María Clemencia Herrera Nemerayema, winner of the Bartolomé de las Casas Prize

María Clemencia Herrera Nemerayema (1968) was today awarded the 27th Bartolomé de las Casas Prize for 2019. The winner is an indigenous Witoto from the Colombian Amazonia. She was recognised unanimously for her “unceasing work in defence of the territories, based on a recovery of the local cultures and the sustainable use of Amazonia’s resources.” The jury also highlighted her “long record of supporting the organisational and political processes of her country’s indigenous peoples.”

María Clemencia Herrera Nemerayema has dedicated most of her professional life to indigenous women and the Colombian Amazonia. She is part of the Indigenous Women’s Network on Biodiversity of Latin America and the Caribbean for twenty years. Her organisation has promoted policies and programmes to protect and conserve the environment and to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Since 2002, she has been a member of the Managing Council of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC).

She founded and coordinates the School for the Political Training for the Leadership and Governance of the Colombian Amazonia of the National Organisation of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazonia (OPIAC), which prepares young leaders to protect the Amazonian jungle. She is also director of the environmental cultural organisation Woman, Weave and Knowledge (MUTESA), which supports business promotion, focused on food and crafts of the Amazonia made by women who are displaced victims of the conflict in Colombia.

The Bartolomé de las Casas Prize has been awarded every year since 1991 by the State Secretary for International Cooperation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation and the Casa de América. Its aim is to promote the recognition and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples of the America, as well as the diversity of its cultural manifestations. It is named after the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566), who has become a symbol of the defence of indigenous rights. The prize consists of a monetary sum of 50,020 euros and a medal bearing an image of the friar.

The jury highlighted the quality of the candidates presented this year and the diversity of the work of each of them, who were from countries including Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala.
The State Secretary for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno Bau, acted as chair of the jury, which this year was composed of Eva del Hoyo, Deputy Director-General for Planning and Coherence of Sustainable Development Policies; Antonio Pérez-Hernández Torra, Director General of the Casa de América; Carmen Castiella, acting director of the Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency (Spanish acronym: AECID); María Pérez Sánchez-Laulhe, head of the Department for Andean and Southern Cone Countries of the AECID; Araceli Sánchez Garrido, assistant head of the Department for Cooperation and Cultural Promotion of AECID; Alma Gilda López Mejía, the winner in 2018; Fiore Longo, director of the DNGO Survival International for Spain and Latin America; Olga Cebada Almodóvar, coordinator of the DNGO Alternativa; Laura Calle Alzate, a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology; and David Martín Castro, an expert in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Acting as Secretary was Amparo García Estabaranz, a specialist in social sciences for the Casa de América.

In the last two years, the winners were the K’iche’ Maya leader Alma Gilda López Mejía, for her great contribution to the defence of the rights and empowerment of indigenous women in Central America, and the Association of Indigenous Women CIARENA (Conservation, Investigation and User of National Resources) of Oaxaca (Mexico) for her work of training and education of women, young people and children. During the prize’s 29 years of history, most of the indigenous organisations and people who have been won were from Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, followed by Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay.

Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566) is known for his work Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies) (1552), which was translated immediately into various languages, and for his defence of the indigenous population of the Americas. De las Casas was named “universal advocate for all the Indians” with the mission of transmitting to the authorities the complaints of the indigenous population in Spanish America.





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