Notre Dame de Namur University commemorated the death anniversary of Berta Caceres, a Honduran environmental activist at the Cunningham Chapel on February 9, 2017.
The commemoration featured: a candle light vigil, speech from student, Junior, Yahaira Barahona, music, an open panel discussion with Caceres’ nephew, Silvio Carillo, and different religious organizations.
Baharona is a Honduran-American and spoke about her father’s story coming to America. To her, Caceres means everything. She said, “We are living in a time where rising up and speaking up is important so knowing that it is possible and that our voices will be heard just likes hers is what truly matters. She fought for what she believed and never forgot where she came from, she actually took Honduras and our people with her everywhere.”
Music was provided by singers and guitarists Evelie Delfino Sales Posch and Francisco Herrera. Together they shared music from their culture and led the congregation in singing songs together.
Carillo shared stories about growing up with his “aunt Berta” and shared how her love for helping others started. He also answered questions from the audience and said, one of the perpetrators from the assassination has been caught, they have yet to capture the actual master mind.
Different religious organizations from the community presented on root causes on why immigrants come to the United States, which relates to the current situation with the Trump administration. A lot of people have a misconception that drug and gang violence is the main reason people from South America migrate North. But that’s just a small portion of it. One root cause is because of the newly built resorts in South America denying the access for native people to cross the beach, making them travel around a long route just to get home. Another reason why people migrate North is because of job exploitation in Honduras. Natives work long hours for such low amount of pay which is less than or equal to $1 US Dollar. The religious organizations hope to help those who seek assistance with immigration and encouraged students to also take action and participate in actives in line with the cause.
Sophomore, Jemm Magaling enjoyed the event. She was among the few who attended the commemoration.
“I wish more people attended because you learn more about the current things that are happening,” said Magaling.
Coordinator of this event was Director of the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center, James McGarry. He chose to commemorate Caceres because she’s another heroic woman just like Sister Dorothy Stang who fought for human rights against exploitation.
The university has ten Hallmarks that resonate with the school community. One of them is Hallmark 2 which states: “We honor the dignity and sacredness of each person.” With everything going on in regards to immigration and deportation there’s one thing the university and students can do to help according to McGarry.
“We cannot lose one person. We cannot allow them to be taken away from this country. We cannot allow them to separate families. Everyone has the right to basic human rights,” said McGarry
On a poster in the chapel it says, ¡Presente! which not only means “present” but also resurrected to life which means that she is not gone, but instead still with us by the works that a community does to help one another and other communities.
Caceres was assassinated on March 3, 2016, and her killers are still unknown. Caceres was one of the leaders of The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organization of Honduras (COPINH). They fight against companies seeking to destroy communities’ environment by means of logging, dams, and mining products.