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Remembering César Herrera

 

 

This offering was

This offering was dedicated to the memory of César Herrera Torreglosa at Buscando Ámerica / In Search of America, an exhibition at the Fringe Gallery, Glasgow in November 2000 at Fringe Gallery, Glasgow in November 2000.

César worked for Colombian Banana Workers' Trade Union, SINTRAINAGRO. César also worked with COLSIBA, the umbrella organisation which co-ordinates some 40 Latin American Banana Workers Trade Unions.

Being a trade unionist in Colombia is a hazardous occupation. Hundreds of trade unionist are killed every year.

On the 13th of December 1999 César was gunned down as he was going into his office in Ciénega in Santa Marta - 61 years after the massacre of hundreds of striking banana workers in the same town, an event immortalised by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novel A Hundred Years of Solitude.

He was 35 years old and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

 


Letter from Costa Rica: Marielos Arias

 

Forgive me, but from your name I don't know whether you're a man or a woman - either way it makes no difference to me. The important thing is, even although I don't know you personally, I know you and I saw your fax to Doris and Carlos of SITRAP asking for their personal comments about César.

My name is Marielos Arias and I work for the co-ordinating body of Latin American banana workers trade unions - COLSIBA in the San Jose office. It was my responsibility to participate in the organising of various regional workshops, in which César also took part and it is this that has moved me to write to you.

The most vivid image I have of César, the one for me which most characterised him, was his HUMILITY. Although his physical appearance was that of someone strong and stocky, hiss expression and his smile radiated so much calmness and tenderness.

In the last workshop run by COLSIBA that he participated in, on the 18th and 19th of last November (1999) in San José (just a few days before he was murdered), I asked him how he, a banana worker, had such lovely handwriting, his handwriting was really beautiful: César replied that although he'd been born into a banana producing part of Colombia, his grandmother had told him that he should study. That was why he had decided to combine his job at the banana plantation with secondary school studies. He proudly told me that he was one of the few banana workers to have completed secondary school - then he gave a broad smile.

To conclude, I can tell you that generally that banana workers are quite rough and ready - they use strong language and aren't what you'd exactly call refined so it was strange for me to come across a male banana worker and trade unionist who was really articulate and able to express himself - he was very sensitive; markedly different from what you'd expect, because, in spite of knowing that his life was in constant danger, his face and broad smile were always so sweet, kind and tender.

It upsets me so much, that his wife and children have lost him but it pains me more that Colombia, a nation in constant conflict, has lost César.

GOOD MEN DON'T DESERVE TO DIE LIKE THIS

Greetings

Marielos Arias Rosas

October 2000

 


Event at the Buscando Ámerica Exhibition, Fringe Gallery, Glasgow

 

 

In Novemeber 2000 a group gathered to remember César Herrera with readings poetry and food. Coordinated by Jan Nimmo with contributions from author and lecturer in Hispanic Studies, Mike Gonzalez and poet, Gerry Loose. To read Gerry's poem, "Poem in the Shape of a Chain" click here

Mole, a dish made fro chillies and chocolate, from Mexico, made by Amalia Soteno, wife of ceramic artist Tiburcio Soteno was served along with other Latin American dishes.



Bill Speirs, General Secretary of the STUC - Christmas message 1999

 

"Today, when so many of us are enjoying a happy time with our families, we should think of the thousands of trade unionists around the world for whom carrying out union activity we take for granted, is to put their liberty, and sometimes the lives, on the line.

Today, I am thinking particularly of the exploited banana workers of Latin America, and especially, César Herrera of the SINTRAINAGRO union in Colombia - a country where, last year (1998), 153 trade unionist were murdered.

Just twelve days ago we received the news that César, the union's General Secretary and a founder member of COLSIBA, the Federation of Latin American Banana Workers, was found murdered in the union office. No one doubts that the killing was related to the unions work in organising the banana workers of Colombia.

So, as approach the new millennium round of the World Trade Organisation negotiations, if any one doubts the need for Labour Standards and Human rights clauses to all WTO rules, they need only reflect on César, his family and the thousands like them around the world".

 


Giberth Bermuúdez remembers César Herrera

 

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© Jan Nimmo 2004