Tobas General Information
The Tobas lived for a millennia on their land in northern Argentina, known as the Chaco province.
The Tobas traditionally supported themselves by hunting, fishing, and growing food in small gardens. Their land was once fertile grassland and forest which supported them and provided them with all their needs. But the introduction of cattle onto their land has turned it into a dry sandy desert, leaving them vulnerable to periods of real hunger and starvation and much more dependent on occasional employment by outsiders for their survival.
The Tobas' land has steadily been invaded over the last 100 years. Since then, loggers have felled their forests, and settlers have introduced cattle. These cattle not only turn the land already stolen from the Tobas into desert, but also break into the tiny plots the land which the Tobas have managed to hold onto, destroying their crops. The Tobas have been left almost landless and without their livelihood.
The local Chaco authorities have, since 1966, repeatedly promised to recognize Indian Territory in their province - but have failed to fulfill one single promise. On the contrary, they have worked with the landowners to continue to deny the Tobas their land, handing it to settlers, and authorizing its deforestation, without the consent of the community, aggravating already severe economic and social deprivation.
Prospectors, ranchers and logging companies seek to exploit the land’s natural resources; landowners claim title to it. As a result of state inaction, indigenous peoples are deprived of the essential resources necessary for the realization of their economic, social and cultural.
In the 1880’s the Argentine government began a campaign to occupy new territories, defeating the last organized attempts by the Tobas to defend their lands. The Argentine Chaco was divided up in large portions and exploited, especially for the valuable quebracho trees, used for its tanning and its extremely durable timber. This devastated the ecosystem in a relatively short time. The private owners of the Chaco then turned to cotton production, employing the Tobas as a cheap seasonal workforce; the conditions did not change substantially for decades.
Beginning in 1982, the region suffered unprecedented floods, which caused the crops to be ruined; and in the1990’s, mechanical harvesters imported from Brazil (at very low prices due to Argentina's low fixed exchange rate) left many Tobas without jobs. The provincial government of Chaco resorted to pay a one-way ticket to the Tobas willing to migrate south, into Santa Fe.
The majority of the Tobas migrants settled in Rosario, which is a large city in the south of Santa Fe and had seen a previous wave of Tobas in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Communication and family ties were kept in time, so the newcomers found a place; job opportunities and government assistance, even if scarce and of poor quality, were considerably more available in an urban setting than in Chaco. An estimated 10,000 Tobas came to Rosario in the 1990s, and settled mostly in slums.
In “Las Lomas” neighborhood in the Santa Fe City, live 133 families originally from Chaco. They left their lands for social and economic reasons. Many experience discrimination, exploitation, and other violations of their human rights, including their economic, social and cultural rights. Such people are additionally vulnerable to abuse. The local government is only too willing to turn a blind eye to large numbers of their necessities. The Tobas live and work in appalling conditions, without access even to essential services such as health care.
The Tobas have a lot of necessities they must realize for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights like any other citizens, notably in the areas of education, housing, employment, and health. “We have no land to plant on. Precisely because of this, there is misery and hunger in our land... We are driven to our suicide because we don’t mean anything”. Carlos, Indigenous leader.
- To be identified as "indigenous" implies certain things in common, including: Indigenous peoples have a longstanding relationship to the land on which they live that predates colonization or the formation of the contemporary state.
- Indigenous peoples wish to preserve, continue to develop, and pass along to future generations distinct knowledge systems, practices and ways of living intimately linked to this land.
- Except in a few rare cases, the institutions of the countries in which indigenous peoples live are largely shaped and controlled by other ethnic groups that have come into positions of dominance through colonization or the formation of the contemporary state.
Indigenous peoples seek recognition of their rights both as individuals and as nations or peoples on their own terms, in accordance with their traditions.
The centrality of the relation to land of indigenous peoples to the realization of a wide range of rights is increasingly recognized. Traditional ways of living off the land are central to providing food, medicine and housing to indigenous families and communities, and to maintaining the practices that nourish their spiritual and social lives.
PIFP came to them, truth “Communities doctors Program” of the National Health Ministry to create with them a shop for the design of clothes, so that they can sell them for their sustenance. One concept of the project is the introduction of Tobas craftsmanship into the textile design, for example using traditionally designed and handcrafted wooden buttons, and incorporating handmade fabrics using ethnic designs.
We are also working on the creation of training shops to assist the women in learning the design and manufacture of the clothing, and to teach them effective marketing strategies.
We have bought all the necessary tools for the initiation of this project. They have developed a plan with the leaders of the Tobas Community, have developed a program that will work, and have made the initial purchases of equipment for the clothing design. However this is only the first step and we are now seeking financing so this project can reach its full potential. That’s the reason why we are asking for your help. With even a small donation, together we can do much good for this small community.
PIFP and the Tobas Community needs your generous support and we thank you ahead of time for anything you might be able to provide.
Dr. Alicia Luna, PIFP Latin American Coordinator
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