A month without Berta. A month with Berta
By Claudia Korol
[Translated to English by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle - Poema original en español aquí]
A month without Berta. A month with Berta. Women rise up from our different
corners of the planet and say, “We are all Berta.” In our different
languages we all repeat: “Berta’s alive, the struggle survives!” And meanwhile
the powers of injustice keep weaving their webs to obscure
the truth of the crime against the sister from COPINH, daughter of the Lenca people,
compañera of all people who struggle.
The Lenca women, the women of COPINH, the ones who learned
audacity and rage with her, lose patience and storm the Attorney General’s office.
They paint it red. Red like Berta’s blood,
A month without Berta. A month with Berta. It’s hard to sleep. Over and over again,
I’m startled awake. It’s the same time the assassins entered her house. It’s the same time
they fired. Berta asks of us, “Wake up humanity! Time is up!”…
I think of you Berta in the early dawn hours. It’s the same time they
multiplied you. The bullets re-birthed you as the conscience of our continent.
A month without Berta. A month with Berta. We take the streets. We paint your
name. I want to ask you all, sisters and brothers, what do we mean, exactly,
when we say that “We are all Berta”? What does that phrase mean in
our day-to-day life? What changes are we forced to make when we say that we
are all Berta? What changes to our routine and
the way we are in the world are we willing to make?
I’m writing against the ritualization of death. I’m writing against
naturalizing crime. I’m writing against the comfort of thinking of ourselves as
Berta without knowing the risks and fully taking up her struggle. Because
we must say that “Berta’s alive, her struggle thrives,”
but never as a phrase to calm our rage or
Those who have walked alongside Berta, we know that nothing could be further from
calm then moving through this world with her. Because if the ritual
doesn’t mean making changes ourselves, revolutions ourselves, beyond the
emotion we put into saying her name, are we really all Berta?
A month without Berta. A month with Berta. I ask myself… if it is true that
Berta is a planted seed as we feel in our lands, who is defending
those lands, who is watering them, who takes care of them?
and I also ask myself, how will we get justice for Berta? Do we think
the criminal Honduran state and its institutions,
the ones responsible for the history of pain amongst the Lenca people,
the indigenous, garífuna, black peoples of Honduras, will make it happen? What will do
to stop Berta’s memory from being distorted by those to want to see this extraordinary
figure packed back into the same molds from which she constantly escaped?
How do we ensure that those who clashed with her time and again don’t wrap her in a
history free of conflicts? Because Berta didn’t just confront companies like DESA and
SINOHYDRO and their hydroelectric project Agua Zarca,
transnational corporations, the coup government, the military,
the paramilitaries. Berta also confronted those who institutionalize
left politics following the same logic of the powers-that-be, she confronted
the patriarchal family model that sought to suffocate her, she
confronted those who call themselves our brothers but carry out violence against
women, she confronted allies who didn’t respect
Berta had a wild tongue that she used to confront the powers
colonizing our bodies and territories, the capitalist
patriarchal power structure, prejudices… And she paid for it with so much pain and
I still ask myself if it may be necessary to make ourselves uncomfortable when we say
that we are all Berta, and use that discomfort to take the streets, to
rebel in the face of all injustice, like she did, she who was
guardian of the Gualcarque River, who was also the voice that alerted us
to other oppressions and injustices…
“Hey sister, what are we going to do to support the Kurdish women, look how beautiful
their revolution is… hey sister, what are we going to do about Colombia where they
are killing our sisters… hey sister, I’m calling you from Aguán…
hey sister, we’re headed to Río Blanco… put the word out sister,
those bastards are coming for us”…
A month without Berta. A month with Berta. The wound hurts. It’s not weakness
to say that it hurts a lot. It’s feeling the immense solitude left by
your absence. Because we are missing Berta even if we are all Berta. Because our sister,
our compa, was one of a kind, was special… that’s why the rage
is so boundless, the tears, the voices that multiply around the world.
When we say today that we are all Berta, we are talking – I think –
about a collective body of rebellion… But still, that body
has to keep on re-making itself in revolutions. Because within that collective body
in which we are all Berta, we are missing Berta. It is a hard
battle against adapting, against losing hope, against fear,
against resignation, against the bureaucratization of
revolutionary dreams, against forgetting.
A month without Berta. Let me correct myself. A month with Berta. I repeat myself. A
month without Berta. I ask myself. Are we really all going to be Berta now? I
answer myself. Berta’s struggle survives and thrives. In the Gualcarque River, which
still runs freely through Río Blanco. In the Lenca people, who cry for her and carry
her forward with them in struggle. In Berta’s daughters and son, where we see
the mark of her teachings, the words of her whole life, her clear gaze,
her warrior spirit. In Mamá Bertha, who stands strong
at her age demanding justice. And in ourselves, sisters on
this path, insurrectionary feminists, autonomists, in solidarity since forever, we
who have the wounded skin of our peoples and hearts that run as
fast as the river.
A month without Berta. A month with Berta. We know that you’re not at rest sister.
That you are demanding that our peoples wake up. Not to play the games of the
powerful, but to carry out the revolutions that await us.