Junior Candace Riggs, an activist advocating for Colombian farmers and their economic and social struggles, created a documentary this semester for her politics class to highlight the plight of Colombian farmers.
Riggs’ film, “Shoveling Water: War on Drugs, War on People,” explores U.S. influence in Colombia and shows how farmers weather the changing seasons.
Staff Writer Katrina Fedczuk spoke to Riggs about her experience creating the film.
Katrina Fedczuk: Can you tell me more about your documentary?
Candace Riggs: It’s about Colombia, and what’s going on is that local farmers who are just trying to grow legal crops, like sugar cane — their farms are getting fumigated. Any time the U.S. suspects someone is growing coca, which is the drug that makes cocaine, they take gallons of pesticides and pour it on the fields. But Colombia has a really diverse ecosystem. The wind takes it everywhere, and it’s killing off these peoples’ way to live. It’s killing other crops. Coca is a really strong bush. It always grows back. The other crops don’t grow back.
KF: Did you have any interest in Colombia before the project?
CR: Not before this semester. I wanted to do something that was right now though, a hot topic that was relevant that will play out more in the future. I feel that if you get people involved early into an issue, they’ll have more drive to fight with it. Once something is done, it’s done. The Free Trade Agreement has been passed by Congress, but it hasn’t been implemented yet so there is still time to make changes to land reform in
Colombia or even changes to U.S. foreign policy before it’s enacted to prevent an increase in human rights violations.
KF: Why should the Ithaca community care about this topic?
CR: We have so much control over other countries that we’re not even thinking about what it’s like to live in that situation. This is an issue a lot of people in the United States can relate to, but it’s just not talked about. You know, poverty is huge here. Starvation is huge here. We hide under this blanket of western society that we’re not even talking about how many people are living on the streets like in downtown Ithaca.
KF: Can you talk about Witness for Peace?
CR: It’s an organization that got started on the premise of creating a forum where people can learn about issues firsthand. They go on delegations where they take a group of people —
students, adults, whoever — and they give them a tour of interviews and bring the issues up front so that when we come back to the United States, we can hopefully start making some changes, fighting for policy, becoming more active.
KF: What is the documentary’s purpose?
CR: I hope that they’ll start to see how the U.S. implements their policies. We are all about the market and how it ties everything in, but we have really lost touch with the people that are being affected, and I don’t think we’re doing enough to protect human rights, to ensure safety, to ensure things like water, food, and shelter. And then we’re just enacting these policies blindly. We’re doing things for all the wrong reasons, and if you bring these issues to people who are just about to go into the real world, maybe they will think about this when they start making policies and when they start making changes.