Category: World News

Pope Francis Returns to South America, Calling for Climate Justice for the World’s Poor

He says government should include indigenous groups, people of African descent, women in decision-making

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

By Tulio Ospina

Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, visiting his home continent for a three-country tour that includes Bolivia and Paraguay.

The pope’s visit to Quito—Ecuador’s capital city—attracted over one million people who traveled from across the country and camped out overnight to get a good view of the pontiff.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

The pope, who is Argentinian, had been expected to address the exploitation of the Amazon—the planet’s most ecologically important rainforest—following the release of his extensive encyclical on the environment.

The encyclical reveals his deep scientific, economic and social knowledge surrounding the causes and effects of “the harm we have inflicted on [the planet] by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

In accordance with Francis’ concern for the poor, the encyclical asserts that while human-induced global warming—based on “a very solid scientific consensus”—concerns all people, “its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries” and the world’s neediest populations.

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of  the Associated Press.

Known informally as “the pope of the poor,” his visit to the region has focused on a message that uplifts family values, communal love and unity.

“The people of Ecuador are beyond excited and pleased, the majority of them being Catholic,” said Azalia Cruz, a Post correspondent in Quito. “In Quito, it was extremely cold, and it was raining a lot when he arrived. Despite this, thousands of people gathered to greet the Pope.”

In one of Latin America’s oldest Catholic churches, Francis pressed a variety of issues,

Addressing ecological concerns, he reminded the Ecuadorean people that “when exploiting Ecuador’s natural resources, the focus should not be on instant gratification” and that appropriate environmental caution and gratitude must be paid when managing these resources.

“Groups of environmentalists opposing petroleum extraction in the Amazonian Yasuní National Park were trying to get a letter to the pope to get a statement out of him,” said Cruz.

These groups have come together in protest to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s intention to open the park’s untouched interior for oil extraction, which will strongly affect the lives of the region’s indigenous tribes and the environment around them, as it has in the past.

Over many years, Ecuador and it’s peasant and indigenous populations have been involved in ongoing international legal battles with Chevron, accusing the oil company of deliberately dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil and leaving behind hundreds of open pits filled with hazardous waste.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

UC Berkeley Supporters Rally For Missing 43 Students in Mexico

Thousands March in Mexico to Demand Justice for Missing Students from Ayotzinapa.

Thousands march in Mexico to demand justice for missing students from Ayotzinapa.

By Nikolas Zelinski

Friends and family of 43 missing university students, “normalistas,” spoke at UC Berkeley last Friday, part of a tour throughout the United State to spread word about the mass kidnapping that has been rocking Mexico for months.

The “normalistas” were studying education at a small school in the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico. Coming from poor backgrounds, students and teachers at this school have a long history of protest and fighting for their rights.

On September 26th, 2014, students from the Raúl Isidro Burgo rural teaching college in Ayotzinapa, went to protest in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.

The students hoped to disrupt an event that was held by the local mayor’s wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa.

Facts about that night remain contested. However, it is clear that local police opened fire on vehicles in the area, and that 43 students disappeared.

Confirmed deaths vary depending on the source.

Since then, Ayotzinapa has become more than just a place, it has become a cause. Mass protests have taken place in Mexico City and in towns and cities throughout the country.

Edwin Ackerman, master of ceremonies at the UC Berkeley event, criticized those who are opposed to those who are backing the 43 disappeared students. “In the discourse of the [Mexican] state, those fighting back are violent, parasitical groups with irrational demands. It’s sort of an intense version of the anti-union, anti-teacher sentiment that exists in the US.”

“In Mexico,” Ackerman continued, “these accusations often have a range of undertones, the image [the government] presents is this unruly, backward mob of indigenous people. It was this climate of stigmatization that allowed for Ayotzinapa to be attacked before in a less circulated case in 2011; while blocking a major highway in demand of guaranteed tenure positions, and better living conditions in their school, federal police opened fire, killing two students.”

Family members and others speak speak at UC Berkeley about the fight for justice for the missing 43 normalistas in Mexico. Photo by Nick Zelinski.

Family members and others speak April 3  at UC Berkeley about the fight for justice for the missing 43 normalistas in Mexico. Photo by Nick Zelinski.

Another panelist was Steve Fisher, a student in the graduate program of journalism at UC Berkeley. He said government responses to the mass kidnapping contradict the thousands of official documents that he has reviewed.

“According to the government, the police along with cartel members, took the students from Iguala, and took them to a landfill in Cocula. There, according to officials, the students were burned. The student’s remains were then put in large bags, thrown into a river, and later supposedly found by the Mexican government,” Fisher said.

