Esos son cosas de dios, Those are things of God. – Claudio Salvador (Coordinator of project MATE aka my boss).
Religious or not – as I still have to further explore for myself – days like today are incredible, and I find more and more a need to thank someone for them.
Today we had a meeting with the coordinator of Banco de Bosques, their indigenous counterparts, and a few members of the community. Banco de Bosques (The Forest Bank) is an NGO that is overseeing a very large grant that the Guarani community received from an organization called Inter-American Foundation. The agenda was to further organize how the tourism company will run in the future. When we arrived we were told that there was an overlap in scheduling and many members of the community were at another meeting. I thought we would leave and reschedule. Good thing I don’t make the decisions. The meeting was very successful. Although the attendance was not at its best, it was very interactive with lots of participation and many new ideas were offered. The number of total staff needed on a given day was decided on, along with what the various positions would be.
At a previous meeting, it was decided that the tourism company would have sub committees. Today, it was great that Claudio took the time to inquire whether everyone at the meeting fully understood what a committee was. As many in the community did not go to school past grade 8 and do not speak Spanish in their day to day, it was evident that not everyone understood the term. Claudio explained the meaning and immediately changed it to grupos, groups. This may be of little significance to some, but it is very important that the community members are organizing themselves and in order for this to be they must use phrases and words that they understand – not ones that us, outsiders have created.
Had the meeting happened and we all went home, my day would still have been incredible. But, the day got even better! Channel 13 news from Buenos Aires (the capital) came to film in the community!
Valerio, a 19 year old with intelligence, courage, and even a new wife and baby on the way, impressed us all. They filmed an hour tour, where he demonstrated the use of traps, showed us the jungle, and explained the culture of the community. The journalists and cameramen thoroughly enjoyed it. This is great promotion for the new tourism company and more importantly, it highlights that unlike other indigenous tourism communities, all decisions are made by the community members themselves and not an external group. It was also great that Valerio discussed in the interview how their land was recently reduced by the government from over 600 hectares to only 250. This is incredible exposure of indigenous issues that will hopefully encourage people to further look into. At the end of the tour they interviewed me about my internship. Hope they got my good side haha. And I know they got the real, and the great side of the community.