By Rodolfo Kateri Pino – Nov 12, 2020
After a year of exile, following the U.S.-supported coup d’état against his government by the opposition and the O.A.S. (Organization of American States -the “ministry of colonies” as Fidel characterized it in 1962) and his resignation from the presidency, as the only way to avoid a massacre of the Bolivian people, predominantly the Indigenous peoples, Evo Morales has returned to his home. One year ago he had to seek exile to save his life. It is noteworthy that Evo’s presidential guard, all military men, were offered US $50,000 each to hand over Morales to the U.S., but there were no takers. Surely this fact alone rips the fig-leaf off the argument for the coup, namely the so-called fraud in the presidential election of October 2019. The electoral victory of November 18 this year is the most convincing proof the falsity of the accusation. The same political party founded by Morales, the MAS, (Movement Towards Socialism) won this election again, this time with 55.10% of the popular vote.
Evo’s comeback by land on November 9th from Argentina’s la Quiaca to Villason and onward through three departments toward Cochabamba on the 11th has been nothing else than massive. A clear denunciation of the illegality of the coup. Evo Morales has become the main leader of Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia as well as the Americas. Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia with Evo’s leadership have become the precursor of Indigenous People’s vindication: the recovery of what has been taken away and denied to these populations since the arrival of Europeans on the continent and continued by the newly created nation-states in the 19th century to the present.
Many readers already know that upon European arrival on the continent, Indigenous people were obliged in varying degrees to:
1-change the technology they had developed to meet their basic needs and become incorporated into different economic, social, and political systems producing for Europe initially and later for the global capitalist system sustained by the scheme of nation-states;
2-change the complex of norms and institutions by which they had organized their social life, adopting the Western style;
3-and alter, or completely change, their existing body of knowledge, beliefs and values.
New and foreign social systems were imposed on the inhabitants on behalf of the suspect idea of “civilization”.
Some were imposed militarily, socially (via education and religion), or politically, while others were established through dependence on European goods, as exemplified by the fur trade in the north. The expropriation of the land, control of the people and the imposition of cultural norms, through colonization, were processes which remained in force for Indigenous people even after independence. This became the internal (continued) colonialism of Indigenous inhabitants and their lands. Continuing to this day is the taking of every single available space from those considered inferior.
In this mindset, colonizers took the absolute space, distorting and destroying the accorded space established within Indigenous societies, in an incredible set of social, economic, political, spiritual, and philosophical aspects that because of their rigidity attempted to destroy the societies encountered. In other words, what indigenous societies did have (in whatever degree necessary to function as a social group) was destroyed or distorted from first contact continuously to the present. These include:
Aesthetic, Architectural, Artistic – human dimensions which are denied by dominant cultures by ignoring them or simply by looking at as ruins or mediocre value. More convenient is to erase them that trying to come to terms with them.
Burial – systems discarded and even banned that, in the colonizers’ mentality never achieved the levels of the “civilized” societies (concepts ascribed to themselves by themselves).
Economy and Work – the first: nonexistent and the second becomes a shadow of “real work” which for many is dependence on a salary and for the very few to control resources and workers.
Geographic: Spatial, Personal and Collective, Social Organization -here geography is controlled by victors who decide and impose the form of social and collective relations as well as a pyramidal social organization which puts everybody in her/his place. Religion, laws, rules media, institutions and, particularly, “education” and academia are the strongest means to maintain the prescribed order. Anything outside of this order means chaos, deviance, being uncivilized, that has to be discouraged and/or repressed when necessary. Specialist in race equality in higher education, Sofia Akel states, “throughout centuries of British imperialism, universities were not benevolent institutions that abstained from the violent massacring, plunder and invasion of 90% of the world’s countries”. And, precisely for this, decolonization must go much deeper “in challenging the institutional hierarchy and monopoly of knowledge, moving out of a western framework”.
Surface and undersurface water – the very essence of life; resources for human existence and for them for profit, to be taken by those with power, capacity, technology, etc., at the expense of those misnamed as under- or unprivileged.
Natural, human, spiritual, and cultural – The destruction of the original natural space of our peoples is obvious; yet it wasn’t enough. The colonizers and, later, the settlers, deny and seek the eradication of our comprehension of humanity, our spiritual concepts and mostly our culture which contains:
• how peoples secured shelter, food and clothing, depending and adjusting to our geographical, geometrical and geological conditions;
• how peoples used and constructed tools;
• how our peoples developed our division of labour; in short our personal and communal development;
• how the original inhabitants organized our political and social functioning;
• how established our rules of behaviour and relations among members of our societies;
• what were our means of expressions; these conceptual organization involved Gender, Aging, Learning (education), Politics, Government and Defense, Indigenous Law; Health and Medicine, Psychological and Mental Health; Family.
• and how we understood the supernatural, spiritual [religious in the invaders’ vocabulary], philosophical, and technical concepts.
All of these comprise the Indigenous space Indigenous Peoples need to reclaim. However, our peoples are not the only ones in this situation; all in similar conditions need to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. This includes former slaves, or Afro-descendants as well as other so called “minorities”. The time has come for all societies to adjust to this reality, for the sake of human survival.
In the recovery of all of these, Indigenous Peoples include the rest of the nation-state’s other inhabitants and develop a standard of living for the entire population. It is indisputable that this was the case of Bolivia in the thirteen years of Evo’s presidency which transformed Bolivia from the poorest, most underdeveloped, and highly inequitable nation to the most rapidly growing economy of the continent until 2019. This is why the Bolivian example is a beacon not only for Indigenous populations, but for the entire world’s nation-states.
Featured image: File photo.