Leonardo Montenegro
Editor Tabula Rasa

Willem Assies was a friend, a social researcher and a great humanist. A scholar committed to social and environmental justice, his works dealt with social movements, indigenous rights and struggles, land conflicts and sustainable management of tropical forests in several countries in Latin America: Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.

Willem was a human right activist, an advocate of human dignity and social justice. His commitment to the dispossessed, indigenous and peasant rural communities, and his genuine interest on social movements are expressed here. As a professor in various Latin American universities, his chair, his research and his thesis advisories never lost the direction that oriented his life as a researcher and humanist —his political commitment to social struggles.

Early in 2003, I met Willem through our friend Ulrich Oslender, another researcher committed to social movements in Latin America. Ulrich put me in touch with Willem because of my interest to publish a critical journal on social sciences, which would be materialized in Tabula Rasa. This journal, which earlier that year was all but a dream I was working in, would become a reality thanks to these friends’ support. When nobody would have bet a dime on this project (it is easier to believe in what is already built), Willem would join the journal’s scientific committee, willing to help with his reviews and his expertise, working for an ongoing construction and defining Tabula Rasa’s critical approach, along with other people who were with us on that beginning: Eduardo Restrepo, Arturo Escobar, Ulrich Oslender (of course), Joanne Rappaport, and all the other friends in the journal’s committee. This is why we deem necessary this hommage to Willem Assies, the humanist, the critical social researcher, the firm believer in human dignity and social and environmental justice. There is much of him in Tabula Rasa, in its flowing and its actuality. Among all this, it is a joyful coincidence that precisely from this issue on Tabula Rasa is expanding to other audiences by reaching their readers in Spanish and English languages. Again, Assies is at the core of this new stage, as a proof he continues to be alive, that his words continue to be whispered on our ears, enlightening the way ahead, and breathing new life into us.