Research video Essay
Work in progress
The first thing I noticed looking through the window of the bus from Belfast to Derry was the green. A feeling of home appeared immediately with this green that was the same one that I grew up with while catching some sun in the parks of Bogotá.
As strange as it seems, there are other similarities between the Irish landscape and the high tropical Andean region, the constant rain, the willow trees, the strength of cliffs and volcanic rocks, the abundance of water. A peculiar feeling of having a taste of home in such a far site. Walking on the Irish coasts I saw my dream come true: the ocean meeting my highlands.
One day I approached the grass and recognized it is the same kind that grows back in Colombia. These types of grasses were brought as high nutritious food for the cattle and without ecological balance they became invasive species. They replaced the other types of green, the almost red and purple colors of sweet native grasses. They filled the spaces where native forests were torn down and bogs were dried, creating new landscapes for humans between the huge biodiversity of the tropics.
There I was, very far from home, almost waving salutations to a known colonizing plant. Yet, to my surprise, I found myself saluting a couple of other species too:
The Gorse, Ulex Europeaus, used as a green fence in Ireland is one of the biggest threats to the high elevation Andean grasslands known as paramos, food crops, and water bodies. With its beautiful yellow flowers one could never think it is so dangerous and so successful in invading new and rich but fragile ecosystems. Each flower has around 50 seeds that are very easily spread with the wind, water and animals. They can remain dormant 30 years waiting for favorable conditions to grow up. And to make it worst, it can reproduce as a rhizome from every part of the plant. It is difficult to cut and very easily spread fire.
I asked and it seemed people didn’t even notice it, “it is all around. There is nothing special about it” they said.
I found the third plant depicted on a mural near the Bogside. The foxglove, Digitallis purpurea. “These plants are used as a heart medicine yet, they are poisonous, don’t ever eat them Lina”, my father used to say. This was my first learning about medicinal plants: their distance from being venomous relies just in the quantity one takes.
The landscape is not a mute scenography for human life, it is a continuous narrator of how we live together with the planet. The choices the human species has made are the wounds, scars and cures that our environment manifests. Al that is molecular is political and all that is planetary is political. In between it is for us to create freedom. The violence we exert on the Earth is directly related to the violence we exert on each other’s bodies and to ourselves.
Nature’s diversity is embodied in our flourishing queer identities. I now propose to let nature educate us to be collective.
How stubborn is the gorse, and subtile the foxglove, how playful and open is the grass.
Let us be like the weeds, creepers, vines, sprouts, herbs.
Let us be the medicine, the rhizome of resistance to the normative.
I like to think we can rebuild our consciousness with the understanding that the fight for human rights can only be successful when we start fighting for us as a whole with the planet. As in being bound and part of our environment which is our home.
If the histories of Colombia and Northern Ireland connect to each other is through the powerful lands they are and the massive challenge of learning to live in dialogue with opposite narratives.
We share the need to resist the infamous spread of seeds of hatred implanted by violent colonialism:
The strength that threw the rocks apart
The muscle movement needed to cut down the forest
The banshee moans when the mountain is broken
And water is poisoned to fill in the hunger for gold
Let us be like the weeds, creepers, vines, sprouts and herbs.
Let us have the attention to hear the landscape
The epic discussions and flirting between the waves and the cliffs
The fresh word of the rain
The sweet song plants sing when they receive sunlight
The scream of the rock that detaches itself from the mountain.