August 9: International Day of Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples face steep roads forward in Latin America

There are postponed agendas still pending that could help provide a qualitative forward leap from cultural rights to the exercise of political rights of peoples.

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Ceremonia del fuego sagrado maya ceremonia del fuego sagrado maya pq
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One of the involuntary legacies of the latest phase of Western cultural globalization is precisely glocalization (the awakening of particular differentiated identities). The present century, compared to the previous ones, is and will be a witness to different processes of the reconstitution of identities and territories of indigenous peoples, inside and outside the borders of the bicentennial republican States of the region.


Within and starting from different geographical points of the Abya Yala continent, we, deprived and subordinated peoples, have built trails of emancipation with different dynamics, taking advantage of the gaps or oversights that the occidental-world-system always leaves behind in its attempt to establish cultural hegemony.


These routes are founded in the collective rights of indigenous peoples established in international law and in some legal ordinances within countries. Specifically, the right of previous free and informed consultation is one of the best legal tools that our peoples use to make our rights prevail in the face of the foreign business interests in our territories.


While the processes of reconstruction of identity, both individual and collective, have made significant progress in recent years, nevertheless, there are postponed agendas still pending that could in good measure provide a qualitative forward leap from cultural rights to the exercise of political rights of peoples. Among these agendas are:


Recuperating lands and territories to confront the expansion of accumulative capitalism by spoilage


In recent years, national States have submitted to the global expansion of neoliberal capitalism. There hardly exists a State that protects and defends the life, the dignity and the sovereignty of peoples. Much less, the preservation of the Earth-system.


In these circumstances, the struggle for the restitution of indigenous territories is not only an economic affair, nor a question of the exercise of indigenous power, but above all of the protection of Life in and from the territories.


Establishing pluri-national states with indigenous autonomies


In the normative framework of the mestizo nation states now existing there can be neither guarantee nor exercise of the collective rights of indigenous peoples.


The national States are essentially mono-cultural and centralized, where indigenous peoples subsist without a State (without rights) and even against the will of these States. Hence it is urgent to transform the mestizo states into decentralized pluri-national states, with autonomous indigenous territories.


In order for our peoples to enjoy and exercise our collective rights, the indigenous territories should be politically, legislatively, legally economically, culturally and administratively autonomous. All this should be expressly laid out in the political constitutions of the pluri-national states.


Disputing the hegemony of modernity from the proposal of Good Living


Simplifying lineal rationality has been imposed on the planet as the only way to see and explain the world. Hence the supremacy of Western science as universal science. Something similar occurs with the method of construction of knowledge, with written knowledge, etc.


Technological modernity, to the extent that it is expanding as a style of living, has accelerated the processes of devastation of our Mother Earth.


Our Mother Earth needs time, a pause, rest, in order to restore her vital conditions and recover her adequate temperature. We must therefore change our habits of consumption. Stop dreaming of being rich, live with austerity and restore balanced coexistence in the cosmic community. This is the route to Good Living.


Restoring the role of the human community within the cosmic community


We indigenous have the great challenge of thinking, feeling and acting with communitarian logic. We need to be more defenders than leaders, more cooperative than competitive, more community than individuals.


Communitarian logics and ways of being must be extended to our forms of conviviality with and within the cosmic community, where the subject of rights is not only human beings but also the rest of material and spiritual beings. We must restore our mission as caretakers and symbolic bridges in the web of the cosmic community.


Surpassing monotheism and anthropocentrism


We human beings (the males) believe ourselves to be the centre (the measure) of the whole cosmic house because we believe that we are the sole chosen ones (the image and likeness) of the only true God. From this false anthropocentric consciousness is born liberal consumerist individualism that believes that all nature is at their disposition to ransack.


Machista, white and rich anthropocentrism is the basis of all the criminal attempts of bloody suppression of the multicultural human community on the planet. Therefore, our urgent task is to restore and amplify/deepen our plural and open eco-spiritualities and transcend towards a way of thinking, sensing and acting in a cosmocentric way.


Overcoming the colonial disposition learned


It is fundamental to move forwards from cultural rights (that are often folklorized) towards the exercise of political rights. Land and territory with autonomy, the self-determination of peoples, previous consultation, etc., are routes that we must necessarily follow as peoples.


If what has been indicated so far are steep roads, the pathways for inner transformation are equally or even more difficult. We must kill the racist, machista, monotheistic, class-biased, anthropocentric colonizers that live in each of us.


As indigenous people, when we have a higher level of academic education and social "ascent", how can we avoid continuing to reproduce endemic evils such as racism, classism and individualism already installed in and by the system? As we increase our opportunities to accede to decision-making spaces, how can we ensure that we will not be arrogant, greedy and insensitive to our own people and to others? How can we ensure that, when the bosses invite us to their table, we will not look down with despising or disdain at our brothers and sisters who are despised by the bosses?


How can we live in the system without learning, nor reproducing/defending the vices of the system as idealized virtues? These and other elements are almost existential challenges to escape from the condition of coloniality in which we subsist. 


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)
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