A monthly publication of the Institute for Indigenous Sciences and Cultures (IISC)
Year 2, No. 16, July 2000
General Edition: Pablo Davalos
The emergence of the Ecuadorian Indigenous movement as a major social and political actor over the past twenty years leads us to focus on a number of important points that require analysis and discussion. Among these is the historical presence that the Indigenous movement has achieved on the national and international scene.
From being a virtually invisible social actor and historical subject considered by the rest of society as a passive and even non-existent subject, the Indigenous movement’s new-found presence has posited new schemas, altered the contents of national political debate and enabled the rediscovery of our country’s identity.
After five hundred years, society has been obliged over the past two decades to recognize Indigenous peoples’ own, specific characteristics, which have been evolving and have been legitimated though a complex process of historical, social and cultural construction and survival of ancient practices and values. The result is that the Indigenous movement has become visible as an alternative social project with perspectives and objectives for historical transformation based on profound respect for human coexistence.
However, if this recognition of Indigenous peoples and their social, historical and political transformation has happened in the past few years, we should ask ourselves, Where were we before this? What were we doing? What were the characteristics of our invisibility? Why couldn’t the rest of society see us?
Was it perhaps a form of resistance to pass silently through history, whose reason for doing so was precisely to remain in the shadows in order to preserve our presence, our culture, our very life? What were the conditions the emerged that led our peoples in the transition from being in history’s shadow to visibility?
Clearly, the power structure and existing domination in all its economic, political, judicial, military, religious, cultural and symbolic forms had the aim of assimilating us into Western ‘modernity’. This assimilation and homogenization was at the cost of destroying our historic memory, our culture, our social organization, our spirituality.
In order to understand the reasons for our historical survival we have to mention (as a constituent element of our presence and survival as historical and political subject) that ancient matrix which forged the social construction of our peoples and the institutionalization of ancestral practices, values and knowledge and enabled us to preserve our memory and maintain our way of life up to now, despite all the aggression directed at us by modernity.
But it hasn’t been just the new visibility of our peoples that has led to a change in Indigenous peoples’ condition. The emergence of the Indigenous movement has also led to a change of discourse and of presenting proposals on the nation scene. One central issue that began to be debated from the early 1990s and the Inti Raimi (Sun Festival) uprising is the question of cultural diversity and respect for this diversity through the recognition of multicultural reality.
The value of respecting the harmonic coexistence between different social and cultural identities is a fundamental issue we have learned from our own historical experience. It is “unity in diversity” put into practice. To recognize and accept ourselves means in practice to be tolerant and mutually respectful and to build more humane societies. That is the purpose of the multi- and intercultural proposal which signifies mutual respect between cultures and peoples that make up and coexist within a single national territory.
These proposals lead us to an even more important dimension and challenge: establishing a ‘pluri-national’ State and society. How can we build this new State that can respect different cultures without the need to impose or for domination? How to ensure that our societies can recognize each other’s identities and stop living with their backs to each other? How to build a society free of racism, intolerance, arrogance and authoritarianism? How to accept the profound cultural differences in conditions of equality, respect and tolerance?
Institute for Indigenous Sciences and Cultures (IISC)
Address: Buenos Aires 1028 y Estados Unidos
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