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Towards a Latin-American humanism (I)

Despite Independence part of humanity continued to be oppressed. Indigenous peoples and slaves brought from Africa continued to be denied their place in the human condition.


Claudio Chipana


Every culture or civilization creates its own way of understanding humanity and the world.

Social and ethical norms in each society serve to shape a certain kind of individual, who must adjust themselves to the ideology and institutions which are the foundation of that society.

So, at the root of each civilization there is a concept of humanity and its environment, an explanation of its origins, history and values.

For many centuries the idea of humanity was seen in mythical, and later religious terms, until Modernism invaded the scene, giving place to Humanisms which were more rational and naturalistic.

The origins of modern Humanism go back to Ancient Greece, and even further to Chinese and Persian civilizations.

The pre-Hispanic cultures of Latin America also possessed their own mythical-religious conceptions of the origins of the world and the universe.

These cultures held anthropological ideas about the origin and place of man in the order of the Cosmos. Runa was the name of the original man who founded the Inca civilization.

The conquest of the aboriginal civilizations of Latin America by the European colonial powers was carried out through the evangelization or conversion of the indigenous inhabitants into servants of the Church and the Spanish crown.

Western civilization thus imposed its vision of the world as a part of its colonizing project, which was at the same time the implanting of both an economic and a spiritual regime. The building of cities and new institutions were carried out in line with this project.

With the arrival of modernity and the advance of capitalism, the European man, or more precisely the emerging bourgeoisie, had to free itself as much from the oppression of feudal and ecclesiastical power as from obscurantism.

The individual, according to the new Renaissance ideas, had to think for himself and be the author of his own destiny. Reason could not continue being the servant of faith. Aristocratic and feudal power had to give way to the free individual citizen and to capitalist economic relations.

This is how liberal and emancipatory ideas were born, and with them also the Humanist ideas which were carried to the Americas, where they fertilised the processes of liberation from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial powers – which led to the Latin America we know today.

The Humanist manifesto, in reality, had already revealed itself since the beginning of the conquest, coming from members of the church themselves, as well as some writers.

Thus the clamour for indigenous rights by the clerics Antonio Montesinos and Bartolomé de las Casas among others, can be classed as early expressions of humanism in opposition to the abuse and exploitation of the aboriginal population.

Even if Humanism and the ideas of the Enlightenment coming from the West represented an advance, still, despite Independence, there was a part of humanity which continued to be oppressed. The indigenous peoples and slaves brought from Africa continued to be denied their place as part of humanity.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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