I posted several weeks ago a brief report based on an interview with one of the thousands of men that work in the sugar can fields of El Salvador, and about how these workers are forced to poison themselves, their families, and the land in order to produce the cash crop for absent land owners. Since then I have found more and more articles about issues with sugar cane in El Salvador and in other parts of Central America, problems with kidney failure, flooding, poor labor conditions, and so much more.
Being here, watching the ash of burning sugar cane falling around me, sharing a meal with the men who spend their days spraying pesticides on fields that are not their own, I am enraged. I am pissed off. I cannot believe we can be letting this happen.
But I imagine someone far away where sugar looks more like fairy dust than an agricultural product, and all it takes to add some sweet to ones diet is a stroll down the aisle at the grocery store. I imagine this person saying “What do you expect us to do instead? It seems that everything is an environmental threat these days.”
And the thing is, that person in my imagination is right. Everything is an environmental threat these days, and that’s not just because certain industries ignore environmental impacts, it is because we are digging ourselves deeper and deeper into confused tunnels where we can neither see the impacts of our actions nor find our way out when we want to. And we´re so, so afraid to say anything.
It´s not just that these sugar cane farmers are spraying pesticides, but there is also nutritional issues and overly-sugary foods that predispose their kidneys to be affected by the harsh work in the sugar cane fields. And it´s about a pre-existing poverty that makes it so people would rather get paid $5 a day to poison everything that is home to them than to refuse to do so, which would mean more immediate suffering. It´s about a political structure that is based on the god of the 21st century more commonly referrred to as The Market. It´s about a world in which the earth is seen as a commodity rather than as a mother. It´s about all these things, and we can´t talk about health or human rights or development or sustainable agriculture or youth or violence without recognizing that they are all related to each other.
I know I say it all the time, but it all comes back to the whole solidarity thing. I´ve been in the Sister Cities office here in San Salvador for a few days this week, and I can´t help but being impressed by the interconnectedness of the lucha here even just in the office. While Estela works on a report about human rights in Honduras, Alex is talking with Alejandro from the Roundtable Against Metallic Mining, and I´m working with youth popular education organizers about doing trainings with high school students in the Lower Lempa region, where a big chunk of the sugar cane farming happens.
And you, reader, wherever you are, I hope you are fully metido — involved in — some fight for some cause, and I hope that you read this and you know that we are connected to me, to the sugar cane farmers, and to everyone else who refuses to be silent.
One of my best friends who I´ve known so long I can´t remember a time when I didn´t know her is metida in the fight against the TarSands pipeline in the US, and today I have the huge honor of reading her beautiful writing on the Huffington Post here. We periodically get to skype with each other, and share stories about the luchas that life has put us in, or that we have put ourselves in.
I hope that for those of you reading my blog, it is not just one more hopeless story about our messed up world. Things here in El Salvador can be very ugly, and there is a lot that we don´t even know about. But I hope that if there is one take away from these stories, it is that each of us can — no, each of us MUST do something. The fact that each issue is connected to a thousand others is not something to dispair, but a source of hope, because I think that in the massive web of it all there is a place for each of us.
You are not alone.
Follow Maya´s blog, Untold Stories Told