Movements by indigenous groups demanding their rightful places and rights can be seen both in modern history and globally even today. When people hear the words, “indigenous movement,” they think of common characteristics such as a strong sense of group cohesion and the violence of activities that this sense supports, but this book abandons this perspective and focuses on the diversity of the movements. The book analyzes Bolivia and Ecuador, which are two countries in Latin America where movements have appeared on the plateaus in the Andes and in the tropical lowlands. Each chapter of the book is devoted to one of the four movements in the two regions of the two countries.
The keywords of this book, which are “Latin America,” “indigenous movement,” and “comparison,” are firmly linked. Generally, the objects of a comparison should be similar. Latin America, which extends from Mexico in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south and includes the continent of the Americas and surrounding islands, and Spanish-speaking America in particular, is a perfect area for a comparison. After Columbus reached America in 1492, Spain maintained colonial control of Latin America for more than 300 years, and even after Spain’s control ended, international relationships have remained relatively stable, as no country has held long-term control over a neighboring country. When Asia, Europe, Africa, and other regions are considered specifically, it is difficult to find a region with a common historical background, which is geographically uniform, and in which neighboring countries maintain stable relationships.
The long period of colonial control by Spain, which prepared the conditions for comparison, led to the creation of the indigenous movements that this book analyzes. Colonization created the basic structure of the present Latin American societies, which is rule by the white colonizers over the people who lived there prior to colonization, that is, the indigenous people. The indigenous people were treated as culturally inferior and suffered discrimination even after independence.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the indigenous people finally launched a movement to overcome discrimination, but this movement reached a watershed around 1980. At that time, the military regimes that had severely restricted voting rights and freedom of political activities in many Latin American countries, including Bolivia and Ecuador, fell from power. This signified the opening of opportunities for the indigenous movements to launch liberalization movements. It is extremely interesting that the four indigenous movements referred to above have lacked uniformity of political actions since the democratization of Bolivia and Ecuador. In some cases, they participated in elections in an effort to grasp political power, and in other cases, they did not. There are even cases of movements that participated in elections while also attempting to gain power without resorting to the existing democratic systems; for example, by participating in coup d’états or engaging in armed uprisings. A comparison of two movements in one country or two movements in the same geographical environment reveals that their actions differ.
This fact shows the diversity of indigenous movements. In sum, the fact that movements with similar historical backgrounds act differently even when faced with similar conditions means that ideas concerning desirable actions differ between movements. This book supports this fact by referring to actual documents and argues that it is necessary to focus on the interpretation of circumstances that members of movements give when deciding on their actions after due deliberation and reflection, instead of considering an indigenous movement as possessing a simple principle of action.
(Written by MIYACHI Takahiro, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences / 2020)
The 36th (2015) Award for the Promotion of Studies on Developing Countries (IDE-JETRO Institute of Developing Economies Japan External Trade Organization)
The 2nd (2015) A Research Encouragement Award (Japan Society of Social Science on Latin America)