Thirty years after her first visit to the Maritimes, Sandra Moran returned to the East coast this past June, this time as BTS’ invited guest for our annual speaking tour. Sandra, who first visited the Maritimes as a member of the revolutionary musical group Kin Lalat, is an accomplished musician, an advocate for LGBTQ, women’s and Indigenous rights, as well as the first openly gay Member of Congress in Guatemalan history. This year’s speaking tour took place from June 15-23rd, 2018.
During the speaking tour, Sandra visited Tatamagouche, Antigonish, Halifax, Moncton and Charlottetown. At each stop, Sandra energized audiences with her drumming and moving spoken word poetry. She also presented the powerful documentary In my own voice, which weaves together her story with Guatemala’s history. Audiences also heard updates about the current situation in the country.
Throughout the tour, Sandra spoke about the 2015 protests against corruption, which succeeded in their demands of having President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxanna Baldetti resign. Sandra reported that there are currently 620 people from the Perez Molina government and the previous one who are in jail on corruption charges as they await trial.
Sandra was among the three candidates from the leftist Convergencia party to be voted in during the 2015 elections. The party brings together feminists, students, farmers and Indigenous peoples. Sandra says, “People wanted something different, so they voted for us.” In her two years in office, Sandra has spearheaded legislative work in defense of women and girls’ rights, as well as LGBTQ rights. Sadly, this has made her a target for the right-wing, with Sandra being subjected to death threats, attacks on social media and even legal action for her work.
A lot has changed in the thirty years since Sandra’s last visit. But, as Sandra highlights, a constant is the importance of international solidarity in Guatemala’s struggle for human rights. As Sandra spoke about the killing of 7 campesino organizers from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) and the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) over the course of about four weeks, she stressed, “We need voices everywhere to say that we don’t want more killings or harassment of defenders.” On each leg of the speaking tour, participants wrote solidarity messages on a banner for the CCDA and took group pictures with this banner, which were shared online to emphasize our solidarity. Check out the pictures here. BTS Guatemala Coordinator Lisa Rankin will give the banner to representatives of the CCDA, which is a long-time partner of BTS.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM SANDRA’S VISIT TO THE MARITIMES
TATAMAGOUCHE – Sandra’s first stop was at the BTS Annual Gathering in Tatamagouche. She opened the gathering on Friday night with her powerful drumming and poetry, as well as a screening of In my own voice. The next day, Sandra shared her insights on the political situation in Guatemala, which had been recently been hard-hit with a volcano explosion. You’ll find the notes from her talk here. As BTSer Janette Fecteau shared, another highlight from the AGM was “having Madonna Bernard and Paula Isaac there, two Mi’kmaq activists working to ensure that Alton Gas does not go ahead with its plan to store natural gas in underground salt caverns near the Shubenacadie River.”
ANTIGONISH – On Sunday, when the AGM had wrapped up, Sandra headed off to Antigonish. There, Sandra spoke at the St. Fx Global Change Leaders Course with women from 22 different countries! In this intimate discussion, Sandra encouraged the women to enter into political office and got them dancing with her music. Check out the video here with Sandra performing her piece Mujer (Woman). That evening, it was a packed house for Sandra’s documentary screening and talk!
STEWIAKE / SHUBENACADIE RIVER – En route to Halifax on Tuesday, Sandra had the opportunity to visit the Treaty Truckhouse to meet with Dorene and Ducie, two Mi’kmaq water defenders involved in the resistance to Alton Gas. It was a beautiful exchange in which Sandra learned about their ongoing struggle and also spoke about the situation in Guatemala.
HALIFAX – Sandra continued on to Halifax for a public event co-sponsored by the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG) and the Dalhousie Development Studies Department. She moved the audience with her poetry, receiving a standing ovation for her performance. Later that evening, Sandra attended a small BBQ with members of the local BTS committee.
MONCTON – Upon arriving in Moncton on Wednesday, Sandra had a chance to sit down with Mayor Dawn Arnold to talk about women in politics and discuss opportunities for collaboration with Guatemala. That evening, Sandra participated in a public event at the Moncton Public Library. Thanks to the PSAC Greater Moncton Human Rights Committee, Moncton’s River of Pride and the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area (MAGMA) for hosting the event!
CHARLOTTETOWN – On Thursday, Sandra traveled to Charlottetown to participate in the ACIC Symposium. As this year’s recipient of the Southern Speakers Symposium Fund, Sandra was one of the guests of honor at the event. She started Friday’s activities off on a hopeful tone with drumming and a rendition of her poem Quiero Creer (I want to believe). Later that morning, she spoke on the keynote panel Walking Together: Steps for Organizational Change. You’ll find a video from the livestream here. She also presented the documentary In my own voice during a workshop the next day. A highlight for her was participating in the Blanket Exercise, where she had a chance to learn more about Indigenous peoples’ history in Canada.
In Charlottetown, Sandra also got the chance to reconnect with some people who saw her perform 30 years ago with the musical group Kin Lalat!
Thanks to all of our members and supporters who made this speaking tour another success!