Proposals like the plurinational state in Evo Morales’ Bolivia and the incorporation of elements of the indigenous world-view like ‘sumac causay‘ (good living) in Latin American political discourse, marks a shift toward political multiculturalism in Latin America.
Claudio Chipana G.
Multicultural reality is nothing new, it not a recent phenomenon. People have always mixed, to produce fusions that have brought us new cultures, ethnicities and languages. The problem is that for a long time these so-called fusions were produced through conquering and colonisation.
For this reason, we cannot talk about a single model of multiculturalism. Every social context has very distinct ways of resolving issues of cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity. In any case, to talk about uncontaminated and monolithic cultures in the Twentieth first century does make any sense.
Although the idea of multiculturalism has been initiated in the Anglo-Saxon world – and it was paradoxically recently declared a failure – it does it mean that multiculturalism can be eliminated by decree just because one sector of society believes that multiculturalism has supposedly failed.
Multiculturalism itself, if we move beyond the theories that define it, is a process of identity and difference that does not stop throughout the course of history. For example, in the contemporary world, multiculturalism is a result of migration process and globalisation of culture.
However, multiculturalism is also expressed in the struggle for people – including minorities – to maintain their identity in the face of assimilation and homogenisation.
In Latin America multiculturalism, and its intercultural variant, is present in the reclamation of the rights of the indigenous people to be treated equally in both their ethnic and cultural groups, to have the same cultural rights as “the majority”, those rights in possession of the ruling elites who exclusively held all social and economic power.
For this reason, in Latin America the fight for plurality in society is expressed through their need for government reform, to be more inclusive to traditionally marginalised members of society, particularly in areas including education, heath and employment.
Interculturalism – a specific form of multiculturalism – therefore, is the recognition of the social rights of these people. For example, the implementation of the ILO Convention 169 that recognises the right of consultation for indigenous peoples.
Of course, Latin America does not have a homogeneous identity, because it is dominated by a mixture of cultures and has been moulded by multiple traditions that come together in synthesis, which led the Peruvian novelist José María Arguedas to coin the phrase “all bloods” (“todas las sangres”). Colonisation and transculturation were largely caused by the imposition of foreign models that did not seek to open dialogue with the indigenous cultures and minorities during the historical process that led to the formation of individual Latin American countries.
External domination was combined with internal domination, which the Peruvian philosopher Augusto Salazar Bondy called “the culture of domination”. In other words, a culture that imitates and is Eurocentric, which also functions as a mechanism for internal domination.
A central element of the transformation of national culture in Latin America is the recognition of the multicultural character of its society.
Theorists, like Mariátegui argued for the need for indigenous people to reclaim their right to land as part of a project of long-term social emancipation.
The literary critic, Antonio Conejo Polar has spoken on heterogeneity as a model to include non-Western cultures in the national narrative.
Without a doubt, its mixture of culture or “metissage” is an expression of Latin American identity, but it should be added that this does not mean that there are no “minority cultures”, with individual indigenous identities and minorities within them. Proposals like the plurinational state in Evo Morales’ Bolivia and the incorporation of elements of the indigenous world-view like sumac causay (good living) in Latin American political discourse, marks a shift toward political multiculturalism in Latin America.
(Translated by Grace Essex – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)