October 31, 2009

Indians fight back in Latin America

Indian political awakening stirs Latin America

By Frank BajakIn Ecuador, the Shuar are blocking highways to defend their hunting grounds. In Chile, the Mapuche are occupying ranches to pressure for land, schools and clinics. In Bolivia, a new constitution gives the country's 36 indigenous peoples the right to self-rule.

All over Latin America, and especially in the Andes, a political awakening is emboldening Indians who have lived mostly as second-class citizens since the Spanish conquest.

Much of it is the result of better education and communication, especially as the Internet allows native leaders in far-flung villages to share ideas and strategies across international boundaries.

But much is born of necessity: Latin American nations are embarking on an unprecedented resource hunt, moving in on land that Indians consider their own—and whose pristine character is key to their survival.

"The Indian movement has arisen because the government doesn't respect our territories, our resources, our Amazon," says Romulo Acachu, president of the Shuar people, flanked by warriors carrying wooden spears and with black warpaint smeared on their faces.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Amazon Tiananmen and Native Stereotypes in Bolivia.

Below:  "In this photo taken Aug. 20, 2009, an Aymara woman and her daughter walk near the village of Jesus de Machaca, Bolivia. In February, Bolivia's voters approved a new constitution creating a 'plurinational state.' It grants the Andean country's 36 native peoples the right to self-determination, including collective title to their lands." (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)

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