miércoles, junio 11, 2014

RETURN TO VIEQUES, by Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero



Twice the size of Manhattan and located to the east of the main island of Puerto Rico, Vieques had most of its land occupied by the US Navy at the start of World War Two for use in war games and target practice, and as munitions depot (1). An unprecedented mass civil disobedience campaign from 1999 to 2003 forced the Navy to close down its firing range in the island’s eastern half. I had visited Vieques several times as a journalist since the 1990’s, when local residents expressed to me their feelings of frustration and hopelessness after decades of efforts to get the Navy to leave and let them be (2), and witnessed in April 1999 how a small group of protesters started a wildcat sit-in inside the firing range. The protest snowballed into a massive non-violent movement of defiance that turned all of Puerto Rican society upside down and got noticed all over the world (3).


...the Hydro Organics farm (5). Vanessa Valedon, the co-owner, shows us around. The 30-acre lot has squash, green beans, papaya, moringa, avocado, coconut, eggplant, pineapple, guava, romaine lettuce, and lemongrass, as well as a tilapia pond. The labor force consists mostly of woofers, internationalist backpackers that work in sustainable farms all over the world in exchange for no more than food and lodging. The farm is run according to the principles of permaculture, a discipline that combines agriculture, ecology, architecture and design.

We drive uphill through an unpaved road that is impassable when it rains, up to the farm of Jorge Cora. The farm is on a hill summit with a majestic view of the island’s south coast, including the gorgeous Sun Bay public beach and Mosquito bay, the latter famous for the nighttime glow of its waters, caused by bioluminescent microorganisms. Cora lives in this hilltop in a modest wooden structure with no electricity. He plants vegetables, lettuce, peppers, neem, beets, basil, tobacco, and other crops. He uses no pesticides and no industrial agricultural inputs, and gets no government help of any kind. Proud of his independence, Cora lives fully according to his beliefs, in the tradition of Thoureau and Puerto Rico’s rural jíbaros of yesteryear and today.

El Laboratorio Viequense from GAIA on Vimeo.

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