Connecting Struggles: Documentation from the Social Forum of the Americas

March on Oct 12

The campus of the University of San Carlos, Guatemala City, rich with a history of youth and student movements, was the site of the Third Americas Social Forum from October 7-12 12, 2008. Those who attended the forum, participated in workshops, marches, and cultural events towards the goal of connecting and strengthening movements for justice and liberation in the face of neoliberalism, imperialism, and capitalism.

ImageThe campus of the University of San Carlos, Guatemala City, rich with a history of youth and student movements, was the site of the Third Americas Social Forum from October 7-12 12, 2008.  People from a wide variety of social movements throughout the Americas attended the forum, participating in workshops, marches, and cultural events towards the goal of connecting and strengthening movements for justice and liberation in the face of neoliberalism, imperialism, and capitalism.

According to forum organizers, the goal of the 3rd ASF was to “embrace the range of struggles, proposals, and experiences that have been strengthened, renewed or emerging over this rich period of common searching that has been taking place across the continent. It will stimulate stronger interconnections and aim to create more effective spaces for self-guided construction of shared platforms for emancipation… Overcoming geopolitical divides, peoples of the continent are moving toward an ever more shared identity between South and North, and between the different regions of the Americas. The struggles are growing closer and stronger in solidarity, as peoples who are confronting capitalism, imperialism and patriarchy.”

At the center of the forum’s infrastructure laid six main themes, attempting to reflect the wide variety of the hemispherical social movement agenda: 1) Scope and Challenges of the Changes in the Hemisphere: Post-Neoliberalism, Socialism(s), Civilizational Changes, 2) Peoples in Resistance to Neoliberalism and Imperial Domination, 3) Defending quality of life in the face of predatory capitalism, 4) Diversities and Equality: challenges for achieving them, 5) The ideological dispute: communication, culture, knowledge and education, 6) Original, Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples and Nationalities: “Good living” and its keys for the future.  Lastly, the the cross-cutting themes of gender, diversity and youth were included.

Social forum organizers intentionally chose the location of Guatemala City.  This is the first social forum of the Americas to occur in Central America, which enabled more Central Americas to attend than that past SFAs, which took place in South America.  Guatemala was chosen as the location for its historical and ongoing indigenous resistance.  This region, according to organizers, “…has lived through heroic struggles throughout its past and recent history, so as to demonstrate solidarity, and to better understand the alternatives that have arisen here in the face of war, destruction, fear, and the perverse legacy of forms of violence displaying the most ferocious examples of militarized neoliberalism, including femicide.”


Graffiti and pictures of detained/disappeared pasted on the US Embassy (Oct 12)

The forum opened on the night of October 7th with the Inauguration, in which speakers discussed the range of themes and movements represented at the forum.  The following five days were filled with worksops, marches, and cultural events.  The forum culminated on the last day with a march through Guatemala City celebrating Indigenous People’s Day.  The following recordings and photographs were taken throughout the week.

Audio Documentation:

Click here to listen to a speech given by a young Ecuadorean during the inauguration, October 7, 2008 (In Spanish)  



No Border Wall / No Al Muro

No Border Wall (October 8, 2008):

Workshop by the Southwest Workers Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network, part of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance:  Presenters discussed connecting the work of Immigrant workers with Indigenous People’s struggles in the Southwest of the United States.  Through working together to fight the border wall being constructed between the United States and Mexico, these organizations are linking struggles to fight not only the border wall, but also connecting struggles of indigenous resistance to immigrant worker struggles in the United States.



Sowing Memory, We Harvest Struggles: Historical Memory Track
In the days of the forum, this week-long Historical Memory track created a space to give testimony and develop the struggles against impunity and for the defense of land, truth, memory and justice, This track was planned buy the Center for Legal Action in Human Rights (CALDH), The Anti-imperialist Block, the Center of Christian Services Foundation (FUNCEDESCRI), and Sons and Daughters for Identity and Against Forgetting and Silence (HIJOS). 


Click here to listen to recordings from the workshop: (In Spanish) 

Plan Mexico- Imperialism’s New Offensive (October 10, 2008):

Plan Mexico, also know as the Merida Initiative, or Plan Merida, is a US military aid package for the governments of Mexico, Central America, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.  Presenters are from the Program of the Americas (Mexico City), The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (US), Narco News (US/Mexico), and Radio Zurda (El Salvador). Analysis in Spanish is available here.

Globalization and Migration: Effects in Indigenous Peoples (October 11, 2008):
Panelists discussed the impacts of globalization and migration on the indigenous peoples of Latin America with personal stories and descriptions of their organizations’ work.  They also presented proposals and models of how to unite struggles within the United States to migrants’ the communities of origin.

Click here for recordings of the panelists (In Spanish):

1) Introduction –  Edgar Ayala, Moderator, MIGUA (Movimiento inmigrante de Guatemaltecos en EEUU).
2) Elvira Arellano, Centro Sin Fronteras, México.
3) Carlos Lopez, Casa del Migrante, Guatemala City
4) Maria Eliza Orozco, Consejo Maya-Mam, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
5) Eduardo Jimenez, Grupo Cajolá, Guatemala
6) Mensaje por video, Flor Crisóstomo, Chicago, USA
7) Compañera Yucateca- 4:18 min.
8) Debate, questions, and proposals for action

Moving Forward to Build A Movement for Justice Throughout the Americas

The Third Social Forum of the Americas created a space to celebrate resistance, identify common struggles, and strategize on a continental level towards building stronger and more unified movements against imperialism, neoliberalism, and capitalism.  At the very least, the SFA created the opportunity for people to listen to stories and struggles of others and to build relationships on individual and organizational levels.  The social forum event as model is limited in that it requires massive amounts of resources and energy, they do not create a secure space in which to discuss detailed strategies, and there are so many issues and movements represented that it is difficult to do focused, detailed work.  Nonetheless, forums such as these are an important part of building a globally connected social movement in response to the assaults of to globalized capitalism and neoliberalism.   

Belem, Brazil, is preparing to host the next World Social Forum, from January 27 to February 1st, 2009.  In the meanwhile, movements represented at the Third Social Forum of the Americas will continue their work, propelling from what hopefully was an energizing and useful experience in Guatemala City.

Maggie Von Vogt is a Philadelphia-based educator, independent journalist, and social justice organizer who works with Media Mobilizing Project and Labor Justice Radio.  She is a recent recipient of the Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant.  She is currently living in El Salvador. You can reach her at: maggievonvogt(at)