Writing

Reflections

Storytelling, Advocacy, and the Legacy of Berta Cáceres

Sometimes a story comes along and punches you in the gut. When that happens to me, it’s usually because of a powerful storyteller who weaves a narrative arc that connects self and purpose, vulnerability and transformation.

I was punched in the gut recently when a young woman called Berta Zúñiga Cáceres (known as Bertita) shared the story of her mother’s assassination on March 18 at the global launch of Breakthrough’s storytelling platform, THE G WORD.

Bertita’s mother, Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, was a warrior for the land and a healer for our planet. She was born on March 4, 1973 in La Esperanza in Honduras and co-founded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras in 1993.

Berta Zúñiga Cáceres speaks at the United Nations launch of THE G WORD on March 18.

Berta was assassinated on March 3 of this year at the age of 43. She was silenced because she stood up for this earth, for women, and for all beings on this planet.

When Bertita began to speak, I knew that I was in the presence of a powerful storyteller and an extraordinary leader.  It had been less than two weeks since her mother was gunned down and this is what she had to say:

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“All of the life lessons that I have learned, I learned from my mother.

Berta pushed me, and she taught me to open my mind and deeply comprehend the struggles of everyone, and to understand that everyone is me.

Berta taught me not to have prejudices, not to have discrimination, not to indulge in stigmas, and to celebrate and learn from the difference – different realities and different persons. I think this was one of her most beautiful qualities – she harvested knowledge, she harvested wisdoms from all over the world and she applied it to her struggle.

Berta was well aware of the dangers that she faced, but she was not going to let them stop her. Caring for us was part of her global project because she knew that what she was doing, she wasn’t just doing for herself or for us or for her people, but that her struggle was for the whole world. That’s why we should include, just as she did, a consciousness of the whole world.

When I found out she had been assassinated, despite the pain I felt, I felt that she was with me. I still feel that she’s with me. That is why I am redoubling my efforts to struggle for justice.

That sums up Berta’s message for women but also for men, which is, yes, when you defend life you may be killed. But thanks to all of the beauty and power and solidarity that Berta wove, thanks to that sisterhood, I am here today to continue to help the world hear the voice of Berta and the clamor for justice.”

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Bertita’s powerful storytelling, and the memory of Berta Cáceres, invite connections and urgent stories of advocacy for our planet and for one another. Stories are a way in which we can reinvent ourselves, change the way we define ourselves, and dream a new world into being.  I invite you to share your story of transformation on THE G WORD.

The assassins did not understand that killing Berta would only amplify her voice.

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