Fisher went on to explain that the Mexican military and the federal police adamantly deny that they knew about the attack until two hours after it ended.

But from evidence, it is clear that they knew about Ayotzinapa activities at least three hours prior to the event.

“The [official] story that the government has created has come entirely from depositions from people who had been tortured,” Fisher added.

Blanca Luz Nava Vélez, mother of missing student Jorge Alvarez Nava, said, “We don’t believe anything that the government has been saying. They’ve been trying to deceive us, time and time again, trying to make us believe our children are dead, that they were burned in Cocula, and they are lies.”

“What we’ve always said is that we’re poor, but we’re not idiots. And as long as there’s no proof, we are going to search for our children as if they were alive. I know in my heart, that my child is alive,” Nava Vélez said passionately.

Panelist and Ayotzinapa student Josimar De la Cruz Ayala called for public support via donations, letters, protests and boycotts of arms dealers that ship weapons to Mexico.

De la Cruz Ayala said Ayotzinapa does not accept donations from political parties that would like to claim sponsorship. Ayotzinapa is a non-partisan organization.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 6, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Parents of Mexico’s 43 Disappeared Students Will Speak in Berkeley Thursday and Friday

Street protest in Mexico for the disappeared 43

 

Special to the Post

 

A group of parents of 43 disappeared students and surviving students from the teachers’ school “Raúl Isidro Burgos” of Ayotzinapa, Mexico will be in Berkeley this week.

The parents are on a speaking tour in the United States to explain the struggle of the people in Mexico, share and explain their demand and seek solidarity with Latino population and others who believe in justice and human rights.

On Thursday, April 2, 2 p.m., to 4 p.m., there will be a rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley.

On Friday, April 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. parents and “normalistas” will speak at a forum, “Ayotzinapa: Mexico at the Crossroads,” in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

On Sept. 26-27, in Iguala, Mexico six people, among them three students from the “Raúl Isidro Burgos” teachers school, were killed by the police, one of them brutally tortured before being killed, and 43 other students were forcibly disappeared.

This has been a watershed event in Mexican history. There is a radical difference between the before and the after of these events, in spite of the Mexican government insistence on continuing business as usual.

According to many people in Mexico, the killing and disappearance of the normalistas have made evident the moral abyss of the political class governing the country – a corrupted state deeply infiltrated by drug cartels at every level.

Many Mexicans had hoped that the sheer magnitude of the tragedy—Who would kill students in such fashion? Who would disappear them? Who would attack people belonging to a particularly unprotected social class?—would make the government react, force it to turn around and correct its many years of its shameful behavior and corruption.

Unfortunately, the investigation of the case has been plagued by inconsistencies, omissions, and inexplicable gaps, according to observers.

Renowned scientists, journalists and independent investigators, along with the Argentine forensic team whose collaboration the Procuraduría General de Justicia (PGR, the Mexican Department of Justice) was forced to accept, have strongly challenged the PGR’s version of what occurred on Sept. 26.

Many people are saying that this version lacks an explanation of why a group of petty drug dealers would be interested in killing and erasing every trace of the normalistas—especially when we know that drug dealers seem to take special pains to leave visible traces of their activities.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, March 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

U.S. and Cuba Will Both Benefit from Improved Relations, Says Congesswoman Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush.  Photo courtesy of  Reuters/Stringer.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Havana, Cuba. Next to her are Cuban Protestant church leader Rev. Raul Suarez and Congressman Bobby Rush. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Stringer.

By Ashley Chambers

After fighting for improving relations between Cuba and the U.S. for 37 years, Congresswoman Barbara is savoring the moment – the formal announcement recently that President Barack Obama is beginning to breaking the down the walls between the two countries

Reflecting on her many visits to Cuba over the years, Lee told the Post that improving American-Cuban relations and lifting the embargo will have significant social and economic benefits to the U.S.

“We will benefit in many ways,” said Congresswoman Lee, noting the access to medical treatment and education, as well as trade.

“There are many medical treatments that we can benefit from,” she said. “They have very few cases of Hepatitis B and have treatment for diabetic ulcers in 70 to 75 percent of cases. Having that access to treatment would be phenomenal.”

U.S. Medical students from low-income communities are already able to study in Cuba through a free program with The Latin American School of Medicine.

After Cuba established the program for international students from countries in Latin America, Congresswoman Lee advocated for the program to be expanded to include U.S. students.

A number of U.S. students, some from the Bay Area, now the opportunity to travel to Cuba to study medicine.

