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They are the equivalent to the combined populations of Australia and Romania. They are more than 42 million and speak 560 languages. The majority (38 million) live in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia. They are the first settlers of our lands - the indigenous of Latin America. However, they are more relegated than the rest of the population. Why?
It is true that they have more visibility and participation in political decisions and more than 15 countries in the region have signed the convention of indigenous and tribal peoples, ILO Convention 169, which guarantees a series of protections for these groups.
There have also been important achievements in indigenous communities in access to education, electricity and drinking water, as well as significant reduction of indigenous poverty in countries such as Peru and Bolivia.
But a new World Bank study finds that despite advances against poverty in the region, the lives of the original settlers of the continent have improved poorly.
Today, indigenous people are the poorest poorest people on the continent, living in worse conditions and receiving worse incomes than non-indigenous people, even with similar levels of education.
Part of the challenge, too, is that indigenous communities do not necessarily share the same vision of development in terms of economic, political and social achievements.
At the same time, laws and other mechanisms have been adopted in several countries to recognize their rights, territories and traditions.
So the first decade of the twenty-first century offers two contrasting histories for the indigenous peoples of Latin America: new opened channels for their recognition and participation, but discrimination, exclusion and injustice persist.