Standing Rock is Everywhere…. Standing Rock está em toda parte!

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)

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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.

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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:

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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.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Lakota historian, founder of the first resistance camp at Standing Rock

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.

#SayHerName Therese Patricia Okoumou

Thank you Therese Patricia Okoumou!  None of us are free, if one of us is chained.

There is so little to be proud of being an American in Portugal on July 4th 2018. I awoke this July 5th to the news of her (s)heroic act, in my mind, Therese Patricia Okoumou stands tall with Bree Newsome and many, many, many others, too numerous to name here.  Numerous, yet a small minority as most Americans were grilling, drinking and setting off fireworks on July 4th; celebrating the allusion of freedom.

Of course, the list of those of privilege who celebrate each Forth Of July without any remorse; seemingly oblivious to the history of colonization, genocide of the American Indian, the enslavement of Africans and how that legacy lives today in the oppression of women, LGBTQAI+, people of color, folks of low to no means, this list goes on and on and is perpetuated in the school to prison pipeline that insures oppression is a profitable business in this so called land of the free and the home of the brave.

You inspire me Therese, and hence this video, which I dedicate to you. As we say in Portuguese; Obrigado!  This Veteran For Peace salutes you Therese Patricia Okoumou, thank you for your service.



Facing Global Trumpism: A Declaration of European Independence?

July 4th in the U.S. is Independence day.  As a veteran and a supporting member of Veterans For Peace, July 4th is a special day for me.  It is a day that I typically set off for a long hike, get away and definitely do not want to be around any fourth of July celebrations which glorify war with explosive fireworks.

This summer I am in Portugal, working on a documentary about the wildfire situation here in Portugal as they relate to climate change.  Desertification and climate refugees are issues which will have a huge impact on this country and it’s people.

As luck would have it, the Free Party is hosting an event in Lisbon which I’m looking forward to attending.  It will most likely be in Portuguese and I anticipate most of it I will not understand.  No matter, showing up is important to me and it will be an honor just to breathe that air.

The event description:

242 years after the Independence of the United States of America, FREE asks: “Against Global Trumpism: A Declaration of European Independence?” A conversation with Rui Tavares, historian, former MEP and founder of FREE and Richard Zimler, journalist, writer and Portuguese-American professor

Learning Portuguese with Tech – 2

Google has a mobile app, Google Translate, which is simply amazing IMHO.  It’s not that it works that well yet, however what it is attempting to do and currently does well enough that I use it quite often, is allow you to point your mobile device at, say a sign, and it translates that sign in real-time.

Here in my castle, an AirBnB condo decorated in what I like to refer to as Nuevo Portuguese Gaudy, there is a picture on the wall with text naturally in Portuguese.

Here is Google Translate in action:

The text in the framed wall picture is in Portuguese and the text on the phone’s screen is >>mostly<< English.  For some reason calma is calma on both and perhaps the correct English is calmer.

My translation at this moment (esta momento – that one is easy) is:

It’s not true that the night is calmer than the day

Google Translate is most useful when I’m out and about, a stranger in a strange – to me anyway – land.  Strange not in a odd way, but an unfamiliar one.

I’ve tested this text:

não. não. é Verdade que hoje a noite esta mais calma.

online with:

  • google translate
  • lexilogos
  • Microsoft Bing

and none of them provide the same translation and I’m still not exactly sure what is the best english translation.

So, I’ll ask a Portuguese amigo next chance and update this post with their translation.


An Innocent Abroad

In 1979 while a freshman BSEE student at Northeastern University in Boston  the theme of my required English class was “Great Journeys in Literature”.  One of the required readings was written by my favorite author, Mark Twain, and the book assigned, “The Innocents Abroad”, the first edition dated 1869.

Twain begins chapter 6 remarking that among the ship’s company, “not a solitary individual who knew anything whatever about them“; them being the Azores, islands from which my paternal grandparents immigrated from in the 1910’s.  However, his description of the people there has remained with me these 4 decades:

The community is eminently Portuguese—that is to say, it is slow, poor, shiftless, sleepy, and lazy.

At that point I thought I’d like to go there someday and see for myself, what exactly it was about these Azoreans  that caused him to write such a critical statement as I nor my memory of either of my Portuguese grandparents (meus avos) fit this description.  Certainly not a significant sample set, however obviously significant enough for me and my insatiable curiosity, which could not possibly exist with any of those atrocious descriptors!  Of course, it’s Twain, so potentially he jests.

In the meantime, during the summer of 2017, I was surprised to learn about the deadliest wildfires in the history of mainland Portugal in which over 100 people perished.  As I asked around in my circle of environmental activist friends, I found not a one knew anything about these fires nor the situation I had discovered from just a bit of research.

That was it; I would spend next summer in Portugal and work the intersectionality of my Personal, Political and Professional areas of interest and experience.

Little did I know that as I write this first “Portuguese” blog post on June 23rd, 2018 after 18 days here in Azeitao Village, Setubal District, about 20 miles south of Lisbon, that I would be witnessing small, brown, Spanish-speaking children in cages on Portuguese news broadcasts, as back in the USA President Donald J. Trump would be single-handedly destroying the image of my homeland, the so called:  land of the free, the home of the brave!

Or perhaps what he is doing is showing all of us exactly who and what Americans are?  I don’t totally believe that, I believe that our political system is very corrupt and is controled by Wall Street, the 1%, whatever you want to call them.  The problem is, IMHO, we let them, that it’s time to stand up and make it right! (I say as I sit typing this! 🙂

Anyway, my reasons for being here are being turbo charged as the USA has caused  a hugely disproportionate amount of global warming and, along with the USA’s history of meddling in other countries internal affairs – especially in Central America where many currently are desperately trying to escape violence and upheaval – the USA is, to my estimation  anyway,  a major factor in a lot of these migration issues worldwide.

Not to mention that Trump just recently withdrew from the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement, an effort of every other country on the planet to change our use of fossil fuels which are causing Climate Change!  All told, these are certainly precarious times!

Tomorrow I will be attending my first General Assembly of the FREE Party, the progressive political party here in Portugal, a party whose membership is open to all and whose mission is that of DiEM 25, the Democracy in Europe Movement, 2025 as the European Spring ignites here in Portugal and the EU and freedom and democracy are crashing right before the world’s eyes in the USA.

And finally, certainly global weirding exists here as this past week alone started out with 2 days at 100 degrees, 38 Celsius, a full 20 degrees above normal.  On Monday, while the southern most parts of Portugal were at the highest levels of forest fire alert due to the above average temperatures and below average rain fail; to the north,  violent rain and hails storms battered the Douro Valley where over a month’s worth of rain fell in just a few hours!

The hail damaged over 80% of the still developing foliage and flowers on the grape vines.  Portugal is one fo the top 10 wine exporting counties in the world having first exported wine to Rome during the Roman Empire.   And as I walk about Setubal district, the sweet smells of blooming grapes have been a treat to my olfactory receptors.

An eBook version of The Innocents Abroad is available for anyone anywhere and at no charge made available by the Project Gutenberg .  And WordPress is about to release to the world a major revision, 5.0 which includes”a new publishing experience for WordPress”; coincidently named Gutenberg.

Intersectionality abounds as an innocent is again, abroad!  Innocent, me?  Surely I jest!