‘The media accuse us, Indigenous people, of starting the fires,’ this young Bolivian journalist says

Foto de Mario Quezada Beyayo tomada por Jessica Peñaloza Cladera para Rising Voices.

A group of 11 young people from various Indigenous and Afro-Bolivian communities in the Gran Chaco region in Bolivia participated in the workshop called “Roipea Taperai” (“Opening Paths,” in the Guaraní language). The workshop focused on the terms used in Bolivian media when reporting on climate change or Indigenous peoples in the region (more about the workshop is available to read here). What follows is an interview with one of the participants in this workshop.

Mario Quezada Beyayo belongs to the Eiti community in the area of Gran Kaipependi Karaguaicho- Kereimba Iyambae. He is a member of the Escuela de Periodismo Indígena (School of Indigenous Journalism) and is also an active member of his community, as he continuously participates in the meetings with the council of Guarani captains, who are the local authorities.

For him, the media should be a bridge to make people more aware of reforestation and recycling. During his participation in the Roipea Taperai workshop, he analyzed word clouds, and in this interview he shares his views.

Word cloud for the terms “Chaco” and “disasters” generated by Media Cloud.

Rising Voices (RV): During the workshop participants chose a word cloud and identified words. In your case, you chose the cloud resulting from the search for “Chaco” and “disasters”. Within that cloud, you identified the term “forest fire” as words you wanted to reflect on. In that sense, how have you seen those terms represented in the media?

Mario Quezada Beyayo (MQB): A mí me llamó la atención, de la nube de palabras, [la frase] «incendio forestal en la Chiquitania». [Los medios] hablan mucho de los incendios y nos acusan como pueblos indígenas de que muchos [de nosotros] provocamos esos los incendios.

Mario Quezada Beyayo (MQB): I was struck, from the cloud of words, by [the phrase] “forest fire in the Chiquitania”. [The media] talk a lot about the fires and they accuse us Indigenous peoples for provoking these fires.

RV: What words should a word cloud have for the phrase wildfire?

MQB: La palabra que debería tener es reforestación del territorio y del bosque dañado.

MQB: The word it should have is reforestation of the territory and of the damaged forest.

RV: During the workshop, the group created an imaginary word cloud with terms they feel represent them. Explain what words you highlighted in your cloud and why?

MQB: Regenerar, pues tenemos que regenerar el bosque dañado. Los incendios que se provocan están matando a nuestro bosque y está contaminando el agua que nosotros consumimos para vivir y [está matando] a los animales.

MQB: Regenerate, because we have to regenerate the damaged forest. The fires that are started are killing our forest and it is contaminating the water that we consume to live and [is killing] the animals.

RV: What is not being told or talked about in the media in your area?

MQB: No cuentan que falta agua o que no nos llega ayuda. A veces [los medios] dicen que se mandan víveres, pero no llegan […] a las comunidades, quizá llega a otros lugares que están más cerca pero [no] entran más adentro y por lo tanto no saben cómo están viviendo las otras personas de otras comunidades, como la guaraní.

MQB: They don't say that we lack water or that we don't receive aid. Sometimes [the media] say that food supplies are sent, but they do not arrive […] to the communities, maybe it arrives to other places that are closer but [they] do not go further inside and therefore they do not know how other people from other communities, such as the Guaraní, are living.

RV: What do you want the people of the Gran Chaco to know about climate change in your area or your region?

MQB: Quisiera que sepan de la importancia de cuidar nuestro planeta y la naturaleza. Que si talamos árboles, hay que plantar de nuevo, que no se bote la basura y que se recicle.

MQB: I would like them to know the importance of taking care of our planet and nature. That if we cut down trees, we should plant them again, that we should not throw garbage away and that we should recycle.

RV: What do you want the people of Bolivia and the world to know about climate change in your region?

MQB: Que se necesita apoyo en las comunidades. Hay mucha sequía y muchos están talando los árboles.

MQB: Communities need support. There is a lot of drought and many are cutting down the trees.

The Roipea Taperai media literacy workshop was held on July 2 and 3, 2022 in the town of Charagua, located in the south of the department of Santa Cruz (Bolivia). It was promoted by Global Voices, a partner of the Fundación Avina, in the project “Exploring and shifting narratives on climate change in the Gran Chaco” within the framework of the global project “Voices for Just Climate Action.” For this workshop, Global Voices collaborated with the School of Indigenous Journalism, a project carried out by the ORÉ – Legal and Social Support Organization.
Jessica Peñaloza Cladera  participated in this interview with Marco Quezada.

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