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|Written by Marc Becker|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2007|
Thousands of Indigenous peoples from 24 countries gathered in Guatemala on March 26 for the Third Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala. After U.S. President George W. Bush visited the country two weeks earlier during his contentious "diplomatic" tour of Latin America, Maya priests cleansed the site of his "bad spirits" in preparation for the summit.
The week-long summit was held in Iximché, a sacred Maya site and main city of the Kaqchikel Maya people. The first day dawned bright and sunny. In Tecpán, a nearby town where many of the delegates to the summit were housed with local families, organizers gathered in the main plaza and exploded fireworks to celebrate the beginning of the meetings. In the early morning light, delegates crowded on buses to travel the four kilometers up to the Iximché ceremonial site. Nestled in a plaza among the pyramids, Maya leaders led the group in a spiritual ceremony as the sun peeked over the horizon. On subsequent days, people from the North, South, and Central America all took their turns with the opening ceremonies.
"Our world is not for sale," she declared. "Bush is not welcome here. We want, instead, people who support life. Yes to life. Imperialism and capitalism has left us with a historic debt, and they owe us for this debt."
She emphasized the importance of people creating alternatives to the current system.
"There are no recipes for success," Velásquez emphasized. "We need to make up our own alternatives."
"Our minds are colonized," he stated, "but not our hearts. It is time to listen to our hearts, because this is what builds resistance."
Development plans look for a better life, but this results in inequality. Indigenous peoples, instead, look to how to live well (vivir bien). Choquehuanca emphasized the need to look for a culture of life.
Isaac Avalos, secretary general of the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), picked up on this concept, suggesting that we should not talk about land but territory because it is a much broader term that includes everything–land, air, water, petroleum, gas, etc. Following along with this symbolism, we must take care of the earth as our mother so that it can continue to provide a future for its children. The discussions led the gathered delegates to advocate for very practical and concrete actions, such as drinking local water and boycotting Coca-Cola.