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Valentina Vargas
Graphics & Audiovisual Communications
Valentina Vargas is a Colombian storyteller who explores the complex realities of the places she inhabits through documentary filmmaking and performing arts. She describes her experience as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. as her primary political education which shaped her understanding that nothing is fortuitous and that everything obeys an order held together by systematic oppression. For her, art and storytelling are ways of reflecting on the other, and it is only in the encounter with the otherness that essential connections for the changes needed can be created. Her documentary film Resiliencia, about the forced disappearances in la Comuna 13, a sector of her native city of Medellín, went to multiple festivals worldwide and is still used as a memory archive. Valentina brings her graphic design, audiovisual production and communication skills to Skylight's VIVX program, a mutual support network by environmental and human rights defenders for defenders throughout Latin America.

VIVX Team Residency at Silver Sun 2023

Pictured above: The VIVX team. Back row standing, left to right: Valentina Vargas, Kaxh Mura’l, Ignacio Decerega, Vaclav Masek, Matisse Bustos, Ana Caridad, Estefanía Villa Díaz. Front row seated, left to right: Vanessa Cuervo, Paco de Onís, Heny Cuesta, Pamela Yates. Not pictured: Gustavo Hincapié.

Last month, the VIVX team had the opportunity to return to the Silver Sun Residence in Woodstock, New York. This time, thanks to the gracious support and assistance of Bard College, two colleagues who could not participate in the residency last spring because they did not have a visa to travel to the U.S., could finally participate in this meeting.

The VIVX team had a full house, and we were so grateful to be able to spend two weeks together in the ancestral homelands of the Munsee and Muh-he-con-ne-ok: The People of the Waters That Are Never Still, and their neighbors, the Lenape and Esopus peoples.

We arrived at Woodstock hoping to share our latest multimedia project, Guardianas de los Ríos (“River Guardians”). A campaign that was carried out with the historic CEAF (Center for Afro Diasporic Studies), the PTF (Pacific Task Force), and with funds from the Inspiratorio, a platform created by the Puentes organization, focused on research and practical training to strengthen narrative power and put into practice a new paradigm of human rights communications.

Guardianas de los Ríos seeks to highlight the positive narratives around Afro-Colombian women who protect the rivers of Chocó department in the west of the country, especially the Atrato, a river that through the historic sentence T-622 of 2016 was recognized by the Constitutional Court as a subject of rights. This was the first time a river in Colombia was recognized as a subject of special constitutional protection. This was an achievement of the women and groups that defend the rivers of this region of the country and set a precedent at the national and international level of what the protection of the environment and territories means.

For us, it was an honor to bring the stories of the Guardianas de los Ríos to a land with an intimate connection to water. Listening to the stories of the organizations that voluntarily clean and protect the Hudson River showed us that even in the so-called “developed countries,” there are still people and groups with a need to protect our natural resources.

We presented Guardianas de los Ríos to the Woodstock community at the Silver Sun Residence and with the university community of Bard College in Annadale-on-Hudson. During both presentations, we highlighted that the protection of the rivers by Afro-Colombian women went beyond protecting the water resource as vital resources. Cultural, ancestral, and social components were also defended and reaffirmed as the rivers are collectively safeguarded. Although we create bonds of solidarity and resistance with the communities with whom we share our project, we are also aware that the violence that women like the Guardians are subjected to is due, to a certain extent, to the extractive industries implemented by Global North countries in our Global South regions.

Back in our countries of origin – Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, and Colombia – the VIVX team arrived inspired and willing to continue expanding our Guardianas de los Ríos project in all the countries where we are actively present.

We are excited to meet again in the Catskills next year and continue to unite in internationalist solidarity. In the meantime, you can follow more information about the project and VIVX on our Instagram, @RedVIVX

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