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LAS documentary film project: Our Sacred Gualcarque River

Blugolds are used to taking part in research projects that have a real impact out in the field, in communities, and in their own growth as scholars. But rarely, if ever, has a faculty-student research project addressed an on-going human rights and environmental conflict of this gravity and international significance.

A student-created documentary film screening on campus April 14 will depict the real-life struggle of a group of Honduran activists, some of whom have been killed in their peaceful fight for the rights of their indigenous people. 

The film, a combination of video testimonies, audio interviews, English translations, photographs and informational slides, was created by 2016 graduate Megan Bauer, using research and footage collected by Dr. Analisa DeGrave during her sabbatical spent in Honduras.

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Guaclarque River in central Honduras, center of a battle between corporate interests and indigenous peoples.

DeGrave travelled to Honduras as a member of a human rights delegation with the non-profit organization, Witness for Peace. The delegation spent time with the COPINH (The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), an organization fighting to protect indigenous territories and resources in Honduras.

Bauer, Latin American Studies major with a language emphasis, gathered the video and audio footage from DeGrave’s time in Honduras to document and pay tribute to activists killed for their peaceful efforts to protect sacred land and water resources.

The Lenca, an indigenous people of Honduras, have been fighting a battle against a dam on their sacred Gualcarque River in the community of Río Blanco, Honduras for over a decade, facing persistent threats from transnational corporations and the Honduran government and military. The leader of their cause, beloved indigenousrights activist and environmentalist Berta Cáceres was assassinated in March of 2016 due to her unwavering commitment to defend her people and their natural resources. This film aims to communicate the struggle of the Lenca at Río Blanco and to highlight Cáceres’ work protecting the Gualcarque River.

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Berta Caceres, Honduran activist killed in 2016.

Bauer, a native of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, found the research and the film project to be deeply rewarding and important work.

"Through this project I really felt I was becoming a part of something larger than myself. While this may just be one dam on one river, this struggle represents a larger global one for indigenous and human rights, as well as environmental protection. Spending so many hours listening to the voices and watching videos of these activists, I really felt connected to their cause. I took this project very seriously as this really was a matter of life and death to the Lenca at Río Blanco," Bauer said.

Join Dr. Analisa DeGrave and Megan Bauer for a screening of the 35-minute film presentation on Friday, April 14 at 12:00 p.m. in Centennial Hall, room 1920.