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Longing for Elsewhere: Guaraní Reterritorializations

  • Gastón Gordillo (a1)

In September 2003, dozens of Guaraní families from the town of Hipólito Yrigoyen in northwest Argentina decided to take back La Loma, the forested hill that stands at the edge of town and from where they had been expelled decades earlier by the San Martín del Tabacal sugar plantation. On the verge of a cliff from where they could see the town and behind it the sugarcane fields, men, women, and children began clearing a space near their old cemetery in order to plant and begin building homes. In their makeshift camp, people raised an Argentinean flag and erected signs that read “Our Land” and “Argentinean Land.” The participants in the takeover whom I talked to a few months later remembered that their return to La Loma generated an enormous collective enthusiasm and the hope of living “like before,” working the land, raising animals, and free from the urban poverty and overcrowding of Hipólito Yrigoyen. However, six days later, when over a hundred people had gathered in the dark around a bonfire, police officers stormed the place shouting, “Move out!” Some officers accused them of being “undocumented Bolivians”; others asked where the Argentinean flag was, offended the flag was there. Twenty men and two women were arrested, handcuffed, and forced to walk single file down the hill, in an atmosphere of screams and scuffles that included shots in the air and the beating of a young man. A person from the community recalled what the plantation spokesperson subsequently said about their claim, based on the fact that many of their ancestors were plantation workers who came from Bolivia: “What do these immigrants think they're asking for? They should go ask for land in Bolivia.”

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