Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

The Children of 1990

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

The Children of 1990

Article excerpt

  In June 1990, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of
  Ecuador (CONAIE) led a massive uprising against their social,
  economic, and political marginalization. The protest altered the
  political landscape of Ecuador and gave that country a reputation as
  home to some of the strongest and best-organized social movements in
  South America. Two decades later--this year, 2010--the children of
  the leaders of that historic uprising continued to lead mobilizations
  against the government. This time, however, Rafael Correa, whom many
  saw as emblematic of Latin America's shift to the left, was in power.
  What explains indigenous protest against a leftist government? Was
  Correa not a true leftist, as some militants alleged? Or was this yet
  another example of a white urban left failing to take the concerns of
  rural indigenous communities into account? Recent developments point
  to an alternative explanation: Indigenous movements have become more
  conservative and have discarded a strategy of building coalitions
  that had brought them so much success in the twentieth century.
  Keywords: indigenous peoples, Ecuador, CONAIE, social movements,
  Rafael Correa, left

Just before dawn on June 21, 2010, several hundred indigenous marchers arrived in the Andean highland capital city of Quito, Ecuador. On June 10, they had left Puyo, the capital of the Pastaza province in the eastern Amazon. They billed the eleven-day march as a minga for a plurinational state, to petition for the implementation of the progressive changes promised in the new 2008 constitution. After parading through the streets in the early-morning light with torches to guide their path the marchers gathered for a day of public activity that would press their demands on the government. (1)

The minga came on the twentieth anniversary of a massive June 1990 revolt that put indigenous concerns front and center in the South American country's political consciousness. The Confederacion de Nacionalidades Indigenas del Ecuador [Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador] (CONAIE), an umbrella group founded in 1986 with the intention that it would represent all indigenous peoples in the country, led both the 1990 uprising as well as the 2010 minga. The new, younger generation called themselves the "children of 1990" because they were attempting to follow through on the demands that had led their parents to take to the streets in protest two decades earlier. They were now ready to begin assuming leadership roles and take greater responsibility in the movements.

In 1990, communities across Ecuador blocked major highways in a nonviolent demonstration aimed at bringing to the forefront of public consciousness the discrimination and unjust policies facing indigenous peoples. Subsequently termed the Inti Raymi (Sun Festival) uprising because it came just before the June solstice that is celebrated throughout the Andes, it represented the emergence of indigenous peoples as one of the most powerful social-movement actors in the Americas. CONAIE outlined its demands in a sixteen-point document that defined a program for indigenous control over indigenous affairs and summarized an agenda for redefining the role of the indigenous in society. The platform revolved broadly around cultural issues (such as support for traditional medicine, bilingual education programs, and indigenous control of archeological sites), economic concerns (negotiating debts, access to credit, and budgeting money for economic-development programs in indigenous communities), and political demands (an end to centralized control over local communities, expulsion of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, and amendment of the first article of the constitution to declare Ecuador to be a plurinational and multicultural state). (2) The demand for the constitutional recognition of the plurinational character of Ecuador became their key and most contentious demand--one that was finally achieved in revisions to the 2008 constitution. …

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