We are GEOGRAPHY 495, an innovative fourth-year seminar in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia taught by Dr. Juanita Sundberg. The course explores the politics of North-South solidarity in theory and practice using Community Service Learning models that join theory with experience and thought with action. The curriculum addresses solidarity on a theoretical level by exploring how solidarity is conceptualized, accomplished, and practiced in and by movements and activists in the Americas. Every year the class tries to collaborate with a justice group with connections to Latin America.
Now in 2015, Geography 495 is collaborating with Stop the Institute, Beyond Boarding, Sarah Ling from Knowing the Land Beneath Our Feet and Angelica Choc. Choc is a Q’eqchi’ Indigenous rights leader in Guatemala who will be speaking at the State of Extraction Conference, March 27-29. Choc’s husband, Adolfo Ich was killed by private security guards in the employ of Hudbay Minerals, a Canadian mining company operating in Q’eqchi’ territory. Choc is making legal history in Canada by suing the company in the Canadian court system. We are lucky to have her in our class for three weeks during her stay.
Geography 495 is busy organizing a UBC Toxic Tour, preparing for a workshop at the State of Extraction Conference, working on a presentation for the Chan Center Connects, and putting together a documentary of the whole experience.
This is a great opportunity for students to actively engage and experience the dynamics of North/South solidarity bridge-making, and what this actually means in practice. Thus, the seminar is structured to link Canada and its students with Latin American Human Rights movements. A disturbing amount of activists peacefully protesting were arrested, tortured, disappeared, or murdered throughout Latin America in the past fifty-plus years. Uniting in solidarity with these groups is extremely important because often these activists need safe places to go to when they face violent and often heavily militarized opposition. Through international solidarity networking, individuals in geographies of struggle can gain support from elsewhere. Struggles can be aided by networking through bringing awareness of conflicts to the public here in Canada, through more people putting pressure on officials to hold perpetrators accountable, and even through providing direct ground level efforts.