Congresswoman’s main concern is that other countries are building economic ties with Cuba and that window of opportunity for U.S. trade is closing very quickly.

But, she is hopeful that the U.S. will “be able to engage in trade soon…Business opportunity means jobs in America,” he said.

In a recent column published in Cuban media by Fidel Castro, Called “Reflections by Comrade Fidel,” the former leader wrote about his 2009 visit with Congresswoman Lee and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Lee had a chance to hear Castro’s perspective of the world, Cuban policies, and discuss human rights issues when she visited his home.

He praised Lee for her stance against “Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq.”

“It was unbeatable proof of political courage.  She deserves every honor,” he wrote.

Lee said in her interview with the Post that she hopes President Obama will visit Havana before he finishes his term.

“I look forward to additional steps to fully normalize relations with Cuba – it is far past time,” said Lee.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 2, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Opportunities to Attend Medical School Free in Cuba

Training is free, but graduates must commit to return home and practice medicine in underserved communities

By Nikolas Zelinski

Representatives were recruiting for the Latin American School of Medicine, or Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) in East Oakland this past weekend, offering students between the ages of 18-24 a chance to study medicine in Cuba without charge.

U.S. graduates of medical school in Cuba.  Photo Courtesy Associated Press.

U.S. graduates of medical school in Cuba. Photo Courtesy Associated Press.

This is good news for potential medical students, as average tuition for medical schools in the US range from $31,000 to $52,000 per year.

To raise awareness about the medical school program and other medical careers options, Oakland’s Purple Heart Patient Center sponsored the meeting at Youth Uprising in East Oakland on Saturday.

Kim Scott of the Bay Area Black Nurses Association spoke about different nursing opportunities that are available right here at home. Scott urged attendees to end health disparity and said, “Health care providers should reflect the community.”

According to Scott, whites and Asians in recent statistics made up 85.8 percent of the Registered Nurse workforce in California in 2004. Latinos make up 32.5 percent of the California population, yet only account for 6.3 percent of the RN workforce.

African Americans compose 6.5 percent of total population and 3.8 percent of RNs, said Scott.

Dr. Melissa Barber, program coordinator of the Interreligious Foundation of Community Organization, described the ELAM campus in Cuba – the lifestyle, and educational standards.

To best sum up her experience, Barber said, “80 percent of going to school in Cuba was about self-discovery, and 20 percent studying medicine.”

In an interview with the Post, Oakland native and ELAM graduate Maiti Rodriguez said she agrees with the sentiment.

Much of the experience centered on overcoming the language barrier and getting used to living conditions. Rodriguez did not speak Spanish before going to Cuba but quickly learned.

She graduated last July and has taken all US medical licensing exams and has applied for residencies all across the western US.

Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba.

Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba.

Rodriguez said she would love to work in Oakland if possible, and added, “I’m interested in working with Spanish speaking populations and underserved populations; but that does not exist just here in Oakland, it exists all over California, and in other states. And I feel the need for doctors who are bilingual, willing to work with underserved population, and culturally sensitive are necessary everywhere.”

Rodriguez continued, “So as much as I would love to be home, I would go anywhere I was accepted and needed.”

The ELAM medical school grew out of the Cuban government response to devastation left in the wake of hurricanes Mitch and George in 1998.

Cuba’s leaders realized that if the poorest regions in the hemisphere were able to develop adequate healthcare infrastructures, they could save as many lives every year as had been lost in the hurricanes.

The Cubans offered full scholarships to enroll at ELAM to young people from the nations affected by the hurricanes – on the sole condition that, once they graduated, they would return to their home countries and offer low-cost health services in their own underserved communities.

In 2001, the first US students were able to attend under the scholarship, as long as they committed to return home and practice medicine in underserved communities.

According to supporters of the program, the offer to US students was made because of Cuba’s recognition that millions in the US have little or no access to affordable health care and that many young people in the U.S. cannot study medicine because of the expense.

Students from communities of color and low-income communities are especially encouraged to apply to the program.

Enrollment dates for ELAM began Sept. 30t and continues through the middle of March 2015. For more information, visit http://instituciones.sld.cu/elam/ or ifconews.org. For more about the Bay Area Black Nurses Association Inc., visit babna.org.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 21, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Councilmember Noel Gallo Calls for Support for Migrant Children

A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas brush country north of Laredo, Texas, Tuesday, June 6, 2006. According to agents, the children were separated from their families after the Border Patrol apprehended a large group of immigrants that crossed into the U.S. illegally. They spent the next 11 hours in the brush until agents found them. This came  a few hours before President Bush visited the Laredo Border Patrol Sector. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas brush country north of Laredo, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

By Ken A. Epstein

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District, is seeking to promote a alliance between Oakland and San Francisco to pressure the federal government and involve local churches to provide humanitarian aid to Central American refugee children who cross the border and eventually arrive in the Bay Area.

