The Travelling Rivers initiative, part of the Riverhood and River Commons projects, promotes transnational solidarity collaboration and transdisciplinary learning between different riverine cultures. Since April 2023, four Colombian rivers are traveling through María Benitez and mobile maps. María is a fisherwoman from the Magdalena River, a social leader, and an artist. Through the knowledge of grassroots Colombian organizations and river walks, María has been mapping forgotten problems and marginalized local struggles to enliven rivers. The stories and life experiences of the La Miel, Sumapaz, Bogotá, and Magdalena rivers were represented in the participatory counter-maps co-created and intertwined through María. She has mobilized not only the collective mapping but also video messages of the riverine communities, in which they share their efforts to enliven their rivers.
The first Travelling Rivers event took place in April, in Bolivia, a small town in the province of Caldas. During the cartography workshop, community members and members of the Environmental Peasant Movement (MACO in Spanish) reflected on the importance of water and the La Miel River for peasant communities and mapped the territorial transformations that occurred after the construction of the hydroelectric project ‘El Eden’ along the river, in 2017. The same month, members of the La Merced community aqueduct, located at the headwaters of the Bogotá River, highlighted the latest changes in the landscape with regard to the restoration of the paramo and its conservation. In May, the fishermen communities and riverine population of the Magdalena River (south of Bolívar) illustrated the various causes of the disconnections between the wetland systems and the main river. At the end of May, peasant organizations from Sumapaz presented their social struggles and resistance actions to defend their territory against the hydroelectric project, oil exploitation and strict conservationist measures.
The stories and life experiences of the La Miel, Sumapaz, Bogotá, and Magdalena rivers were represented in the participatory counter-maps co-created and intertwined through María. She has mobilized not only the collective mapping, but also video messages of the riverine communities, in which they share their efforts to enliven their rivers.
The Travelling Rivers has been supported and coordinated by Ana María Arbelaez, Laura Giraldo, Juliana Forigua, and Sebastian Reyes (Riverhood and River Commons PhD researchers), Leontien Cremmers, and the coordination team of Riverhood and River Commons projects.
To find out more about this initiative, check out here the photo report illustrating the experiences in these four rivers.