Updated 6 months ago

Discovery of the Americas: well-remembered or rejected?

In several Latin American countries called today commemorates the discovery of America. In most of these, during the last decade the Columbus Day has been replaced by different names that show the still present feeling of struggle against the conditions of the indigenous population.

In Bolivia Day is celebrated decolonization; Chile Day Meeting between two worlds; Ecuador held on October 12 under the name Day of Interculturalism and Plurinationality, and in Venezuela the Day of Indigenous Resistance. In Argentina in 1917, Hipolito Yrigoyen declared the "Day of the Race" as a national holiday. In 2010, the government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed a decree renaming the "Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity". Despite this native people are still fighting for their rights.

Three months after the visit of King Juan Carlos of Spain that generated widespread repudiation of indigenous communities and was received with honors by both the government's change and kirchnerismo a while before; little the situation of indigenous peoples in Latin America has changed. Despite some achievements thanks to its resistance, its organization and its struggles, even nation states continue subjugating their rights.


The Marxist historian J. Luis Vitale, marks a historic line of dependence of Latin American countries that began with the so-called Hispanic-Lusitanian conquest and maintained with other forms until today. In their studies, it characterized different stages and transition periods, placing the colonial period as a period of transition to capitalism.

It stresses that the Spanish and Portuguese rule a long period characterized by the predominance of commercial trade and spoliation of the forms of community life began. It is a process that occurs exogenously, culminating in the development of the capitalist mode of production and the agro-export model in the late nineteenth century.

During this period the export of precious metals, mining and agricultural production that replaced the indigenous agricultural economy and guided the colonial market developed. capital were introduced in mining and agricultural enterprises and salaried production relations, giving rise to a dominant class.

Thus uneven and combined economic system where economic forms coexisted with large capital investment and technology with pre-capitalist forms was established in the colonies. Salaried forms predominated at a later time by the Community industry. It is the beginning of dependence. During the nineteenth century the British capital investment in the colonies will open a new cycle of dependency.

In addition to this, the territories of indigenous peoples were usurped, their colonized bodies, killed, enslaved and evangelized. A genocidal plan that was articulated with exploitation of American wealth and the establishment of colonial ties.

In a brief mapping of indigenous peoples in Latin America, official percentages where the indigenous population makes up more than half, and Bolivia (62%) and lower than include Guatemala (41%), Peru (24%), Mexico noticeable (15%), Chile (11%) and countries with lower percentages and Venezuela (2.7); Argentina, Uruguay and Costa Rica (2.4) and Paraguay (1.8%) and Brazil (0.50). Despite these official data, the percentage increases if one considers those who are recognized as descendants of indigenous peoples.

But in all these countries there is a common denominator. Indigenous peoples in situations of extreme poverty, without access to basic services, without water and decent housing. Today suffer avoidable deaths, evictions, repression and privatization of their lands and rivers.

UN official reports, indicate that 40% of environmental activists killed belong to indigenous peoples.

But the murders grow by repressions and persecutions of the Chilean and Argentine state, the pollution of rivers caused by Chevron in Argentina and Colombia where the community Wryúu 1400 victims denounced diseases.

Extractive projects extending in all countries marking extreme cases as in Brazil where agricultural entrepreneurs have parliament for the development of mining or hydroelectric projects, or in Cajamarca (Peru) where mining Yanacocha employs security guards to attack Indigenous. In Puebla (Mexico) reported 90 indigenous peoples concessions to "megaprojects" that affect natural resources of the state and therefore mobilize communities this October 12th. In Bolivia, the National Council of Qullasuyu Nakas Ayllus and in 2012 denounced the complicity of Evo Morales with mining. The murder of indigenous leader Berta Caceres in the month of March in Honduras was a direct result of their complaint against the hydroelectric companies that threatened their community.

In Argentina indigenous communities go through various conflicts and organized demands.

So the story has two sides, just as it has always been. And while some go around celebrating others keeps trying to make things fair for everybody.