The traditional forms of association of the indigenous Raizal people of the islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina are complex and ever-changing. Reviving and consolidating a system of good, fair and clean food for the islands is a therefore huge challenge. However, Slow Food communities are a simple way of joining forces towards a common goal. On that basis, on November 5, 2019 and with the aim of promoting Raizal food diversity of the islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina, through developing and raising awareness of cultural activities, “FI WI OLD PROVIDENCE & KETLINA GOOD FOOD COMMUNITY” was created.
Providencia and Santa Catalina are two slivers of land that perch in the immense Sea of Seven Colors of the Colombian Caribbean. Although they are very small islands, seventeen kilometers and one kilometer square, respectively, their sea territory and the culture carefully sheltered on them, are amazing. Against a soundtrack of Calypso and Reggae, dishes made with coconut milk and the aroma of basket pepper delight the senses. The influences of African and European cultures, skin tones, the native language, recipes and the proud nature of the Raizal people mean that the culture is truly Creole. Moreover, these islands have a natural richness worthy of conservation, otherwise they would not have one of Colombia’s Natural National Parks or have been designated a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.
For this reason, we know that it is vital to look for conservation mechanisms, not only for the biodiversity of the islands, but reviving culture, traditions and ancestral knowledge is also an urgent priority. That is why a group of local leaders, with the support of Slow Food and the Providencia Food Producers Association, took the decision to come together to raise awareness of sustainable food and revival of Raizal knowledge. The community is made up of 20 members belonging to the Providencia Food Producers Associations, ASOCRAB, female entrepreneurs from the SENA Emprende Rural Program, farmers, chefs, and independent cooks and innkeepers. At a small kick-off meeting, where we shared mint tea, journey cake and cheese, the members of the new community established their vision of the future. In this way, the main objectives of how to reach a much larger public were defined. The strategies established include traditional cookery classes, participation in fairs and cultural activities, publications on social media, and the formulation and implementation of innovative proposals to strengthen local food production.
Taking these priorities into account, the community had the opportunity to participate in the second fair of Social and Environmental Processes of the National University of Colombia, Caribbean Site. The event took place on the island of San Andrés on December 6 and 7, 2019, and was an opportunity to share with other indigenous peoples of the Colombian Caribbean the food products of the islands, the new Slow Food community and the principles of sustainable food. Later, with the support of the Departmental Government, a group of local entrepreneurs, who participated in the “Leadership and International Negotiation Skills for Business Matchmaking Forum Participation” project, had the opportunity to exchange knowledge with producers from the municipalities of Salamanca and Celaya. It was also an opportunity to publicize regional products in an international market and to showcase local efforts to raise awareness around the importance of consuming and marketing of good, fair and clean food products.
At the invitation of SENA, we attended the exhibition of innovative local products together with the female entrepreneurs of SENA. December 12 was yet another opportunity to publicize the community’s objectives and to encourage the development of sustainable products on the islands in an academic environment. On December 27 and 28, the community participated in two festive “mingas” organized by Slow Food with the support of. On these days, men and women from the community made cakes, breads and the traditional roast pork, which was then given to community members who would remember the old days. Those were the times, when during the New Year’s holidays, friends and family naturally exchanged eggnog, sorrel drinks, cakes, breads, cookies and meats.
For 2020, there are many commitments and a lot of work to be done. We want to develop the strategies defined by the community during 2019, but we know that it will be necessary to continue combining our efforts with other organizations and initiatives. We have already been in touch with the Rural Development Agency-ADR to participate in their calls, and we have agreed to receive a consultancy visit, once the organization’s advisors have been hired. In addition, we have been invited to be part of the organization committee for the 2nd Raizal Celebration of the Islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina, which is organized by the FIOPSC (Foundation for the Islands of Old Providence & Santa Catalina) and which will take place in July.
Due to the change in departmental and municipal government, it has not been possible to define a work schedule with other organizations at this time. However, we are aware of the importance of participating in the construction of the Regional and Municipal Government Plans, so after this, we will look for the spaces and the necessary support to continue to pursue our goals.
We know it is not easy, but with determination and perseverance we will do our bit to help consolidate a sustainable food system for the region. We want to be change-makers and together with Slow Food we know that it will be possible.