It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. Some pictures however deserve at least that many. The image above makes me happy whenever I see it and for me it really captures the essence of the whole of our endeavours at COP26. The young man in the photo is Héctor Fabio Yucuna Perea and it was he who sowed the seeds for the inspiring discussions which I had over the course of the year leading up to COP26. I came to be involved through a number of happy coincidences and by the capability of remote communication that we have all become so accustomed to in these days of the coronavirus pandemic. So you can imagine how great it was to finally meet in person the people I had only been in contact with at a distance. Héctor Fabio I met for the first and only time on the day this picture was taken, the day of the big march on the Saturday in the middle of COP26. The blue skies in the photo belie the actual weather that day which was pretty atrocious for a spell. I came back to the Briggait which is where some of the other partners in the project, Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich, had set up their Encampment of Eternal Hope and I just was there to pick up a bag I had left after the poetry event I did that morning in the Green Zone (see my previous posts about that). I spotted Héctor Fabio sitting in the dome that created the cosy space within the cold and airy Briggait and went over to say hi. The first thing we encountered was the language barrier as I don’t speak Spanish and he doesn’t speak English, but then our friend Jonathan came over and acted as interpreter. My first gesture was to share the biscuits I had from the poetry event. They were shortbread and typically Scottish which Jonathan helped to explain to Héctor Fabio. Jonathan Colin was also a key figure in organising this coming together of participants in our “Possible Dialogues” as our project was known. As with the way things are today our chat was cut short because Héctor Fabio got a call on his mobile and I had to get the train back to Edinburgh. Adios amigo. I thought we would probably catch up another time but it never happened.
So this picture has sentimental value for me also as a reminder of a fleeting encounter with a really remarkable person. Héctor Fabio is someone who would be described in Gaelic as a “Gaisgeach Mòr”, that is a great warrior, a hero. That is not necessarily someone who acts violently but a person with an indomitable spirit. He is a young man who carries a great burden of responsibility for his people and the injustices that they are subject to, where the lands they live on are being wrecked for the benefit of those who would exploit them. The forests are being cut down and the waters poisoned by mining for minerals which increases the concentration of heavy metals. The people who benefit are as remote from the places they destroy as I am. But when people are met face to face then distance becomes irrelevant and relationship comes into focus.
We live in an image dominated era, perhaps words have all become too much “blah, blah, blah” and of course this is for me lamentable as so much of that I love is to do with words and language. However I do not deny the power of images and for me this photo is and will be iconic and it just makes me smile. To see Héctor Fabio beaming and brimming with pride, banner held aloft, knowing the hardships he had to go through to get to Glasgow, to represent himself, his people and all their futures is to me utterly remarkable. ‘S e fìor gaisgeach mòr a th’ ann. He is truly a hero and I know he will continue to battle against the enemies who assail him.
I used to be fervent in my desire for world peace. Now I know there’s another kind of peace that’s worth pursuing and that is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that when things were at their worst you did your best.
And here are the others I met at Glasgow who I saw in person for the first time:
Kat Jones (Stop Climate Chaos Scotland)
Nick Cullen (Stop Climate Chaos Scotland)
Jaye Renold (If Not Us Then Who?)
And people who I met briefly before going to Glasgow who I only spoke to online before:
Fernando Arias (Más Arte Más Acción)
Isabella Noero (ÚNA Festival)