What Do We, the Indigenous People, Expect from COVID-19 in Our Communities?

Ollantay Itzamná
https://ollantayitzamna.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/dsc_1181.jpg?w=640&h=427Indigenous mam. Community meeting. OI

What will happen when COVID19 reaches us, if anything? We do not know for sure. The only thing that is certain is that we will not abandon our grandparents, nor our deceased loved ones. We will bury them, with all possible care in the orchards, because it is highly probable that the “state health protocols” will never turn their eyes towards our indigenous communities

COVID19 dismantles what little remained of modern “society”, especially in cities. From now on, it seems, solipsism (individual self-isolation) will be synonymous with security, and the phobia of the “sick grandfather”, may be a virtue of citizenship. Did the modern project of societas perish? Did the “transmodern” project of comunitas perish? The answer is not yet clear.

Some years ago, I resumed my process of re-enchantment with our Mother Earth, and left the asphalt to return to the rural community. There, a few kilometres away from the urban asphalt, I live in a community with other indigenous families. Some of them, culturally mestizo, are genetically indigenous.

We have small yards where we raise our small animals for sustenance. Some of us have vegetable gardens. Others rent out pieces of land to neighbouring farms for the cultivation of grains. Some of us trade among neighbours what we produce. We have a community water source that we carefully maintain.

Our children, like their grandparents, live with us in the community. During these days of “curfew”, we were pleased to learn that several of us neighbours brought food to two grandmothers in their little ranches.

How does life continue in our community, in times of agoraphobia (phobia of encounter)?

Quechua children. Ollantaytambo.OI

Since the COVID19 pandemic, the rhythm of life in my community has not changed much. They continue to go out to the mill before dawn, carrying the nixtamal (boiled corn) to make tortillas. As the day dawns, they continue to work as day labourers to the neighbouring farms. Our children no longer go to community school, but continue to gather for play, and to learn in the gardens.

Our communication with the nearest town has been reduced to a minimum. Public transportation trucks no longer pass through our community. We go out once a week to the village market to buy the essentials. It seems that the village, or the urban area, is becoming less attractive to rural Indians than before?

Although the State lacks the capacity to register cases of COVID19 , they report that the closest confirmed case of contagion is on average 150 km away. It is not far away geographically, but socio-culturally it seems to be on another continent.

Some of our neighbours from neighbouring communities are still leaving for the next town to work. Even in our community, two of our neighbours still go out to work in the next town every day. It is possible that COVID19 will reach us if the towns do not have the capacity, or the political will, to control the virus.

Currently, we are in “self” community isolation. But not incarcerated. We consume less from the market, but we are more dedicated to growing/rearing in the yard/garden. We do not suffer from collective panic. We do have fear. But, we continue to nurture and care for community life.

Mama girls. OI

What will happen when COVID19 reaches us, if anything? We do not know for sure. The only thing that is certain is that we will not abandon our grandparents, nor our deceased loved ones. We will bury them, with all possible care, in the orchards, because it is very likely that the “state health protocols” will never turn their eyes towards our indigenous communities. And they do not have to, because these and other Indo-Campesino communities have survived without states or republics for nearly two hundred years. And even against the will of the state, we subsist. We also do not make news headlines.

Translation by Internationalist 360º