María Beatriz Aniceto Pardo (40) is an indigenous woman. She lives where she was born, in the Cauca Valley, in Colombia. When she was a little girl, she was employed as a domestic worker. When she became a woman, she was already committed to fighting for justice for her own ethnic group, the Nasa. Today, she fights against the compulsory conscription of young indigenous men by the armed forces and the guerrillas, and also for respect for their territory, their autonomy and their vision of the world, centered in their love of the earth and nature.
María Beatriz Aniceto Pardo is a ‘cuetandera’ maker: this is a backpack made of sheep's wool and cabuya thread. The cabuya is a tiny plant that grows in the heights of Cauca. The cuetanderas are woven by hand, by the Nasa women. María Beatriz is a Nasa woman, born in the Colombian region of Cauca. A cuetandera “is like a woman's womb; growing like the child inside, the womb widens in order to provide enough space for all those who want to come inside it,” she explains. In Colombia, there are 86 indigenous territories, where eight ethnic groups survive, although, “we are near the end.” When María Beatriz Aniceto Pardo was a child, she lived in her ‘resguardo’–as the indigenous community is called. Later on, she had to work as a domestic worker and had to withstand abuse. The ‘cuetandera’ got wider and María Beatriz even found time to study. She successfully completed her secondary studies and returned to Cauca, determined to not allow anyone to disrespect the women of her ethnic group. She joined the Cabildos Nasa Chxachxa, a political organization for preserving the ancestral heritage of the indigenous people. From the years 1998 to 2000, she was the first woman to govern her ‘cabildo,’ in Avirama. She had to face challenges: the Revolutionary Colombian Armed Forces and the Army for National Liberation–both guerrilla organizations–that came into the ‘resguardos’ to conscript young Nasa boys by force. First there was the encroachment, then Nasan opposition and then dialog. María Beatriz is still dedicated to the fight for her ethnic group. In 2004, she led an extremely well attended march (70,000 people) that went through a part of Colombia asking for the end of the war and for respect for the indigenous ‘resguardos.’ The ‘cuetandera’ widens: It has enough space for peace.
Asociación de Cabildos NASA CHXACHXA Colombian Women's Pacific Path