From the Perspective of a Social Activist

English translations by Jennyfer Quizhpi, Thomas Jefferson University

Valeria Larco was born in Guayaquil and was raised in the capitol city of Ecuador, Quito. She graduated with a degree in Political Sciences and International Relations. She also specializes in Epistemologies of the South of Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) Ecuador. Apart from social contributions, she has also worked in social organizations that specialize in gender, human rights, and intercultural issues. She currently lives on the Island of Galapagos, as a volunteer in “Uniendo Fuerzas Formamos Futuro” (UFFF).

Her work in social organizations began at the INREDH Regional Human Rights Foundation in Quito, where they do strategic litigation, consisting of accompanying cases from organizational strengthening, legal escort, and communication support for serious violations of Human Rights. She contributed to issues of active non-violence, focused on mobilization and peaceful social organization of strategies such as, art for taking over public space and leading roles in struggles. As of the June 2022 strike, she joined  the Trans Feminist Assembly of women in dissidence in the city of Quito, on a proposal that came from organizations and her own personal conviction.

In Isabela, Valeria joined a network of organizations called Tejido Violeta that started in San Cristóbal, but has become a provincial proposal that works for women’s rights. From the association “Uniendo Fuerzas We Form Future”, and her academic training in Political Science, she contributes by approaching the institutions that promote institutional debates such as ordinances, and how a Participation Council works.

These are things that people would not know from common sense, and it is not easy to understand how it works, so for me, I have to become the connection between the people that have already been working on this, and this institutional discourse” (interview, Isabela- Galápagos 28 April, 2023),

From the experience, her bond with the fight with social struggles in the Organization and Social Mobilization, have forged her activist character, which has been achieved from closeness with society, because from there, the voices of other organizational processes that are not strictly academic, are heard.

“In fact, most of them don’t come from academia, so it’s like trying to lower the ideas that are formal and in academic standards, towards a more popular language, towards knowledge that can be shared, in circulation that can be applied in any space, as in the one I am in right now” (interview, Isabela- Galápagos 28 de abril de 2023).

The arrival to Isabela Island

Valeria decides to work as a volunteer after two previous events, which occur in the years 2018 and 2022 when she visited the Galapagos Islands for vacation.

From her perspective, she observed that the discourse in Galapagos does not coincide with the way in which people live, not only in economic terms, but also in access to services and education. From there, she became interested in looking for social processes on the islands, in which she can be linked from her academic and social trajectory. In particular, she decided to work in Isabela by observing how the community was organized, how it looked physically, and its socioeconomic situation.

I saw that I had to question between the conservation discourse, and other issues with which Galapagos has the most problems with. In addition to having to conserve nature and this pristine place, which in reality is not pristine because we are already here, there are some social problems that need to be attended to. So that’s where I started looking, but I insisted that it should be in Isabela because it became clear that there were no initiatives here. They don’t talk about how important it is that a place alone cannot be preserved, if you don’t preserve the lives of the people who live there first, if you don’t have guarantees of health, education, basic services, if you at least don’t have the bare minimum to live a decent life” (interview, Isabela- Galapagos April 28, 2023).

In her search, she came across the UFFF, in which she is involved in organizational issues, given her experience in other organizations, organizational issues, and project development.

The first way to contribute is to know, which is why it was important for me, without a doubt, to come and contribute, to any space that opens up, and to the spaces I know, so I can get closer to the community to understand what is happening there” (interview, Isabela- Galapagos April 28, 2023).

Throughout her career in social processes, it is highlighted that every process has to be educational on both sides, that the contributions that are given must always be connected to a training process.

For this reason, her contributions have focused on training workshops in educational institutions, with the support of other organizations on the island, about topics on contextualized curriculum through project-based education, in the area of ​​comprehensive sexual education.

Valeria highlights that apart from possessing the knowledge she learned in university, she has also shared with other people with whom she has come together to think and work with. It is important that opinions are heard and a common solution proposed, but this rarely occurs, and that is where that strength to fight for social justice comes from. If there were no organizations that joined efforts or people who united their knowledge together to work on these issues, then a fight for social justice would not exist.

To Valeria, connecting to a social process means having the security of not being alone. On the contrary, it means having someone to think about what happens in the place where she lives, someone who can accompany these processes, which are not easy, and that the fight for social justice is exhausting on a personal level, especially when personal care can be forgotten by prioritizing collective spaces.

She also talks about the participation that young people should have in fighting for social justice and having social debates. She explains that we should all be participants in social causes, but at times, this can link to other realities, such as drug use being the only escape, despite the fact that they can be included and promoted to other spaces.

Begin to circulate the questions, the discomforts they feel and listen to them and open up other options for them, you have the soccer club, the basketball club, perhaps getting into those spaces without trying to take them away, but instead connect to those spaces that are already organized” (interview, Isabela- Galapagos April 28, 2023).

For Valeria, social processes, getting involved with the things that happen in the place she lives, from the points of academic strength or personal skills.

Being able to share, learn, dialogue and question, and taking advantage of community spaces, are the ways and means of fighting for a dignified life, with basic compliance of Human Rights.

Texto original de Dayana Muñoz, Licenciada en Educación Intercultural Bilingüe.
Traducciones al inglés por Jennyfer Quizhpi, Universidad Thomas Jefferson.

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