The AP ran a story last week about the growing force of indigenous political awakenings in Latin America. From the Shuar in Ecuador who are defending their ancestral lands to the Mapuche demanding basic social services in Chile, more appears to be happening than just Evo Morales’ historic win in Bolivia. Morales, the first Indian president of Bolivia, recently oversaw a constitutional amendment to allow the country’s 36 indigenous groups to rule themselves. Indians make up at least one in ten of Latin America’s 500 million residents. But they’re often the poorest, living in the most rural areas and under threat from exploitative oil and mining companies and their own neglectful governments.
From the article: “In Guatemala, three in four indigenous people are illiterate, the U.N. says. In Mexico, where 6 percent of the population is illiterate, 22 percent of adult Indians are. Even in Bolivia, only 55 percent of indigenous children finish primary school, compared to 81 percent of other kids.”
Morales famously said that Bolivia is no longer the South Africa of South America, and the country is heralded as the biggest Indian rights success story on the continent to date. But is the struggle over yet? As Bolivia’s presidential elections approach in December, Morales is facing an entrenched white elite that refuses to let go of its power in a nation where three out of five inhabitants are indigenous. Morales may well win despite fierce right-wing competition, but depending on that election’s outcome, indigenous apartheid may not be over just yet.
Photo via the AP