Indigenous women rally in Argentina after historic walk against Earth’s destruction

Banner during Argentina protest, showing Indigenous women

Indigenous women in Argentina have taken part in a historic walk to highlight the environmental and gender violence adversely affecting their communities. After two months, the walk culminated in a rally in the capital, Buenos Aires, on Saturday 22 May. Around 100 campaigners attended, demanding an end to terracide (the destruction of the planet). Phoenix Media Co-op spoke to one of these campaigners to find out more.

Resisting destruction

The Movimiento de Mujeres Indígenas por el Buen Vivir (Indigenous women’s movement for good living) organised the action. This is a group of women activists from across Argentina. It also aims to draw attention to gendered repression and discrimination that Indigenous women face on a daily basis, and provide a space for women to discuss their experiences. Moira Millánweychafe (defender) and organiser of the event – set out from Chubut, walking for 1900 km to arrive in Buenos Aires.

The movement describes terracide as the “synthesis of all the ways for killing life that the patriarchal, capitalist system has built”.

Mapuche Indigenous communities located in the south of Argentina have been destroyed by the plundering of the country’s natural resources by multinational mining and shale gas extraction (fracking) industries in Patagonia. Despite the catastrophic effects of fracking, the government has allowed the activity to expand rapidly (in an apparent bid to combat post-pandemic economic depression amid a severe debt crisis).

Traditional Indigenous communities that have inhabited the region for millennia and rely on native plants and crops for food and medicine have been pushed off the land through violent evictions. They’re also reporting the death of animals and crops as an apparent result of contamination.

Holding multinational corporations to account

Phoenix Media Co-op spoke to campaigner Moira Millán about the march and what effect terracide is having on local communities.

Phoenix Media Co-op (P): Tell us a little about how the movement came about.

Moira Millán (M): The movement was officially conceived in 2015 but has a previous history when in 2013 I toured the country to organise the first march of Mujeres Originarias (Indigenous women) in Argentina. It was then that I was introduced to the 36 Indigenous nations and the realities of other Indigenous women. In 2015, we organised a march in which 15,000 people took part; and it was there that the movement crystallised.

P: What is the situation for Mapuche people in Argentina currently?

M: Bit by bit, Mapuche territories are being militarised, repressed, and mostly being placed at the service of the multinationals. So it’s down to us, the Mapuche people, to fight against the multinationals despite judicial persecution, repression and even death.

P: What sort of activities do you partake in?

M: Our actions are fundamentally about the recovery of ancestral territories and mobilisations against companies that wish to extract oil and shale gas through fracking.

P: Tell us about the march that culminated in Buenos Aires.

M: We began walking from the north and south of Argentina to meet in Buenos Aires. We want terracide to be considered a crime against humanity. We want those multinationals to face maximum penalties for the terracide they are responsible for. This campaign is global. Throughout May, there will be actions across the world. We are currently circulating a manifesto that has been developed by academics here in the hope that other activists across the globe will adhere to it.

The struggle is just beginning

Despite the plight of Argentina’s oppressed communities and the irreversible destruction of the Patagonian environment, Argentine president Alberto Fernández is ploughing ahead with his economic recovery plan in which shale gas seems to be a central component. Levels of fracking have been increasing after slumping during the pandemic.

Main article image via screenshot/@PresentesLGBT