Interview with a representative of the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) in Porto Alegre.
Bernardo Condori Yanke, mallku of the Cultural Heritage Commission of the Council of Ayllus and Markas of Kollasuyu has 45 years old and participated in the 2005 World Social Forum's Cultural Heritage Commission in Porto Alegre.
"Renacer" was able to interview him at the end of the encounter, when people were whishing farewell to each other.
How and when does the CONAMAQ come about?
The CONAMAQ was constituted on March 22, 1997, in the territory of the Qullakas Asanajaqes. It is composed of the regional organizations Jatun Quillakas Asanajaqis, J'acha Carangas, Charka Qhara Qhara, First Nations' Council of Potosi's Ayllus, Qhara Qhara, Ayllus of Cochabamba, Jach'a Suyu Pakajak'i, Urus, Saoras-Chuwis, and Kallawayas.
The CONAMAQ is an aymara and quechua organization, it is not a labor union, it is a First Nations' organization, each marka has its ayllus, a part on the bottom and a part on the top, urinsaya and aransaya. The markas are generally composed of 4 ayllus.
Which ayllu do you belong to?
Makavalle Ayllu, and other ayllus such as Araya, Kollana, Jilave, and Yanage form the marka.
You had a meeting last year in Cochabamba.
Yes, on November, this time there is not a date set for the next meeting but it will most likely take place on April or May. I will be carrying out the mission that was assigned to me until June.
How are you organized?
There are two maxim authorities, Vicente Flores Romero and Lorenza Mostacero, it is always a duality, the next authorities will be from the Sora nation, Antonio Machaca (Sulqiri) with his Chacha warmi (wife).
The ones that follow are, from Salinas, Lucio Colque who represents the regional Council and is Mallku of International Relations, and me from Qulta, as mallku of Cultural Heritage.
Were you part of this organization from the beginning?
Including my grandparents, many of us maintained the organization and little by little it took a labor union form, I have always been a supporter of the ayllu.
When we began many of our brothers said that the labor union form was brought from another place. When they went to Chapare, other brothers also brought the idea of a labor union to apply it to the ayllus.
Is that the difference with other organizations such as the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) and the CSUTCB (Unique Union Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia)?
The labor union is strong, dominant; it is not good for the ayllus.
They are dictators but they are my brothers. In those labor unions one can see the influence of political parties. Now under the CONAMAQ we are becoming stronger. The brothers that were part of labor unions are now becoming conscious; we have a pact of unity. They used to say "I am from Chapare", and now they recognize their origin in the communities. La Paz is like my janka. Jacha Uta is the countryside where there is space to graze and where we are not closed-minded.
It is not only about doing business and then complaining in the city, in the ayllus it has always been that way as well, it is necessary to live with one's own work, in the cities and in the countryside. Sometimes in order to annoy us, through the mayoralty they try to give us drinking water, cement channels. In order to sow, I make the channels with my own hands, I do not use cement because it does not absorb and the plants can dry up. Because in some communities its members have migrated to other places and have seen the modern ways of doing things, now water is becoming polluted in some places.
In communities, the water from the slopes is alive, we do not need to clean it from bugs and we directly drink the clean water.
What is the relationship of the CONAMAQ with Mesa?
The problem of October was stopped. All ayllus are from el Alto. In that young city live aymaras, quechuas, I have seen people from everywhere, from Cochabamba, from Potosi. Something like a First Nations' union was made. It is a strong movement in el Alto, they are conscious, they have their little enterprises, they work as a labor union, we did not like what Goni wanted to do.
Mesa said that he was going to listen to the organizations, but he is doing what he pleases. We will not permit that, we have elevated our proposal for the Hydrocarbons Law, from the Constituent Assembly. We continue to guard. It seems that we will rise up once again. If they are not speeding up the process to set the Hydrocarbons Law it is to fool us.
How do you view the problematic in Santa Cruz?
They are obtaining their autonomy, but it is the firms who are pushing for it, those from the government. They have land institutions to take advantage of our natural gas that is Santa Cruz and Tarija.
What happened on October can happen again but it can become worse. But us as First Nations people are not crazy, we are asking for what is fair. Now in Santa Cruz there are many quechuas and aymaras.
Yes there are many, but the guaranies and other First Nations' groups are the majority.
But we have contact and a pact with the First Nations from the lower lands. On the other hand there exists also the political parties' dominance.
This has happened within the CONAMAQ, there is always someone who wants to explain what the CONAMAQ is truly about. The politicians take leaders in the press so that we will fail.
How did you experience the World's Social Forum?
Under the CONAMAQ we shared with our brothers, each exposed his or her demands and necessities. Our fight is for land and territory and natural resources, and these have to be shared, but the firms are used to plundering us. They only think about their own pockets.
In your opinion the demands of the continents' First Nations are almost identical.
Yes, almost the same, because they say they are being discriminated. We are neither valued nor respected. We have heard that for our children's wellbeing it is important not to give up just like that, because tomorrow they can blame us and ask us what we have done.
Do you have a final thought to share with the Bolivian residents in Argentina?
I was in Buenos Aires last November and I met brothers and sisters from the ayllus, but some are forgetting. Some have cried when saying "this is my tradition I come from such region". I have always participated as a First Nations' authority. I told them: "We have to hold on to our wisdom, to our uses and customs. But being here in Argentina we have to remember who we were and where we came from.
I send greetings to the brothers and sisters in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego), because there are quechua brothers and sisters from Potosi, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, they even sent me letters for their relatives.