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He fled his home but wants the world to see how the beef industry affects Indigenous peoples

Q&A with Indigenous Rama forest ranger featured in new documentary PATROL

on June 09, 2023   duration

Armando John (left), one of the Indigenous Rama forest rangers in the documentary PATROL. (Photo courtesy of Camilo de Castro/PATROL)
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Armando John is one of the protagonists in the new documentary PATROL. In the full-length documentary, he works with other Rama and Afro-descendant Kriol forest rangers to document illegal cattle ranching in their territory. The Rama people and Afro-descendant Kriol community have faced intimidation, retaliation and human rights abuses by the Nicaraguan government and the beef industry.

Question: How has your life changed since filming for PATROL finished in 2018?

Armando John: In 2018, when protests erupted in Nicaragua and the government responded violently, my family and I moved to the United States. We were unsure how the documentary would affect us with all the persecution going on from the government. We have been able to visit our home and family in Indian River a few times, but now that “Patrol” is officially out, I don’t know if it will be safe for me to go back. But I’m glad that I have the opportunity to still stand up for my people, our rights, and our land while I am living in the States.

Q: How did you feel after the premier at Mountainfilm in May 2023?

Armando: Seeing the film on the big screen was very emotional for me. It brought back all of the pain and memories as if I were living through it all again -- just like many of my people in Nicaragua still are. I was also very overwhelmed by all of the support we received from the audience. All my life we have been fighting for our rights and it has always felt like hardly anybody cares. This is the first time I have seen a large group of people who care about the struggle of the Rama and Aafro-descendant] Kriol people.

Q: What kind of future do you want for Nicaragua?

Armando: For the future of Nicaragua, I wish for peace and the ability for everyone to speak freely about issues that concern the people. I wish for a government that would respect and fight for the rights of all Nicaraguan people, not just a select few.

Q: What kind of impact do you want the film to have on audiences?

Armando: First, I hope this film makes people aware of the corruption and lack of accountability going on behind the scenes of the beef industry, and that because of this, many people are unknowingly aiding in the destruction of our forests and our lives.

Second, when people realize what is going on that they will want to do something about it.

I want people to see how the beef industry is destroying our culture and the future of our children and that we cannot stand against this alone.  We need people to pressure their governments to take a look and pressure the Nicaraguan government to take action against illegal cattle ranchers and put in legislation that brings more permanent accountability to the beef industry.

I know that we are not the only indigenous community that is struggling against powerful industries and corrupt governments that are destroying our lives. I hope that showing our struggle will also make people more aware of the global impact that the lack of accountability in the beef and other powerful industries is affecting Indigenous peoples around the world. I also hope that it will help Indigenous peoples everywhere to find a voice to stand up for their rights. It would be so beautiful to see so many Indigenous communities come together to stand up for each other and work together against industries that are destroying our lands, our cultures, our lives, and our futures.

Q: And what impact do you want the film to have for the Rama people and Afro-descendant Kriol community?

Armando: I want this film to have so much impact that the Nicaraguan government has no choice but to prosecute the people that are destroying the lands that the Rama and [Afro-descendant] Kriol people have the legal right to. The Nicaraguan government also needs to be held accountable for their part in the destruction and in turn work with the Rama and [Afro-descendant] Kriol government to restore any land that was destroyed by replanting native plants to begin restoration of the reserve.

I also hope that by making the world know who the Rama and [Afro-descendant] Kriol people are, some would take interest in helping us by teaching us how to use legal tools for future concerns and teaching our Indigenous leaders how to defend ourselves in legal matters so that we will remain strong long after public interest has faded away.

Re:wild is a partner of PATROL.

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