On Saturday, August 4, 2018, despite the near record heat here in Portugal, an estimated 800 climate activists and water protectors assembled on the beach at Cova Do Vapor, Trafaria Portugal, located on the southern shore at the mouth of the Tagas River which starts in Spain and essentially bisects Portugal. Lisbon, visible thru the wavering heat, a tinge of smog and the blown-up-from-the-south, yellow African sand always in the background to the north; a constant reminder to me of 500 years of Lisbon being the epicenter of Portuguese history. It’s a long and fascinating history which I’ve been studying the last couple of months while here for the summer. A history which, for me and many of my sisters and brothers (irmãs e irmãos) here in Portugal, pivots on April 25, 1974, the day of the Carnation Revolution. April 25th is the Portuguese independence day, Freedom Day; a national day of celebration and an inspirational day which this Portuguese-American and Veteran For Peace intends to celebrate for the rest of my life as it was for all intents and purposes, a bloodless revolution unmatched in human history.
Back in the present, this event: “Parar o furo – Stop the Oil Drilling” included a display of four different types of DIY solar-powered stoves which were being calibrated and filled with cake pans full of batter when I arrived. Here’s an interview with Fernando from Honduras along with some photos:
While the solar ovens were being calibrated and loaded with cakes another crew was busy laying out the stencil marking made of wide, colorful fabric out on the hot sand under a blazing sun. This fabric and string would be our guide later when we would lay our bodies down to spell a message and create a picture of 2 dolphins, a mother and child, to be captured on video by a drone. (UPDATE: see below for the resulting aerial art)
As the crowd was building, so were the temperatures and those of us who had been there for a while were starting to eye the waves and the cool Atlantic Ocean waters. The word started to go around that it would be best for our safety to go enjoy the water and return when we heard the drums start; it would be time to gather at the stage for the beginning of the festivities. The drumming was provided by Toca Rufar, an artistic and cultural education program which promotes Bombo – traditional Portuguese bass drumming and percussion.
As the drumming started we moved out of the water and back to the event area to enjoy the drumming and some mighty entertaining big birds:
Next, we moved to the stage and were treated to speakers and singing. One of the speakers was LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Lakota historian, founder of the first resistance camp at Standing Rock, who later would bless all of us with water as we assembled to create the message in the sand with our bodies to be filmed by an artist from a drone.
She gave an inspirational speech which traditionally begins with a Native greeting and part of which was:
“We come from across the world to Portugal and I want to ask the people who are here from the tip of Argentina to the tip of Canada who come to Portugal, can you raise your hands? We come to help you. We come to say that this is the place to forgive. This is the place where you can change the world. The rumor I was told when I arrived was that Portugal is ready for Green energy. Portugal can change the whole world if they choose.”
Maybe 30 of the 800 or so in attendance were from the Western Hemisphere. A remarkable number giving the temperatures of 110℉ or 44℃.
A bit later, I spoke with one of the younger water protectors from Standing Rock and we talked about Chief Arvol Looking Horse whom I had the great pleasure of spending a few days with last October and who is quoted in this article “Sacred Activism | Movement for Global Healing” by one of the event organizers; Martin Winiecki:
“People all over the world are now beginning to understand that [water] is a living spirit: it can heal when you pray with it and die if you do not respect it. (…) Standing Rock has marked the beginning of an international movement that will continue to work peacefully, purposefully, and tirelessly for the protection of water along all areas of poisonous oil pipelines and across all of Mother Earth.”
Further evidence, as if we needed it, that indeed, Standing Rock is Everywhere…. Standing Rock está em toda parte!
And this from the event announcement page
With 2 of Portugal’s most sacred sites threatened, the Atlantic coast of the Algarve and Alentejo, Europe’s last unspoiled coastline, and the Catholic sanctuary of Fátima, near one of Europe’s biggest freshwater reservoirs, now is the time for action!
For me, the most amazing part of this event was I had only learned about it the day before having read an article about the planned festivities and the desire to create a lasting and powerful message in an online progressive “newspaper”. While not that far in distance, about 37km, it would require 2 bus rides of about an hour, 30 minutes of walking on this end and almost an hour on the far end on a day where the temperatures were forecast to be record-breaking. On Saturday morning I awoke and did my homework insuring the bus routes and timing, checking the weather forecast and most importantly, checking my energy and spirit. It was a go!
It is hard to describe the feeling when a stranger in a foreign land is standing in a crowd of sisters and brothers and all of a sudden I turn and see 5 smiling friends and a greeting of “Hello George”, fellow progressive activists and amigos from the Free Party, Partidolivre.
At the end of a long hot day hundreds of us finished with a final visit to the ocean:
After the day’s event was over, I was offered a ride home as 2 of my fellow activists live, as it turns out, only a short distance from my condo. On the way, I was treated to a favorite restaurant in Setubal for sardines, a local specialty which I had admitted I was not certain how to eat as the plate arrives with 6 whole fish. It was “muito bem”, very good…. as was the green wine from northern Portugal; clear, crisp and cold on a hot night. The long day ended at 1pm which is not unusual here, the city of Setubal was alive with people everywhere, parking had been hard to find. The ride back to Azeitao was yet another treat, a mountain side, coastal ride to see the dark ocean, the bright stars and the lights far away on the southern shores of Portugal.
I slept well and arose the next morning fresh with energy to write this article and renew my committment to continue the struggle to find peace and justice in this burning world knowing I and many others, including my friends there on the other side of “the pond”, who are likewise working together, working hard, pushing that long arc of the moral universe toward justice… Heave-ho my friends. Heave-ho!
UPDATE: The aerial art has been published, I am the white speck at the top left-hand side of the first “R” in PARAR O FURO (Literally, Stop The Hole – Fracking). Being a small speck instills humility while being part of something bigger is service toward the greater good; life as it can and must be. Can you imagine? 800 of us, almost 110 degrees!
água é vida – water is life
UPDATE: For more information about this inspiring day by the organizing team, see Tamera’s website PARAR O FURO.