Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures: Re-Visioning Latin American Social Movements

By Sonia E. Alvarez; Evelina Dagnino et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
The Process of Black Community Organizing in the Southern Pacific Coast Region of Colombia

LIBIA GRUESO, CARLOS ROSERO, AND ARTURO ESCOBAR


Ethnicity, Territory, and Politics

Since the end of the 1980s, Colombia's Pacific coast region has been undergoing an unprecedented historical process: the emergence of collective ethnic identities and their strategic positioning in culture-territory relations. This process is taking place in a complex national and international conjuncture. At the national level, the conjuncture is marked by two events: the radical opening of Colombia's economy to world markets after 1990, particularly in the ambit of the country's integration into the Pacific Basin economies; and a substantial reform of the national Constitution in 1991, which, among other things, granted the black communities of the Pacific region collective rights to the territories they have traditionally occupied. Internationally, tropical rain-forest areas, including Colombia's Pacific coast, have acquired a certain specificity in light of the fact that they are home to most of the planet's biological diversity. Confronted with the rapid destruction of these areas, the concomitant loss of species, and the potential impact of this loss on the future of humanity, scientists, environmentalists, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have thrown themselves with fervor into the task of "preserving biological diversity."

The emergence of collective ethnic identities in the Colombian Pacific region and similar regions in other parts of the world thus reflects a double historical movement: the irruption of the biological, the continuity of life as we know it, as a global problem; and the irruption of the cultural and the ethnic, as highlighted by the Colombian government's decision to recognize these concepts in its desire to con-

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