|Photo Essay: The Burying of Tomas Garcia in Rio Blanco|
According to one of the soldiers, there were 34 soldiers stationed in the area, in addition to police. During the community's over 100 days of peaceful resistance to the dam, the military and police have forcibly evicted, threatened, and harassed them. Before the community began standing up against the dam being illegally built in their territory, there were no soldiers nor police in the area.
The soldiers from the First Battalion of Engineers essentially serve as private security guards for DESA and SINOHYDRO, the companies building the dam. Above, soldiers and police stand guard outside DESA and SINOHYDRO's Rio Blanco operating base during a previous protest by the Lenca Indigenous communities. In a testament to the military's complete lack of neutrality, the soldiers live at DESA and SINOHYDRO's operating base, eating and sleeping there and traveling in company vehicles.
On the morning of Monday, July 15th, 200-300 members of the Indigenous Lenca communities of the area again went to DESA and SINOHYDRO's base of operations in Rio Blanco (shown above) to demand that the dam companies leave their land and let them live in peace. This installment and the proposed dam are being illegally constructed in Indigenous Lenca territory against the will of the Lenca people in the area, in direct violation of ILO Convention 169. Tomas Garcia, father of seven and a community leader in the struggle against the dam, was one of the first to reach the area. He had barely arrived when one of the soldiers fired at him multiple times at close range, killing him immediately.
The soldier who killed Tomas also fired multiple shots at Tomas' 17 year old son Allan Garcia, who was seriously injured in the arm, back, and chest.
Two others were also injured by the military's shots, including this man who was just behind Tomas. He narrowly escaped death or serious injury by just a few inches when a bullet grazed his neck.
On Wednesday, July 17th, community members gathered around Tomas' body in their humble Catholic Church. It was a solemn moment as they mourned the loss of Tomas and prayed for him and his family. They also prayed for those who are against them and for strength to continue on.
Hundreds then gathered at the site of the roadblock, where Tomas had spent so much time in the last three months of his life. Community members carefully carried his body up the hill to a rest under the Roblee tree at the center of the gathering.
The community gathered around the coffin for a service honoring Tomas and his life. In honor of Tomas' commitment to the struggle to defend their land and right to survive, they recommitted themselves to the struggle against the Agua Zarca project that would privatize their river for 30 years and destroy crops they depend on to survive.
Community members spoke of how Tomas said he would never give up the struggle for their rights. Tomas was a community leader and member of their Indigenous Council. They remembered how the company had offered him thousands and thousands of Lempiras to turn his back on the rest of the community and support the dam, but Tomas had refused. People had even come to the site of the roadblock to offer Tomas money and pressure him to support the project, but despite all the pressure he never sold out. He was faithful to the community to the end and "gave his life for all of us."
One of Tomas' sons was overcome with grief at the loss of his father, who had struggled against the Agua Zarca project precisely so his children would have a place to live and have water and land to grow food on.
After the service, community leaders carried Tomas' body down the hill towards their cemetery, not far from the Gaulcarque River where the Agua Zarca Project is to be constructed.
They brought Tomas into the woods to the community cemetery, where he would be laid to rest surrounded by the trees, plants, and nature that he had fought to defend.
Hundreds made their way into the lush forest and natural resources that they have carefully stewarded for hundreds of years for Tomas' burial.
Once the burial was complete, Tomas' younger brother planted a cross and a plant from Tomas' wife at the edge of the grave.
His family gathered around the gravesite, with no words to express their anguish and sorrow at losing their father, husband, brother, and friend at the hands of the Honduran military during a peaceful protest to defend their community.
Tomas' name was written in the still wet cement on his gravesite, from where he will continue to give the community strength in their struggle against the corporations that have invaded their land, seek to privatize their river, destroy their crops, and have brought violence and death into their community. His spirit will continue to lead them in the struggle for their way of life and the land and rivers upon which they depend and care for to survive.
Tomas Garcia lives on, the struggle continues.
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