When a military coup ousted the only president that ever supported them, they occupied the plantations…and these farmers aren’t going anywhere.
My name is Jesse Freeston.
I’m a video-journalist with a story that requires more than a few minutes to tell. In other words, a short news video won’t do the trick.
Why this film?
Since June 28, 2009, when the military took control of the streets of Honduras and overthrew the elected president, I’ve been covering the Honduran resistance movement. The Honduran resistance brought together virtually every sector of society: teachers, feminists, industrial workers, indigenous communities, taxi drivers, students, street vendors, and everyone else who supported the ousted president’s campaign for direct democracy and social justice.
I have spent more than two years covering their struggle to reverse the damage done by the military, politicians, business leaders, and foreign governments. During this time, a remote region of the country known as the Aguán Valley has become the most significant of the many post-coup battles. It was here that thousands of peasant families decided to take matters into their own hands. They needed land, and if the powers-that-be were willing to overthrow presidents to keep them from getting it, they would have to take it themselves.
It’s been more than two years since they made that decision, and in spite of a media campaign labeling them terrorists, constant police harassment, evictions, death threats, imprisonment, and the killing of more than 50 of their comrades, they are still there. Still occupying, defending, and working more than 5,000 hectares of palm oil plantations.
Implementing their own direct democracy, not just voting for politicians.
Recognizing women, men, and youth as equal leaders, not just constituencies.
Planting crops to feed Hondurans, not just for export.
Palm oil—including the more than 90 million gallons exported from Honduras each year—is an ingredient in roughly 50% of the products we find in our supermarkets. Should we not be concerned about who benefits from the sale of this booming commodity?
If so, why haven’t we heard of the Aguán Valley? Why, when we do hear about Central America, is it only about drugs and gangs? These are rich and complex societies like any other, and like societies all over the world, they are questioning whether the inequality around them is just.
Many Hondurans have decided to not sit idle while their most fertile valleys are dedicated to exporting bananas and palm oil for the benefit of a few landowners. In the Aguán, they have taken over the plantations, so that now the profits from palm oil sales are being invested in housing, community radio stations, education, and local food production.
The farmers of the Aguán are living critiques, both of how we think about development in the Global South, and how we organize our own workplaces and communities. They are asking big questions, and getting answers through action. All in the face of extreme violence and persecution.
History is taking place, and while we all know about events in Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street, we should ask ourselves why we haven’t heard about the Aguán. This film is part of the process of filling that gap. It takes us into the occupied plantations, with the farmers who live and work there as the tellers of their own story.
Where does the money go?
After four months filming in the plantations and a few more editing, I’ve got a rough cut of the documentary almost completed. But, I still need to hire a few specialists to take it that extra step.
- An animator to bring the maps, statistics, and history of the valley to life.
- A fine video editor to tighten the screws and make the film radiate.
- A sound designer/mixer to ensure the sounds of the Aguán resonate throughout the theatre.
- A website designer to help turn a great film into a living, multi-lingual organizing tool for an unstoppable international solidarity campaign.
What can you do?
Help make information about the Aguán Valley occupiers as readily available as the palm oil they produce.
Share the trailer. Ask friends if they’ve heard of the farmers of the Aguán. Help fund the film.