Dear Vice-rector, dear colleagues and friends.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you here today. Thank you all for coming and for wanting to be part of this happy, but also somewhat nostalgic occasion where we celebrate a project that it took us seven years to realise, but which is now coming to an end. I am particularly pleased to see that you have come here from the communities in which we have been working all these years. Considering what we have accomplished, this is indeed for us a proud moment and we are excited that your want to share it with us.
This program has been a collaboration between two universities, one in the far north and one in the south, which despite the many things that make us different, we share a vision and a mission, that universities shall work for the benefit of the community and for the people, that universities shall provide an opportunity to those who traditionally did not have easy access to higher education, and who have therefore been missing something that people in more central parts of their countries always enjoy and could take for granted. It was this vision and ambition that brought us together in the first place when in the early 1990s, distinguished citizens of the Atlantic Coast community came to my university to inform us about their dreams and ideas for a university here. It took a while before we found the way and the means to realise our cooperation, and it was the visit by the then vice-rector of the Bluefields campus Miguel Gonzalez to Tromsø some years after that triggered the particular initiative that led to this project.
I was member of a group from Tromsø University who came down here to talk with you about what we could do together, and how to proceed. We had a number of meetings on this campus. We also went to Rama Cay, where we met with the people in the church, and where we together came to an understanding about what should be the focus of our project. The ideas we discussed then, and the plans we made there, were those that came to define our project, to fill it with a purpose and a vision, and it is indeed the results of those original hopes and expectations that we are here today to celebrate. Today is therefore also the moment to thank the people of Rama Cay and Punta de Agila for the interest they showed then and the support they have given us throughout all these years.
We planned at the start that we would also, in its second phase, work in other communities on the coast. Thus, four years after it started, we expanded our area into the Rio Grande delta and began our work with the Ulwas. A group of us from URACCAN and I went to Karawala, where we met a similar positive interest and support as we had met with the Ramas. I regret that I only went once to Karawala, and I am not sure if those of you representing Karawala here would remember me. So this is therefore the occasion for me to thank the people of Karawala, Sandy Bay and Kara who have opened themselves to our investigation, to the many students who have knocked on their door and asked them about all kinds of things related to their particular research interests. Thank you for your patience, your interest, your hospitality, and for your support. Without it, we would never have been able to carry out our work.
But what then have we accomplished, really? Have we realised what we set out to do? Can we claim it to be a success? I cannot, of course, claim to speak for us all. I am sure there will be different opinions on this matter, depending on what we experienced, and what may have been our own personal and institutional expectations. So let me just speak on behalf of my university, my Tromsø colleagues and on behalf of myself: We are tremendously pleased by what we have accomplished, I am enormously proud of what we did. Not in my dreams had I expected what we have done.
We have provided more than hundred students at various levels (licenciatura, masters and doctoral), with the stipend that they needed in order to carry out their thesis research. That is a considerable number. Four of these students have also finished their master degrees at University of Tromsø, within our Fisheries College. Also, students have come here from Tromsø to do their research. We have produced new knowledge, an extensive literature on the situation on the coast, and the conditions, culture, lives and livelihoods of its peoples. We have also produced research capacity at URACCAN, by helping to qualify some of its members, in a way that would enable them to carry on with building knowledge through their research. Universities are, as you know, not only for transmitting knowledge through teaching. They are also for teaching and for research, for producing new knowledge. In a university, research and teaching should go hand in hand and nurture each other.
We have also produced two wonderful books, one on the Rama which was launched a year ago, and one on the Ulwas that we are here today to present. Maybe it is just because I am a weird professor that I am sentimental, but holding the Ulwa book in my hand for the first time this last Monday, brought tears to my eyes. It was so nice to see. But it was also because I know that academic documentation, in terms of for instance books like those that we have produced, are really important to indigenous and ethnic peoples, in making them becoming more visible, to the government, to the nation and to the world. Experience shows that it has an empowering effect of indigenous and ethnic peoples in their rights, be they territorial rights, rights to their natural resources, their languages and culture – indeed their human rights. This has proven to be the case for all indigenous and ethnic communities around the world, resulting for instance in the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nation last October.
As I am extremely proud and happy of what we have accomplished during these seven years, and what I have been so fortunate to be part of here in Bluefields, I must also say that I am saddened by the fact that this project is now over. I have always enjoyed coming to Bluefields and to the URACCAN Bluefields campus. I have been impressed by the dedication and professionalism that my colleagues here have shown with regard to our work. I have had a great counterpart in Diala Lopez, who has been with this project from the start. Without Diala and Kirkman Roe and the rest of staff at IREMADES and IPILC, I cannot see how we would have succeeded. We at University of Tromsø are forever grateful to them.
Also, I want to thank Dr. Arja Koskinen, who is a resident of Bluefields, a member of the URACCAN community and an earlier member of University of Tromsø. She has been a great support all the time. As you can see from the cover sheet of both the Rama and the Ulwa book, she has been the key person in our project as well. So, thank you for your effort and your commitment.
After seven years I have a lot of dear friends here, too many to mention, both inside this campus and outside. I have so many fond memories to take with me from Bluefields. They will always stay with me.
I must also acknowledge the backing at the home front, the members of the Centre of Sami Studies, at University of Tromsø, who professionally, with their minds as well as their hearts, administered the program on our side. I must also mention the enthusiastic support of my Rector, Prof. Jarle Aaarbakke, who came down here to see what we were doing, was impressed by what he saw, and has been behind us ever since.
I sincerely hope that we will find a way to somehow continue our collaboration in the future. We have built great things together, a wonderful relationship that should be allowed to continue, in one way or other. I was asked yesterday, what we should have done differently when looking back on our project. I answered that there is nothing to regret. I cannot remember any serious mistakes. The issues that arose, we dealt with. Indeed, we have learned and developed a way to work together and with the communities that is positive, equitable, constructive and productive. If there could have been a third phase of this project, I think we should do exactly the same as we did in the previous two.
So let me finish by expressing my deepest gratitude to you all. We did well, and we finish our project in a good spirit, but good things always come to an end. You are great people with an important mission. Your minds are focused on the key issues, and you have your hearts at the right place. You would make me happy if you would stay the course, continue what we started, and carry on the legacy that we left – if I can be so presumptuous to call it that. You are important, and you do work that is essential to the entire Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and its peoples. You deserve all the support that you can get, from universities around the world like my own, and from within your own community.
Bluefields, February 27, 2008
jueves, 28 de febrero de 2008
Año Sabático (1) Arte (1) Autonomía (9) CNU (3) Concursos (3) Congresos (14) Fiestas (1) Género (4) Investigacion (5) LASA (2) Maestria ALiS (2) Maestria de Antropologia Social con mención en Desarrollo Humano (31) Obituario (1) Publicaciones (4) Pueblos Indígenas (5) Tormentas y Huracanes (7) UNAN (2) URACCAN (48)