by Alex Reed
I first met Eika in November 2014. It was my first time attending a community meeting. I remember sitting in amazement as a young, feisty, passionate, under 5′ tall girl was rapid firing her suggestions to the leaders of the community. I soon found out that Eika de la Rosa Meza WAS a leader in the community. At just twenty-three years of age, she had fought vigorously to secure the natives’ rights to the island and would go on to win presidency of the community’s Junta Directiva in 2015. Eika served as my Spanish tutor and first true friend on the island. She taught me some island slang like “dame una fría pa’ la calo” and “asqui mismo.” Since meeting Eika that November, we have worked on community projects together, attended Carnival together, and even swum from one island to another together. She continues to serve the community with diligence and inspires me with her leadership skills, good attitude, and beautiful afro.
Describe your personality: Extroverted, funny, responsible, anxious
Favorite Food: Seafood
Favorite Island Activity: Swimming by the isleta
Biggest Role Model: My dad, Ever de la Rosa
Who is Eika de la Rosa Meza?
I am a 24-year-old business manager and a young islander of the archipelago of the Rosario Islands. In recent years, I have been dedicated to community work and organizational processes regarding ethnic groups, gender, and youth. I am currently in the process of generational renewal in my community, and strengthening the work of human, environmental, social, cultural, and territorial development of the ancestral community, Community Council of Black Communities of the Communal Unit of the Rural Government of the Islands of the Rosary, Village of Orika.
What has been your role in Isla Grande for the past 5 years?
I have been a young leader involved in process of acquiring our land. In our community, over the last 15 years, we have worked for the recognition of our rights to identity, civic participation, autonomy, choice in development, and territory. The Colombian government had previously refused to recognize this last fundamental. For us, transcendental right to the territory that connects us with our habitat is an essential and indispensable part of our worldview.
In 2012, after long litigation, we reached a milestone in terms of recognition of communities of African descent. For the first time in Colombia, an island that was once declared an unassigned national reserve was awarded as a qualified territory of a black community to the natives that have been living in the archipelago of Our Lady of the Rosary for over 300 years. This was an important achievement for Afro-descendants in Colombia, as it guaranteed the rights of our black communities to existence and territory. I sent cards, looked for lawyers, and talked with the community members. In 2015, we were finally delivered our title as rightful owners. Currently, I am serving as the president of our Consejo Comunitario.
What are some of your goals for the community of Islas del Rosario?
I want to see our basic needs met: solar power, potable water, and a comprehensive waste management system. At this moment, we are strengthening our abilities in terms of self-government (community vision document, environmental management plan, and internal regulation) and of economic development projects. This includes Orika Community Ecotourism, which aims to increase the wellbeing of our community by creating better income options, promoting our cultural heritage, and providing opportunities for ethno-education, which benefits both the traditional inhabitants and the tourists that visit us.
How has it been working with Peace Corps Volunteers?
Great! You all are easy going. Usually, gringos are complicated.
Favorite part: Practicing my English, working on projects with you, and that the people here are learning English because it is fundamental for their jobs and more opportunities.
What is your dream job?
Traveling and working with communities.
So you want to be a PCV?
Yes, for Colombia!