“My understanding is that the children come across the border with the idea of connecting with a family member in the U..S. ” and a number end up in San Francisco and Oakland, Gallo said.

In Oakland neighborhoods, Gallo is seeing mostly young people, as young as 4 years old, along International Boulevard. A few are moving in near where he lives.

Many of those who come to Oakland are from Guatemala.

Noel Gallo speaking with students

Noel Gallo speaking with students

The new immigrants are often in desperate need of housing, medical care and other kinds of assistance. “I cannot do it alone, and Oakland cannot do it alone,” said Gallo, adding that he is contacting the Catholic Church and Christian churches, which are most likely to be able to provide immediate assistance.

“We’ve always had a good number of families from Guatemala in our elementary schools and at Fremont High. Some speak Spanish, others speak their native language, which is not Spanish,” he said.

He also hopes city governments can help push the federal government to be more humane to the migrants. “We’ve made contact with the consulates of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, ” said Gallo, “and we’re working with David Campos of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We want to put pressure on the feds to be more responsible. Maybe we do it as a joint effort.”

The so-called child-migrant “surge,” expected to reach as high as 70,000 this year, began in 2011 and became a crisis this year.

Gang violence in Central America, especially in Honduras and El Salvador, is driving a substantial exodus to other countries throughout the region. Often, Teenagers in these countries are being recruited to join gangs. If they refuse, the gang will often retaliate against them and their families.

The children also face violence – including kidnapping, rape and murder – during the danger filled journey to the U.S.

Pope Francs this week issued a statement on the migrant crisis.

“Globalization is a phenomenon that challenges us, especially in one of its principal manifestations which is emigration,” he said. “Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

“A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world,” he said.

He called for support for “The tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain.

“As a first urgent measure, these children (should) be welcomed and protected.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 21, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Author Discusses New Book: “The Real Story of the Cuban Five”

By Post Staff

Canadian author Stephen Kimber will speak and sign copies of his newly released book, “What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five,” 5 p.m. on CoversmSunday, March 2, at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.

Also Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin will speak about their recent trips to Cuba. The ticket price is $10.  The event is organized by International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.

“What Lies Across the Water” recounts the events leading up to the 1998 arrest of the Cuban Five, five Cuban intelligence agents convicted of conspiring to commit espionage against the United States. The five agents – Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez – had been sent to Florida to infiltrate and report on the activities of Miami-based, anti-Cuban terrorist groups, who were carrying out deadly terrorist attacks against Cuba.

Stephen Kimber

Stephen Kimber

Cuba even passed on information its agents learned about those illegal attacks to the FBI. Instead of arresting the terrorists, however, the FBI arrested the Cuban Five. While the Cubans remain in jail, one serving a double-life-plus-fifteen-year sentence, the terrorists they tried to stop remain free.

The story of the Cuban Five exposes what the author considers the injustice and hypocrisy of the U.S. government’s supposed post-9/11 zero tolerance policy toward countries harboring terrorists.

He asks: Why were men who tried to prevent terrorist attacks against Cuba charged with espionage against the U.S.? Why does the U.S. continue to protect and harbor known terrorists?

For more information go to www.thecuban5.org or call (510) 219-0092.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, February 28, 2014 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Support Haitian Family Reunification

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) has launched a petition drive in support Haitian families, calling on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution urging the Obama administration to establish a program to expedite the reunification of people in Haiti with their families in the United States.

Gerald Lenoir

Gerald Lenoir

The resolution supports the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, similar to a program instituted for Cuban refugees and asylum seekers, to provide support for the over 100,000 Haitians who have already been granted family visas.

“More than four years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, 10 of thousands of people are still in tents and cholera is still rampant,” said BAJI Co-director Gerald Lenoir, who led a delegation to Haiti last June.  “Establishing an expedited process for Haitians is the humane and just thing to do,” he added.

The resolution calls on the Department of Homeland Security to speed up the passage of the families who have visas to join their families in the U.S.  This would benefit Haitian spouses and minor children of U.S. permanent residents as well as adult children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, including married children and spouses and their families.

In 2012, Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks introduced the BAJI-sponsored resolution in the Oakland City Council, which was passed unanimously.  The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission approved a similar resolution.

