Born March 4, 1971, Assassinated March 3, 2016
This piece was developed during the first Bartimaeus Institute Online Cohort (2015-2016), aka “The Feminary.” These pieces will eventually be published in a Women’s Breviary collection. For more information regarding the Feminary go here
By Sarah Holst
Visio Divina is a form of guided meditation, an intentional way of praying with an image. “Fearless” is a rubber cut print of Berta Cáceres and a quote which came from her resistance work with the indigenous Lenca community of Honduras. The form of Visio Divina that is used here follows the pattern of first taking a raw look at the image, reflecting on the story of Berta Cáceres, and then prayerfully returning to the image.
1. Cast your attention to “Fearless” and open yourself to the spirit of Berta Cáceres illustrated therein. What are your initial impressions of the image? What memory or story might it be meant to share? Become aware of the feelings and thoughts as you take a long, loving look at the forms, figures, lines and textures. Of what does this image remind you? What stands out to you? What do you like and not like? Collect your reactions with mindful curiosity, simply note them without judgment. Stay open to perceiving more and being changed as the prayer unfolds.
2. For a moment, turn your mind’s eye away from the image and draw Berta’s spirit more deeply into your experience. Berta Cáceres (1971-2016) was a powerful and joyful human rights leader of the Lenca Indigenous people from Rio Blanco, Honduras. Berta grew up in the violence that ravaged Honduran communities in the 1980s. Berta’s mother, Austra Berta Flores Lopez, was a midwife and social activist, and taught her children to stand up for the marginalized. Berta herself became an organizer and cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and led a successful grassroots campaign to defend her ancestral lands and sacred Gualcarque River from a transnational power company that threatened to build a hydroelectric dam that has already began to devastate the land and lives of the Lenca. This is a fight that Berta continued until she died.
The Lenca women are the ones that place their bodies between the sacred waters and the machines. One of the many messages that they cry to the international solidarity community is, “Our blood flows like the river. We have personally spilled our blood to defend her.” Berta, like many Honduran human rights leaders, was targeted for her resistance and assassinated on March 3, 2016 (even after receiving the Goldman Prize in 2015 for her efforts in environmental and indigenous justice). Many in Berta’s community continue to be indomitably courageous as they live boldly in the path of danger. The government of the United States is complicit in the physical and emotional atrocities that face the Lenca people and had a hand in both the destruction of the Lenca community’s land and in the assassination of Berta Cáceres. The Lenca people believe that Berta’s spirit and the spirits of the other leaders in their community who have been killed live on and strengthen their movement for justice. As the proverb says, “They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds.”
3. Return your attention to the image. As you look, take in new ideas, feelings and meanings. How has your initial impression shifted and expanded? Examine your responses—delight, disgust, confusion, awe—and seek to more deeply understand where they come from. Ask what your responses reveal. Perhaps, ask Berta’s spirit what she might be telling you. Meditate on how the image connects to your own context and life experience. Do you find yourself experiencing longing or wanting to respond in some way to your prayer experience? Before you wrap up, take a moment to express gratitude for Berta’s story in whatever way makes sense for you and imagine what you might do as a result of being exposed to it.