Academic journal article Social Justice

"Different Plans": Indigenous Pasts, the Partido Liberal Mexicano, and Questions about Reframing Binational Social Movements of the Twentieth Century

Academic journal article Social Justice

"Different Plans": Indigenous Pasts, the Partido Liberal Mexicano, and Questions about Reframing Binational Social Movements of the Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

The presence of two distinct civilizations implies the existence of different historical plans for the future ... built upon different ways of conceiving of the world, nature, and humankind.--Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization (1996,62)

Different ways of indigenous knowledge and concepts about the relationships of humans with each other and the broader world are becoming part of transnational discussions, and are critical to addressing the relations of human society to the nonhuman world and to climactic change. In 2010, a discussion among indigenous people across the Americas was published and through multiple narratives explored forms of indigenous resistance and "indigenous re-creation of the world order." The essays offered indigenous conceptualizations of communalidad, which "reaches far beyond Western ideas of cooperation, collectivization, or social concern for the other" to "a way of understanding life as being permeated with spirituality, symbolism, and a greater integration with nature" (Meyer and Maldonado 2010,23). Since the late 1970s, indigenous Mexicans have been recognized as critical to transnational and binational social movements, and they have helped to shape pan-indigenous organizing, upend colonial icons, and challenge the dispossessions of neoliberal capitalism. As the multiple narratives in these essays embraced indigenous re-creations of the current and future world, they also suggested the importance of indigenous perspectives about the past. Although indigenous people of the Americas have clearly transformed binational organizing over the past four decades, is transnational indigenous organizing new, as many have suggested, or is recent organizing a more visible manifestation of an often hidden history?

Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (1996) pondered the different conceptual worlds and historical plans held by the peoples of Mexico. His work prefigured Dipesh Chakrabarty's Provincializing Europe (2000), which argues that taking indigenous pasts and worldviews seriously "provincializes" Europe and decenters Western thought, including the Enlightenment, Marxism, and history. The concept of history is embedded in European thought and based in concepts of linear time and notions of progress. Marxism shares assumptions of time, progress, and the centrality of the West. Chakrabarty's theorizing and Southeast Asian model engage diverse visions of the world in relation to history and Western ways of knowledge. His inclusion of indigenous pasts recognizes a plurality of pasts, voices, and worldviews "without seeming to reduce them to any overarching principle that speaks for an already given whole," a task that he recognizes also requires a willingness to stay with an "irreducible (or irrevocable) plurality" (ibid., 107-108). As Bonfil Batalla suggested, the same would be true in the Americas. Wouldn't indigenous pasts and plans preface current forms of indigenous resistance? How might similar conceptual worlds have undergirded earlier movements that are not necessarily perceived as strictly indigenous?

This article argues that indigenous organizing in binational social movements is more a continuity with older patterns than a novel rupture, even if indigenous people have often been unrecognized or erased in written history. Evidence I found while researching the grassroots base of the binational Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) of the early twentieth century is the basis for my analysis and questions, and comes from archives, reading, observations, material culture, oral histories, and discussions. My research is incomplete, partly due to the paucity of documents about indigenous peoples generated by indigenous communities themselves. As an Anglo academic schooled in Western frameworks, I also lack a fluency in how differing worldviews, both Western and indigenous, might have been lived and negotiated by indigenous people. Thus, discussions with indigenous friends and colleagues--Navajo, Ojibwa, and Mixtees, Zapotees, and Triques from Oaxaca--have helped me, as have others I interviewed. …

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