“Allowing Haitian families to be reunited is the least that the U.S. Government should do, given its sordid history of occupying Haiti, supporting dictatorships and sponsoring two coups against the democratically elected governments,” said Lenoir.

The online petition can be accessed at: http://chn.ge/1omePZW.  For more information, contact BAJI at (510) 663-2254 or info@blackalliance.org.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, February 28, 2014 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Afro Ecuadorians Are Making Headlines

By Azalia Cruz and Ken A. Epstein

Quito, Ecuador – Ecuador, a small country mostly known for the Galapagos Islands on the Pacific coast of South America, has never been on the radar for most Americans – at least until it defied the U.S. by allowing WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange to take refuge in the country’s London Embassy.

Chota River Valley

Chota River Valley

Even less well known in the U.S. is that the country is the home of a vibrant culture of Afro Ecuadorians, who make up as much as 10 percent of the population and whose soccer stars have captured global headlines.

One of the centers of Afro Ecuadorian culture lies in the Chota River Valley in the Andean highlands several hours by bus north of Quito near the border with Colombia.  Here in farming villages along the river, including Juncal, a community of 1,800 inhabitants, many of Ecuador’s best soccer players grow up practicing on dusty fields.

Juncal and the Chota Valley have entered Ecuador’s consciousness as the birthplace of one of the country’s most famous soccer stars, Augustín Delgado, nicknamed Tín.  Delgado, now   retired, is the all-time top scorer for the Ecuadorian national team. He played professionally in Ecuador, Mexico and England.

Other well known soccer players include Ulises de la Cruz, Edison Mendez, Kléver Chalá and Geovanny Espinoza.

Post correspondent Azalia Cruz (second from left) interviews community leaders in Juncal, Ecuador. Shown (L to R):  Residents of Juncal, Cota Valley, Ecuador. Shown (L to R): Pendro Manuel Julio, Segundo Mosquera and Patricio Borja. Photos by K. Epstein

Post correspondent Azalia Cruz (second from left) interviews community leaders in Juncal, Ecuador. Shown (L to R):Pendro Manuel Julio, Segundo Mosquera and Patricio Borja. Photos by K. Epstein

On a recent trip to Chota, two Post reporters were given a tour of the town by Pedro Manuel Julio, a spokesman for Juncal and a few of the neighboring villages; Patricio Borja, who plays drums at local festivities; and Segundo Mosquera, who heads the Intercultural Community Center, which promotes Afro Ecuadorian culture and history as well as that of other countries of the African diaspora, particularly the United States.

The tour took the reporters past young men who were practicing soccer on the field near the Chota River at the edge of town. Many of Juncal’s residents were watching young women play volleyball in the center of town, knocking the ball over a net stretched across the main street.

Pedro Manuel Julio explained that most of the people are involved in agriculture, though nowadays many of the young men more interested in playing soccer. The town grows and sells tomatoes, strawberries, onions, green peppers, beans and other produce for the nearby market in the city of Ibarra.

Young men play soccer near the main highway

Young men play soccer near the main highway

The town has a health center, built with funds donated by soccer star Augustín Delgado.

In the cultural center, Patricio Borja, playing a drum, and Narcisa de Jesús demonstrated the Bomba del Chota, a well-known dance form in which the dancer often balances a bottle on her head.

With music that is rooted in Africa, the dance uses drums and improvisation to build relationships between the dancer and lead drummer. This music and dance is said to also have prominent Spanish, mestizo and indigenous influences in the melodies. Among the instruments that are important in the Bomba are a leaf of a tree that is used to make a special sound and gourds.

The cultural center featured large displays of Afro Ecuadorian history, as well as the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S., especially Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.   A display of African American music highlighted jazz, blues, gospel and hip-hop.

One of the key problems in the town is the lack of a source of clean water.  The water that the town uses comes the Chota River, which is not adequate. The town leaders are working with the government to bring water to Juncal.

Intercultural Center, El Juncal

Intercultural Center, El Juncal

Government support for irrigating the area is especially important in this valley, which has a hot climate and desert landscapes that contrast with the rest of  province.

Most Afro-Ecuadorians are the descendants of slaves or escaped slaves, who originally arrived in Ecuador in the early 16th century. In 1533, the first African slaves reached Ecuador in Quito when a slave ship heading to Peru was stranded off the Ecuadorian coast.

The slaves escaped and established settlements in Esmeraldas, which became a safe haven. Eventually, they started moving from their traditional homeland and settled in Chota and other areas.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 24, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)