Dona Maria Ligia Chaverra
Colored Pencil - 19" x 23"
Doña Maria is a community leader of Las Camelias, a humanitarian zone in the Northwest region of Urabá, Colombia. In 2018, she won a national award called “Toda una Vida” in recognition of her lifelong dedication to defending human rights. The humanitarian zone of Las Camelias is one of many communities in the Jiguamiandó and Curbaradó river basin. These areas largely belong to Indigenous and Afro-Colombian residents that have long been impacted by state and paramilitary violence.
The fertile soil of the area is coveted by large multi-national corporations (MNCs) that, with threats and violence, are taking the land to plant monoculture crops, such as bananas and palm oil plantains. These corporations use their power and finances to displace ancestral landholders and demolish sustainable community farms.
For example, in 2007, the popular U.S. brand Chiquita Banana plead guilty to the U.S. Department of Justice of paying paramilitaries almost $2 million from 1997 to 2004. These paramilitaries threaten the livelihood and physical and mental safety of many. Chiquita was fined, but none of this money went toward reparations for those whose lives and livelihoods they endangered.
Community leaders like Doña Maria work daily to protect the land from MNC's, paramilitaries, and educate others about their struggles. As a result, they face constant death threats from paramilitaries and other illegal-armed groups that work at the behest of corporate interests.
We have much to learn from their struggles.