500 hundred years later, identity and social justice

By Javier del Rey Morató (for Safe Democracy)

In the Latin American public sphere new actors have emerged in the last few years that in reality have always existed yet lacked a voice, the natives. Today, thanks to certain regional leaders, they are realizing that the natives are also citizens of their countries.

Javier Del Ray Morató is professor of Political Communication and General Information Theory at the Complutense University of Madrid. He has a degree in Information Sciences from the University of Navarra and a PhD in Information Sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid. He has taught courses and seminars on Latin America and is the author of numerous scientific articles and books on communication and politics.

IN THE LAST YEARS A NOVELTY HAS TAKEN PLACE in Latin America: new players have appeared in the public realm, with differentiated attitudes and languages, which have never before led to political activity.

These actors devote themselves to the face of Latin America, a face hidden for many years -for far too long–, that expresses the demands of the people, doing so in a diverse language that the elite Creole’s, descendents from Europe, are accustomed to.

We think about the Chiapaneca (Mexico) natives and about Hugo Chávez (Venezuela). We think of Evo Morales (Bolivia) and about Rafael Correa (Ecuador). We think about the etnocacerista leader Ollanta Humala (Peru) that won prominent electoral support.

These figures emerge along with a new chapter of the large coexistence between conquerors and those conquered: the chronicle triumph of some and settling the defeat of others, which is a narration of power and of submission that began in 1492.

These faces form part of what has been called the psychology of meetings that produce the universal history: when two cultures face one another, the strongest is always the one who gets to write. Oswald Spengler wrote that history is the universal court and that that has always proved the stronger to be right, to be more full of life, more secure of itself, without mattering if was ethical or just, perhaps because neither justice nor consciousness are the subjects that worry history.

The history of that meeting, that took place over 500 hundred years, gave power to those who came swinging the cross and the sword. Spengler writes that the ideal race of a pure Indian regime is perhaps very close to their realization (Spengler, 1962:1965), even though we do not know if the culture that is emerging will claim the race or if it will further integration.

In the twenties the German wrote these lines, and later, Arnold Toynbee wrote that the experience to have been assaulted by the West, emotionally disturbed, but intellectually stimulated, has made us see that the history of the West is not only used by the westerners: the villages struck by the West surprisingly accept the history as theirs, as well.

And there is a paradox: while the West still contemplates the history from the old Eurocentric, provincial point of view, other assaulted societies by the West have gone beyond this limitation: they are more universal. And the old West is in a state of siege, like Lima and La Paz, Caracas and Quito, or Mexico and Guatemala.

Toynbee interpreted what happened in Mexico in 1910 like a first movement in order to brush off the preparations of western civilization that prevailed in the 16th century, and not rule out that this impulse spread in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Columbia.

The psychology of that meeting 500 years ago pertains to the submission to a foreign power (the imposition of a God no less foreign), and also those copper faces, that must confront their circumstance with severity, assuming this past like the last possibility. More than confronting one another (and the temptation exists), it would be useful to analyze why 180 adventurous, thousands of kilometres from their kingdom, were able to defeat an empire of thousands of square kilometres, and then remained in power for 300 years. Also, they must question why (during the fall of the empire) their white heirs remained in power (and perhaps continue to remain) for 200 years more, totalling an impressive figure of half a millennium.

The natives that look for something so uncertain like their identity (or something so reasonable like social justice), they would do well to bear in mind that it is best to keep a watchful attitude, and better to analyze than to resent, so that (500 hundred years later), they are able to have a place less shameful than what history has provided them with up to now.

Morales said that in the entirety of his country’s army there was not a single indigenes last name. President Lagos said: Bolivia is not South Africa. Sometimes politicians say one thing, and it is necessary to read into their contradictions: perhaps he wanted to say, Bolivia is South Africa? It will be good to bear that in mind, because the exiguous white minority has governed Bolivia as if it was their state, and the natives seemed to have an ontological statute closer to the nature of their culture: they were in the territory, but did not form part of the State’s worries, and very doubtfully will remain a nation.

And thanks to Morales, today they know that they are citizens of their country.

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