Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Drawing the Lines: Racial/ethnic Landscapes and Sustainable Development in the Costa Chica

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Drawing the Lines: Racial/ethnic Landscapes and Sustainable Development in the Costa Chica

Article excerpt

African descendent invisibility in map-making and environmental discourse have roots in the historical colonial period. Cartography has been an important tool in maintaining colonial power and white privilege by reinforcing racial difference and rendering individuals invisible. Colonial processes and power are often not explicit in the map-making process, and readers simply take for granted the produced knowledge as an accurate representation of what (or who) occupies the space in any geographic location. Closer inspection of the map as an artifact can reveal interesting and crucial points about the dynamics of power that are responsible for the production of this cartographic knowledge, and the ways in which colonial logics continue to influence the process of connecting people and places. This paper will explore how colonial power has been legitimized through map making and what that means for African descendants in the Pacific Cost of Oaxaca in their push for greater social and political recognition, participation in sustainable development initiatives and collective rights.

One might suppose collective rights are awarded in conjunction with the proportion of ethnic minority groups relative to the majority population; yet Hooker (2005) demonstrated that collective rights are dependent on the country's perception of the group as having a distinct cultural identity. A possible explanation of why Blacks seem to be left out of NGO initiatives is that indigenous groups in Latin America have been given international attention and sympathy especially since the 1994 Zapatista movement. The Zapatista uprising in 1994 was a pivotal point in international consciousness and sympathy toward indigenous struggles. Sustainable development has been central to the issue of indigenous land rights, which links local indigenous movements with international environmental movements in Latin America (Halpern and Windance Twine, 2000).

An area where the disparity between Black groups and indigenous groups is of particular interest is in the disproportion of collective rights awarded in multicultural government reforms. Hooker (2005) claims Afro-Latinos are much less likely to gain formal recognition as only seven of the fifteen Latin American countries to implement multicultural reform give collective rights to Afro-Latinos and only three give Afro-Latinos the same rights as indigenous groups. Blacks find it more difficult to gain recognition because the multicultural reforms adopted by Latin American states are based on ethnic identity rather than race (Hooker, 2005) due to the aversion of Latin American states to accept the existence of racism (Anderson, 2003 as in Hooker). Both Anderson (2007) and Hooker (2005) suggest that African Descendant groups commonly fight to be considered an indigenous group in order to win collective rights.

Understanding how collective rights are awarded in Latin America is crucial to comprehending current landscapes of environmental conservation. Race intersects many areas of life in Latin America and, and the "environment" is one of them. Scholars have suggested development and self-empowerment agencies may have an affinity towards working with indigenous groups due to romantic post-colonial stereotypes of being environmental stewards (Sundberg 2004, Mollet 2006, Escarcega 2010).

This notion is in line with the environmental ethic of some environmental NGOs and many neoliberal global sustainable development initiatives that would like to encourage the protection of the world's natural areas while stimulating economic growth (Carruthers, 1996). Sovereignty, cultural protection, and environmental investment in the form of land rights are often accompanied with collective rights in multicultural reforms.

African Descendant Mis-representation in Map-making

Dumoulin (2003) stresses that environmental NGOs played a key role in endorsing the idea of "indigenous knowledge" by associating indigenous populations with the maintenance and preservation of biodiversity hotspots. …

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