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River of Birds and Free Men

River of Birds and Free Men

By Gonzalo Abella and Gervasio Espinosa

Note written by Gervasio Espinosa in collaboration with the Uruguayan historian Gonzalo Abella on the issue of the pulp mills on the Uruguay River. There is no other channel, this is it.

—The Río de la Plata is actually the fusion of the Paraná with the Ocean, and the Guaraní peoples called it “Paraná Guasú”. The Paraná River makes a gigantic curve to the east and south, and borders our common land on its left bank. The Uruguay River is just an interior river of that immense plain.


—During the first half of the nineteenth century, when there was still no progress in understanding the devastating role that the burgeoning capitalism would play decades ahead, the mighty River of the Birds derived from a common southern channel to the east-west border. Buenos Aires was already Virreina del Plata, and in this estuary and its adjoining graceful majesties imposed their royal interests. Gone are heroic men and women and their loves. There were also betrayals.

—The same original peoples populated the two margins of Uruguay. The same peoples of the subtropical jungle visited them, and in the Montiel estuaries and in the eastern zone those copper-colored peoples planted the same palm trees in a single diagonal line. That diagonal of the palm trees that crosses the Uruguay River seems a prophecy, it seems an announcement of another diagonal of blood; the one that both peoples venerate, the one that crosses the flag of Belgrano descending towards the earth.

When the eastern town in 1811 was left out in the open for not accepting Portuguese slavery, the people burned their ranches and followed Artigas. And the eastern people survived in their long march thanks to the Uruguayan military escort, the food carts that came from Paraguay and the solidarity of Entre Ríos. The eastern town was entrerriano for several months in Ayuí.

True: in 1820 Artigas and Ramírez faced each other. Bolívar and San Martín also had their differences, and in general in all the liberation processes there were passionate clashes and mutual misunderstandings between leaders and groups. In the case of Artigas and Ramírez, they reached the armed confrontation in what was the twilight of both. I read Ramírez's letters, I understand their logic, but I still think that Artigas was right. But it is necessary to remember that the betrayal of Artigas, not the confrontation but the true betrayal, nestled on eastern soil and bore the name of Fructuoso Rivera.

Later ... everyone will have their version. I admire, revere López Jordán, and not Urquiza. But my debate against the urquicistas is from compatriot to compatriot. When I speak of Urquiza and López Jordán I am discussing my own story.

—A century and a half later, faithful heirs of those imperial majesties, also protected by the same grace of the powerful Mr. Money, united and coordinated their subordinate capacities to sow terror and death "ipso facto". These refounders were not only gentlemen, navigators, tankers and aviators, but also, and to a great extent, functional newly born technologists of the establishment. With his handwriting, blood and fire came this new recivilization: always all for some, for them.

—In the old Concordia cemetery were buried the remains of Artigas's last companion (the Paraguayan spearwoman Melchora Cuenca) and their son, Santiago, who, forgetting the memory of his father, became a soldier of the unitary cause. Neither Unitarians nor Federals ever blamed him for being Oriental. He was one of the people of Lavalle, fighting, in my opinion, on the wrong side. Years later, the remains of Lavalle, carried by carriage in the retreat of his disbanded army, were pursued north by another oriental, Oribe, who was the eastern president and soldier of Rosas.


—From behind, children of the loves of those heroic women and men, part of the land itself and its channels, native peoples and even Creoles, we snort, we sniff not once but twice and we are attentive to take a step forward.

"I have relatives in Concordia." A girl from Gualeguaychú told me recently that all the male classmates in the group that studied with her at her home had had a Uruguayan girlfriend whom they had met in Las Cañas or at the local Carnival. And that they were all fans of Jaime Roos.

In the last match for the soccer qualifiers between Uruguay and Argentina, at the Centenario Stadium, behind my row of seats there were two people from Entre Ríos. At one point in the rostrum the young people all started jumping at the same time, shouting: “ the one who does not jump is a porteño ”. These two Entre Rios looked at each other and one said to the other: "They screwed us. We will have to jump.

—Now, fearful by nature (if not cowards for convenience) the aforementioned technologists with their recent godchildren (politicians, relatives and assistants), fearful of us, children attentive to take a step forward but today, tomorrow or in a century, always , and also those already referred to, obedient out of fear (they well know them) of the henchmen of Don Money, the boss, they cowards out of convenience at his command, of course, they make their own, it seems, their ambition. On one side and the other of the channel now bordering, they are crouched with open face.

—Someday all Orientals will know (the University of the Republic does not yet recognize it) that the main studies on the Uruguayan language are due to researchers from Villaguay, Entre Ríos. And that the descendants of Charruas from La Paz, also in Entre Ríos, proudly wear T-shirts with designs of oriental rock art.

-Water. Their bosses seek to take the water. Our lives seek, as always, to get along. Like vampires, they are reborn and reborn with our blood, ours, yes, inherited from us; and his vassals do not decide to sew shrouds because they presume that they are their own, as every vassal presumes. The water they seek, the water of our simple drinking for them to rinse off their pestilences ...

—Perhaps then we Orientals can all understand how the luxury paper transnationals, which despise us, lie to us and poison us, have confronted us, have embittered the Uruguayan government, and snubbed President Vázquez when he announced together with Kirchner that the works of Botnia were going to stop to enable an intergovernmental dialogue. Perhaps then we all understand that the World Bank does not have independent technicians but paid servants of the Transnationals, that their "technical" reports have the same value as the speeches of the dictators. Perhaps then we will all understand that the transnationals and technocrats only stop their machinations when there is an energetic response from the peoples. If there is not, the monoculture forest that destroys life will advance, always accompanied by the government discourse that announces that now measures will be taken so that what will continue to happen no longer happens. Meanwhile, the “ecological” Finnish businessmen have already bought huge extensions in Russian Siberia, destroyed its nature and planted monocultures of eucalyptus that due to their slow growth will be ready for their first cut exactly when Uruguay is already a useless sewer.

"There is confusion." There is no other channel, this is it. Now, tomorrow or a century from now, we already understand the devastating role that once thriving capitalism has played.

—The justification for each measure taken by the Gualeguaychú assembly can be discussed. What cannot be argued is that we should do something together against transnational corporations and that it is a shame that we allow ourselves to kill the future, believing in the promises of the luxury paper companies that are enemies of Humanity.

* Written in collaboration between Gervasio Espinosa, Argentine, and Uruguayan historian Gonzalo Abella

(Montevideo and Province of Buenos Aires, October 12, 2006.)


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