July 14, 2020

Protect natural resources as a priority objective for indigenous people in Latin America

Young indigenous Latin Americans focus their interest in protecting the natural resources of their peoples, worried that they may become an attraction for the West, which raises doubts about whether it suits them to integrate into a globalized world.

It is the concern they have expressed at the Carlos III University of Madrid, during the closing of a course that, during two months, they have followed on leadership, human rights and international cooperation.

"There are multiple inequalities between indigenous people and the rest of society, despite this we have subsisted, but now we are starting to be the focus of attention because we still have valuable natural resources," says Efe Carolina Santos, a Mexican Mazahua indigenous.

The young Mexican believes that not all members of her community know the interest that raises the existence of these resources but it is clear that someone must commit to take care of them and people who know this circumstance have a "co-responsibility with others."

Ayilen Ancalef, Mapuche "on the side of Chile" (Mapuches inhabit Chile and Argentina and defend that their people have their own country divided by those national borders), who describes as "threatening" the arrival of large companies to their territories.

This young person alludes to that the model of development of the West "is based on the extractivism of the original towns" and remembers that the great multinationals go to free territories that in fact are occupied by their towns for decades.

"They have never been free, we have always been there, but for the State it is easier to make these lands productive and pass them on to foreign investors," he criticizes.


Santos and Ancalef are barely 29 years old and believe that neither they nor their people want to adopt the extended development model in the West.

"We have sold the idea of ​​development to have all the services that the other has in the Western world, because that is the quality of life," Santos says.

A model that, in his opinion, involves ending natural resources: "means that we do not have space to plant, we do not have clean water in the rivers, that all the water is piped and that the urban sprawl in the communities is expanding more Do we really need that? "He asks.

An idea that, moreover, clashes with the indigenous idiosyncrasy that fosters the relationship with nature and the community.

"We are very concerned about ceasing to be indigenous, having money, living in another place, moving away from the countryside," believes Santos, who believes that in the communities "this human-nature relationship is fracturing."

Even so, he wants to make virtue a necessity and he says that this is a moment of "resistance" to "strengthen" indigenous values.

Idea shared by Ancalef, who is clear that the indigenous people always return to their territory because "it is not a matter of belonging or possession" but "a relationship with everything that means having ancestors, a history and a life project", They defend at all costs, although some States see them as "a problem".


This Mapuche recognizes that relations of "tug of war" with Chile are "currently worn out" and claims that its people, alone in that country, represents 9.9% of a total population of just over 17 million, according to the census of 2017.

"We are an original group that still has a certain importance within the country," he jokes after recalling that his people "were never colonized by the Spaniards" and that they are currently in a period of "Mapuche national reconstitution."

Chile recognizes nine indigenous peoples, among them one of the most famous in Latin America for its claims, the Mapuche, but also others more unknown such as the Diaguita that was "assimilated" by other civilizations, as explained by Francisco Rojas.

"Many of our cultural traits disappeared" after the arrival of the Spaniards in 1520 with Ferdinand Magellan at the head of the expedition, explains Rojas, who says that they can only "have an idea" of what their language or dress was like "through of the chronicles "of that time.

"There are no sisters or brothers who dress like our ancestors did, unlike other original peoples, we lost the language too and we only have some notion of what it was like toponymy, by the names of the places," he says.

This veterinarian explains that this loss was suffered in part by the "hospitable" attitude of his people "when the conqueror arrived" and that he did not change his behavior until "they realized their intentions."

"We had a different behavior (that of the Mapuche) towards foreigners, in our valley we could live with many towns, it is the narrowest area of ​​the country and it was a permanent crossing point, when Spanish arrives it is another one that arrives and he is welcomed, "he explains.

Even so, the Diaguita village is, according to the 2017 census, the third in population of all of Chile, with 88,474 people, behind the Mapuche (1,745,147) and the Aymara (156,754).


For Francisco, the course he has taken at Carlos III University helped him to realize that indigenous peoples "are part of something" and "are not apart from anything".

"One of the most interesting things to be able to share with brothers from other latitudes is to realize that we have the same struggle," he insists.

Something especially useful for a people whose culture has been lost over the years: "I hope other members of my people can come because we are eager to rediscover ourselves through contact with brothers from other territories."

It is the sensation shared by the Nicaraguan Miskito César Pais, who maintains that in these two months of coexistence and study "each one has allowed himself to vindicate the commitments he has with his people", and realize that "the vindication of the rights of the indigenous peoples is widespread "in Latin America.

Even so, and although in the case of Nicaragua, where – he affirms – the relation of the indigenous peoples with the State is more "close" than with "the neoliberal governments", he warns that there is still much to be done in this matter.

By Macarena Soto

(tagsToTranslate) Protect (t) natural (t) priority (t) indigenous (t) Latina

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