On November 23, 2015, Ms. Danelly Estupiñan received a threatening message stating “Danelly you are close to the end.” Ms. Estupiñan is a social movement activist from the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (“Black Communities Process”, PCN) in Colombia, and she was threatened for her brave work defending the rights of black communities in Buenaventura, Colombia. Last year, we invited Ms. Estupiñan as the keynote speaker for our 35th annual student conference, “A Levantar La Voz: Challenging Doctrine and Dogma.” We deplore the threats and attacks against Ms. Estupiñan and her colleagues and urge Colombian authorities to investigate the perpetrators and intellectual authors and bring them to justice.
The Institute of Latin American Studies Student Association (ILASSA) of the University of Texas at Austin holds the oldest student-run academic conference on Latin America in the United States, and we were honored to invite Ms. Estupiñan as the keynote speaker. For nearly two decades, her work primarily with women has provided psychosocial support for victims of violence and defended the collective rights of black communities in the region. Ms. Estupiñan’s important work and experiences inspire us and must be allowed to flourish without risk of retaliation.
The recent threats against Ms. Estupiñan were preceded by a wave of threats against black communities resisting displacement by the Buenaventura Container Terminal Company (TCBUEN). For example, on November 19, TCBUEN personnel threatened Ms. Rocio del Pilar Segura, a community activist in Buenaventura, for removing a company sign from her home. Buenaventura is Colombia’s largest port and roughly half of Colombia’s international commerce passes through the city. The port’s prominence grew as a result of several neoliberal reforms including the passage of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2012.
During the conference, we facilitated dialogue among emerging scholars and social movement actors from throughout the Americas in order to address issues of social inequality in the region. Panels at the conference covered issues that included LGBTI activism, education policy, and violence against women. Ms. Estupiñan’s work provided us with important insights about the transformative potential of research committed to social justice. Therefore, Colombia and the international community must take action to protect Ms. Estupiñan and respect the autonomy and self-determination of black communities in Colombia.
As graduate students invested in the rights and well-being of people in Latin America, we stand in solidarity with Ms. Estupiñan, all community activists affiliated with PCN, and all movements defending the rights of black communities.
The Institute of Latin American Studies Student Association (ILASSA) of the University of Texas at Austin