||Ecuador, Indigenous Uprisings in|
In June 1990, in a powerful levantamiento, or uprising, the largest ever in Ecuador's history, indigenous peoples blocked roads with boulders, rocks, and trees that paralyzed the transport system, effectively cutting off the food supply to the cities and shutting down the country for a week. Frustrated by stagnated talks with the government over bilingual education, agrarian reform, and demands to recognize the plurinational nature of Ecuador, the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) launched the uprising to force the government to negotiate.
Although CONAIE attempted to position itself at the head of a unified movement, other currents and organizations competed for representation of indigenous concerns. FENOC renamed itself the Federación Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas Indígenas y Negras (FENOCIN, National Federation of Indigenous, Peasant, and Black Organizations) to reflect its broadened scope of struggling for the rights of peasant, indigenous, and Afro-Ecuadorian communities. The Federación Ecuatoriana de Indígenas Evangélicos (FEINE, Ecuadorian Federation of Evangelical Indians) promoted the holistic development of evangelical indigenous peoples, focusing on both their spiritual and their cultural identity. CONAIE, FENOCIN, FEINE, and occasionally FEI coordinated efforts as they struggled for common goals. Sometimes they competed for the allegiance of the same people. It would be a mistake to conceptualize this as a unified indigenous movement, for in reality Ecuador had numerous indigenous movements representing competing interests, concerns, and cultures.
Scholars commonly paint the history of Ecuador's indigenous movements as moving from a focus on local concerns to regional, national, and finally international issues, and transitioning through constructing indigenous demands in the language of class, then ethnicity, and finally nationality. This is too simplistic an interpretation, for since the 1920s indigenous organizations have often simultaneously engaged local, regional, national, and international issues, and organized on the basis of class, ethnic, and national identities. In the 1920s peasant federations used the language of indigenous nationalities, whereas in the 1990s an authentic and democratic land reform continued to be one of CONAIE's key economic demands. In April 1992, two thousand Kichwa, Shuar, and Achuar peoples began a 240-mile (385-kilometer) caminata (march) from the Amazon to the capital city of Quito to demand legalization of land holdings. In June 1994 indigenous organizations again organized a "Mobilization for Life" campaign in protest of neoliberal economic reforms that would take away their land, privatize water resources, and undermine their economic livelihood.
The formation in 1995 of the Movimiento Unidad Plurinacional Pachakutik-Nuevo País (MUPP-NP, Pachakutik Movement for Plurinational Unity-New Country) to campaign for political office represented a shift in strategies from a focus on civil society to a focus on electoral campaigns. Activists had long debated whether indigenous organizations should put forward their own candidates for political office, or whether they should support existing parties. Pachakutik represented the emergence of a third option in which indigenous peoples and other sectors of Ecuador's popular movements organized together as equals to form a new political movement. It explicitly identified itself as part of a new Latin American left that embraced principles of community, solidarity, unity, tolerance, and respect. Pachakutik opposed the government's neoliberal economic policies and favored a more inclusive and participatory political system. It represented a culmination of CONAIE's drive to insert indigenous peoples directly into debates, giving them a voice and allowing them to speak for themselves.
[See also Ecuador and Indigenous Movements in Latin America.]
BibliographyPallares, Amalia. From Peasant Struggles to Indian Resistance: The Ecuadorian Andes in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.
Sawyer, Suzana. Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Durham N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.
Selverston-Scher, Melina. Ethnopolitics in Ecuador: Indigenous Rights and the Strengthening of Democracy. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001.
Whitten, Norman E., Jr., ed. Millennial Ecuador: Critical Essays on Cultural Transformations and Social Dynamics. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2003.
How to cite this entry: