From the 8th to 12th November 2015 the RLC CAMPUS VALDIVIA had the pleasure to host the 1992-RLA-Laureate from Guatemala, Helen Mack, with whom we realized a lot of activities that we would like to share with you. Helen Mack is an activist, famous for her ongoing fight to defend human rights. She was given the RLA for her perseverance in the search of Justice after the brutal killing of her sister Myrna Mack in 1990 who was a social anthropologist and conducting a research on the displacement due to the war in Guatemala. Results of this investigation where, as we can imagine, not in the interests of the dictatorship, which led to the brutal killing of Myrna Mack as a direct consequence.
1) Talk with pre- and post-grad students
On Monday afternoon, in an ambiance of closeness and trust, Helen shared her experience what it was and still is like to be an activist in Guatemala, her ongoing struggles to fight for human rights, her winnings and failings, her motivation and her fears and her role in the Foundation Myrna Mack, founded by Helen Mack.
Next to students from the Master’s Program in Development on a Human Scale and Ecological Economics and “SPRING” (Urban and Rural Planning), there were also numerous law students and professors attending the talk with Helen Mack, being interested in the history and the lessons from someone who’s activism successfully change the juridical system of a country.
2) Open Conference
THE CULTURE OF IMPUNITY IN LATIN AMERICA
At full house, Helen presented her story to university authorities, teachers, students and people from the civil society and organizations of human rights of Valdivia. In this instance, she shared her experience of 25 years of struggle against the impunity following the murder of her sister, showing the savagery which involved policies taken by the State and which devastated more than 23 indigenous communities in Guatemala, over 85% of those affected in their human rights. Therefore, Helen has been known for being the only Guatemalan to denounce it publicly without fear, despite death threats and strategies of intimidation that she has received during her fight. Helen called on us young people to be irreverent, rebels and to fight so that we as a society can overcome once and for all the culture of impunity, which have been lived by our precursor generations with so much pain and suffering.
3) Visiting the House of Memory (La casa de la Memoria) in Valdivia
During this activity, Helen was received by social leaders of human rights organizations; the Association of detainees, disappeared people and former political prisoners of Valdivia. She was given a tour of the House and listened to those who are witnesses and survivors of the atrocities that occurred during the time of the dictatorship in Chile.
“We share our experience of life during the oppression, as a way to keep alive the unofficial stories which not have been told so that in the future these atrocities will never be repeated.”
4) Dinner with the Rector of the Universidad Austral of Chile
The authorities of the University Austral de Chile hosted a dinner where they thanked Helen for her presence Valdivia and projected potential joint action to strengthen closer networks and strategies between the winners of the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, the Academy, the local community, the students in order to development and facilitate future research with multidisciplinary approaches.
5) Getting to know the city of Valdivia and the Region and getting to know us on a personal level
The opportunity to have Helen at the UACh was not “wasted” and we took some time to show Helen our reality, our city, the market, museums, the river and the Pacific Ocean… We made sure that she now knows Valdivia and its culinary flavors. A group of students also accompanied her to the lake Llanquihue, to see the Puyehue, Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes in Puerto Varas.
All this time we shared, we talked about our lives and realities, about the studies and the thesis, our research
and we were happy to receive her advice and vision. Helen left us with one impression humanity and closeness. We could share ideas on the different perspectives of rural areas in Guatemala, in Colombia, and Chile, we could also discuss the controversial topic of GMOs from a systemic and critical perspective, the joint in geopolitical terms and the territorialization hiding Gigantism through the trans-nationalization and privatization in the use of this type of technologies that threaten the socio-cultural heritage in rural southern Chile agriculture.
Víctor Bonilla, one of the first scholars of the Right Livelihood College and compatriot of Helen, mentioned during the talk: “… Helen, without a doubt, having you here to present, to dedicate your time patiently, to learn from your courage and bravery, reminded me of my land, our accent and lead me to share with my classmates symbols and meanings of the Mayan culture and ideas about different discipline. Talking a common language between a German ecologist, a Colombian industrial engineer, a Peruvian journalist, two anthropologists; a Chilean and an Argentine, a Chilean lawyer and two Colombian economists, learning along with fellows of law in undergraduate studies, was for me with my training in agricultural sciences, an excitingly beautiful experience that I simply ran out of words to express it…”
We thank the Robert Bosch Foundation, which financed the trip to Valdivia, UACh and made it possible for Helen to visit us. Special thanks to Helen, who dedicated us these days, thank you for your simplicity human quality, its strength and courage that has been for us an example and inspiration! Helen encouraged us and challenged to build a better future, to look critically and alternative world in which we live… It was without a doubt an enriching experience. Thank you Helen!