[No photographs yet—I hope to post some soon. And the Spanish translation will have to wait a while.]
In these fifteen years or more, the so-called “small-scale” miners have done a lot of damage with their backhoes—both to the forest and to the social structures and what was once a varied family economy. I’m trying to write about this. But one problem is that the artisanal miners—the barequeros—see them as their partners, despite the damage they have caused. I think I understand this; working in the pits created by the “retros” promises a lot more gold, but in reality the people abandon much of their traditional economic activity and devote themselves to a practice that sinks them deeper into the cash economy without providing very much money for most of them.
One of the sources of the militancy here in El Chocó is that in addition to the “small miners” themselves, there are some underground interests that are very important. The two things I’m going to mention are never discussed in any of the meetings, interviews, etc., but are widely discussed by very knowledgeable people here. First, there is a suspicion on the part of some people that gold mining is used to launder coca money. Could be...
I almost forgot something about "paros"-- —they aren’t quite like strokes as we know them. When I got to Quibdó a few weeks ago, indigenous communities were in a paro along the road that leads from Quibdó towards the neighboring department of Antioquia, and there eventually to Medellín.
But a paro on the way didn’t mean that they were boycotting the highway, but that they were stopping traffic on the way—no one could use it. It lasted over a week—not quite long enough to cause shortages in Quibdó, but long enough to piss people off…
Similarly, a serious paro here could mean not just that the miners had stopped working, but that they expect everyone else to stop working as well. It’s likely that they will just have a peaceful march tomorrow and then things will return to normal on Thursday or Friday. Meanwhile commerce will stop in the city center.
but it’s also possible that this could go on for a while, and really disrupt life here—not likely, but possible. Against that possibility, people started buying groceries this afternoon. As I left the center, about 6, the place was just one big traffic jam, as people bought in the many stores in the center. I was carrying a lot, nd anyway the camera I was carrying decided to die on me suddenly, so all I got was a few silent iPhone videos, but it was impressive.
When I got to the neighborhood where I’m staying (Jardín, for those who know Quibdó), I stopped at the local little supermarket, usually quite slow and lazy, now filled with people, though they weren’t exactly emptying the shelves—I bought a little extra bread and beans and eggs and oranges, just in case.
Even at that intersection, there was a terrific traffic jam that required traffic cops to unsnarl. I asked the owner if they are going to open tomorrow, and he said, “We don’t know yet—it depends on the situation tomorrow.”
Hmm..well, we’ll see