ALTO FUCHA – PART 2
(In the midst of Covid-19 - 2020)
By Iván Murcia: Bachelor in Social Work by the National University, member of Huertopia Collective and inhabitant of Alto Fucha.
Photo Credit: Huertopía
This is how we have grown for more than 40 years in this territory. We have consolidated friends, affectionate neighbors, joys, sadness and above all, we have consolidated the necessary strength to build homes and entire neighborhoods with our own hands. Defending the mountains and the Fucha River, as well as the permanence of the inhabitants and making possible the social construction of the habitat avoiding the construction of real estate megaprojects, are our constant challenges. Now we had to face the new global normality in 2020, generated by the Covid19 pandemic and the multiple mandatory quarantines. These restrictions, from the political and economic sphere, have generated the strengthening of the police-state, limiting the freedoms and privacy of people. The new scenario worries us because life passes by paths of uneasiness and anxiety; the inability to earn a living on a daily basis, by our own effort. It has turned our daily lives into a constant restlessness between hunger and the virus.
We are a territory where the majority of people live from informality, from short and precarious jobs. Going outside is a necessity, that's why we have done it, not in order to clumsily break the quarantine, but because of the need to get the necessary resources for our families. We have found three ways: a) go out and get a living; b) go out to protest; and c) go out to sow. The street becomes the stage where the economic problems that exist inside our houses are solved.
The protests materialized in multiple places in Bogotá. The impoverished city made itself felt by blocking roads and mobilizing. The “red cloth” on the windows was the mechanism that attracted the attention of the national, district and local governments, due to the lack of food support and the increasing cost of public services during the quarantine. In Alto Fucha, through five street protests, several blocked roads, and meetings with the institutions on the sidewalks, we met as friends and neighbors to demand attention from the government. The “red cloth” were our flags, and our anthem was: "in this house we don't have anything to eat." We had triumphs: government food arrived and donations from some private companies helped alleviate the lack of food. The street again filled the pantry, but this time it was the pantry of the entire neighborhood. With these "triumphs", at least we endure a couple of weeks, while we repeat ourselves: "each day brings its own rush".
Then came the sowing and the crops. The street again invites us to collective action, this time thinking that we would have more time to think about how we filled our pantries and how we changed the aesthetics of the neighborhood a bit. Thus, we spend long hours of work, tackling the tedious confinement with earth, hoe and seeds. The increase in gardens was exponential: from 7 community gardens we went to more than 20 community and family gardens. Sustainability is at the root of our peasant ancestors, which sprouts like seeds in times of crisis. Thus the neighborhood flourished as a fable and as a materiality, the purple flowers of the yellow potato, the vines of the pea and the green tones of the vegetables began to remind us that the street would give us food. Now we would only have to wait a few additional months; however, we can already imagine life in the medium term.
Selling products on the street or in the neighborhood has always been a way to earn income. Whoever does not have a job in a company or formal job had to go out to get their livelihood. We had to conceive a series of products within the family nucleus, which could be sold, exchanged or commercialized. The quarantine allowed us to consolidate networking, articulate, link and exchange what each one does at home, but now we can sell it unified, it means as the while neighborhood, in person and online. We call this initiative “Red de Economía Popular y Solidaria del Alto Fucha” (Eng. Network of Popular and Solidarity Economy of Alto Fucha). It was created based on experiences of colleagues from Bolivia, who have been practicing collective economies for several years.
At the Network Popular Economy we think about how to improve the sales of local products, especially of the women of Alto Fucha and in this time of pandemic; we see this as an achievement. Today we can say that we take our products to all of Bogotá and its nearby municipalities, thanks to the fact that some neighbors have motorcycles and with biosecurity measures, they help us distribute. Sales inside the neighborhood are different; the products are cheaper among acquaintances, they also try to exchange instead of selling. For example, a neighbor changes soap for cakes, another changes pajamas for creams, and thus slowly, we have realized that it is easier to understand life without money being the one that mediates in all our social relationships. The neighborhood is, then, the place where we materialize our dreams; it is the place where utopias are materialized and dreamed of.
In these times, the virus is advancing in Latin America by leaps and bounds, and governments have prioritized for the region, maintaining popularity over the care of citizens. This is evident in the measures that try to underestimate the scope of the pandemic. We as social organizations know the scope of the virus and the costs it brings to mental health and human lives. If there is no conscious exercise of self-care, with the existing health model in Colombia, which has strong deficits in infrastructure and professionals, this can cause infections and the number of deaths in popular neighborhoods to be higher. For this reason we also decided to go out. But in this case we went out to do pedagogy, to talk with the residents of the territory to explain how to take care of ourselves. We distributed hundreds of masks, we told them how the virus is transmitted and the importance of taking care of the elderly. The exercise was aimed at taking care of ourselves, and as part of a single territory, understanding that the precariousness of some people, will put them in risk during the development of life in a pandemic context.