NARRATOR: Cauca, a mountainous region in Colombia’s pacific southwest, is home to over a quarter of a million Afro-Colombians – descendants of African slaves first brought to South America in the 1600s.
NARRATOR: It is also one of the most bio diverse regions on the planet, rich in natural resources. Vast deposits of gold lie within these mountains, turning the wealth of the land into a curse for those who live here, says Clemencia Carabali.
CARABALI: Afro-Colombians reside in the area of the country with greater riches such as gold, water, natural resources. This situation makes us very vulnerable because today the multinationals have set their eyes on this rich region.
CARABALI: This brings displacement, war, because they need us to leave the land so they can launch their mega projects.
NARRATOR: Threats have forced Carabali and her sons to move five times since being driven off her land. They now live in a home provided by her work defending the legal rights of Afro-Colombians.
CARABALI: I owe you?
EDUARDO: $1.00. Remember that you promised me $1.00?
CARABALI: I promised you?
CARABALI: But why so much money? Don’t you have some money already?
EDUARDO: To buy some land.
CARABALI: Dream, dream and keep dreaming.
EDUARDO: Dream, dreaming.
NARRATOR: With the family uprooted, it’s up to Carabali to give her children all the extra support they need.
CARABALI: Do you have your homework ready?
CARABALI: OK, let’s see it then. What day is it tomorrow?
EDUARDO: I don’t know.
CARABALI: Why don’t you know?
CARABALI: When I was displaced at first it was very difficult for my children. My youngest child always cried because his father was far away from us, grandma was far away from us. And he didn't pay attention at school.
CARABALI: Tell me which homework is due Tuesday.
EDUARDO: Tuesday – social studies.
CARABALI: “My community needs my participation.”
CARABALI: “To participate you need…”
CARABALI: Oh! You got a three? That’s very low.
CARABALI: “Those who participate are – nosy?
CARABALI: “To participate you have to fight.”
CARABALI: Do you believe that? You think that’s how it is?
CARABALI: “Girls never participate.”
CARABALI: Do you think that is true?
EDUARDO: No. They participate because they also have something to say and like men, they have a right to speak.
CARABALI: Like what your mom does. Your mom organizes meetings, she listens, and is heard. That is participating.
NARRATOR: Carabali lives two hours away from a mountain that’s full of gold. On the top of the mountain lives Francia Marquez … in a community called La Toma. She works closely with Carabali’s women’s network.
MARQUEZ: My name is Francia Elena Marquez Minas. Minas is from my African roots, and Marquez is the last name the Spaniards gave my family.
NARRATOR: Afro-Colombians have mined these hills for generations. But their property rights weren’t recognized until 1993, when they finally won the right to own the land they had lived and worked on for centuries.
MARQUEZ: We inherited the responsibility to protect this place and provide for future generations.
MINER: Come on, put it in here.
MINER: The tools are inside.
MARQUEZ: The whole family depends on the mine. From the age of five you work here. A week without mining is a week where children will go hungry.
MARQUEZ (subtitles): Help! I am so exhausted.
MINER (subtitles): She's a very good miner.
MINER: You already made your day’s quota!
MINER: And who wouldn’t mine next to a woman like her.
MINER 2: Francia is very elegant!
NARRATOR: Marquez works part time in the mines to help put herself through college and raise two sons.
MINER: That’s good rock.
MAN IN BEIGE HAT: With dynamite we could do the job well, but just with our fingertips, no.
NARRATOR: They have to mine by hand because explosives are tightly controlled, and transporting dynamite requires a military escort.
MAN IN BEIGE HAT: It’s only unavailable for those of us who actually need it to work.
MINER: The government won’t cooperate.
MINER: They are giving it to the big fish so they can eat the smaller fish.
MINER 2: Of course, we won’t give up.
NARRATOR: The miners of La Toma depend on small-scale, “artisanal” mining to extract a living from the earth. Their labor is the lifeblood of this tightly-knit community.
NARRATOR: Much of what’s bought and sold at the weekly market depends on the tiny grains of gold the locals sell for cash.
NARRATOR: But the price of gold has been climbing. La Toma’s attracting attention from investors who want to open large, industrial gold mining operations here.
NARRATOR: The community Francia Marquez has lived in her whole life could be destroyed -- unless they get the government to enforce their rights to this valuable property. She’s preparing to lead that fight.
MARQUEZ: I am the vice president of La Toma’s community council.
MARQUEZ: This is the house where my grandparents raised my father, and where I was raised. My grandfather was a leader in the community and I’m inheriting that from him.
MARQUEZ TO SON: Where did Adrian go? To Suarez?
MARQUEZ: Here there isn’t even one lawyer. The lawyers that have been helping have come here from other places so I told myself I have to study law because that gives you the tools to teach your community how to demand their rights.
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