the ATC

Ranulfo will no longer be with us physically, but his legacy will be an inspiration to continue holding high the flags of struggle of our organization. In a quick interview with Reina Munoz, acting Secretary General of the ATC in Esteli and with whom Ranulfo worked for many years, she narrates the role this great comrade played in all the organizational work.

Reinita: He was a founder of the ATC-Esteli; when he arrived, he came with that euphoria wanting to work with organized men and women, and he really jumped into the trade union struggle.  The role he played is extremely important because his memory will stay in several hearts and minds of the affiliates of the unions and small producers, cooperatives, committees, and friends, siblings and family.  He was a co-worker that left everything for this organization; he gave his body, heart and soul.  He fought unfailingly with great effort and love.

El Machete:  Of the qualities Ranulfo had, which surprised you or called your attention?

Reinita: Ranulfo had a great quality, one few of us has: he loved this organization, he carried it in his blood; he had class consciousness, which you have to have experienced a lot to have.  I learned much from him and I think we have that same quality.

El Machete: How will the ATC-Esteli federation continue his legacy?

Reinita: We will continue working as he did, struggling to organize the union, with small producers, to continue improving the lives of each one: men, women, and youth in the countryside.  We will keep doing what he started because this work is never finished; we will continue to struggle so that our organization can continue on and reach many more anniversaries.