[News] Argentinas Bicentennial: Indigenous Tell Another History
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 27 14:21:49 EDT 2010
Argentinas Bicentennial: Indigenous Tell Another History
Written by Marie Trigona
Thursday, 27 May 2010 07:37
Argentina is celebrating the bicentennial of a
revolution that paved the road to independence
from Spain with the nations capital transformed
into a gala event. But not everyone is
celebrating. The nations indigenous people are
calling attention to a legacy of invasion and
displacement that continues to this day.
Nothing to celebrate
As bicentennial events commenced, indigenous
groups led a caravan to the nations capital to
demand recognition of their sovereign culture and
plurality, in one of the largest indigenous
demonstrations in Argentinas history. During the
march thousands commemorated the nations non-colonial history.
Santiago de la Casa, a Pilagá community member
traveled from the province of Formosa to push for
a law to recognize indigenous cultures, languages
and territory. We cant be happy and celebrate
the nations past 200 years as indigenous people.
The indigenous people already existed here. The
other, the Europeans who came here 200 years ago
can celebrate. They can be happy because they
have benefited from the waters, rivers, air,
earth apt to produce. We are sad because we dont
have a specific law for the aboriginal people.
The Pilagá community has faced environmental
devastation and water pollution due to the
construction of public water works project which
has flooded indigenous ancestral lands. Amnesty
International published a report on the
systematic violation of human rights. The
Pilagá community numbering around 6,000 inhabits
the bordering lands of the La Estrella wetlands.
The indigenous have faced constant repression
from security forces and threats, in addition to
the degradation of living standards due to the
pollution of the wetlands. The Pilagá face food
shortages and risk losing their traditional ways
of life, such as hunting and fishing which they have depended on for centuries.
More than 30 indigenous nations have survived the
mass immigration of Europeans to Argentina.
However, the nations early leaders led campaigns
such as the conquest of the desert, to wipe out
indigenous communities in the Patagonia south to
make room for white inhabitants. General Julio
Argentino Roca led this campaign in which 30
million hectares were stolen from the indigenous
and distributed among the nations most wealthy
under what is called the campaign of the desert,
said Anarchist Historian Osvaldo Bayer.
Lestuaro Newen is from the Mapuche confederation
in Neuquen, one of the communities attacked in
the campaign to dominate Patagonia in the 1870s.
An essential component of the change that needs
to take place in Argentina and in Latin America
is that history tends to be manipulated and tries
to legitimize the genocide that took place. And
that history recognizes that there were
pre-existing communities and that the
colonialists tried to exterminate indigenous
people which constitutes genocide. Our
communities have a lot to contribute to history,
not only the past but the future and we have hope history will change.
The lands stolen during the Campaign of the
Desert were handed over to the nations
oligarchy. One such beneficiary to the genocide
of the Patagonian indigenous includes the Great
Grandfather of Jose Martinez de Hoz, the former
economy minister during the dictatorship and
architect of the neoliberal economic model for
which the military junta needed to carry out
another genocide campaign to implement and
disappear 30,000 activists during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
200 years after the supposed end to colonial
rule, indigenous territory continues to be
invaded by foreign economic interests. One of the
largest landholders in the Patagonia, includes
the Italian company Benetton which owns 2.2
million acres of land. Benetton has lead a
campaign to evict families from the land which
their families lived centuries ago. Our demands
include that they recognize our people, territory
and our rights to natural resources, says Newen.
He adds, The provincial governments carries out
policies that allow natural resources to be
bought and sold, for lands that Mapuches have
occupied for decades to be sold with the
communities on the lands, and that our people
along with the people from the province are being
polluted from the extraction of natural resources such as petrol and mining.
Indigenous communities have faced not only
displacement but poverty and health problems due
to the environmental devastation of their land by
industrial agriculture, mining and dam projects.
One indigenous representative from the Amayra
Quecha Andean region, Guayma Huamca, said that
the Pachamama, or Mother Earth desperately needs equilibrium and harmony.
Our leaders have been dismembered and tortured
during the nations history. To squash our
consciousness and rights our communities have
been terrorized so that we never raise our voices
again. Years go by and centuries have passed, and
the Pachamama is boiling with grief, and is crying for help.
Festivities for the May 25 independence
revolution concluded, and millions have visited
the art exhibits, food stalls, and didactic
historic displays line the Buenos Aires major
avenues. President Cristina Kirchner met a
delegation of indigenous representatives. Only
one law has been passed in 2006 to protect
indigenous lands, and only a handful of provinces
recognize the pre-existence of indigenous
cultures, languages and sovereignty over territory.
However, for the 8,000 indigenous who marched to
the city, the May 25 bicentennial struck a deep
chord for communities that face discrimination in
the present and forget of the past. Throughout
the city, the cries of the stolen land will be
recuperated, the mourning of the Pachamama and
the tears of genocide of indigenous peoples
echoed as the nation celebrated its bicentennial.
Marie Trigona is a writer, radio producer and
translator based in Argentina. She can be reached
through her blog
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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