Between Social Movements and Identity: The Case of the Indigenous Urban Multiethnic Cabildo; the Chibcariwak in Colombia


Master Thesis By








OĖati International Institute for the Sociology of Law

Master University of Milan/ University of the Basque Country









Supervised by: Prof. ANNE GRIFFITHS




INTRODUCTION                                                                                                              6


CHAPTER I: Methodological Issues                                                                                   11

A.   Primary Data                                                                                          12

B.    Secondary Data                                                                                                  13


CHAPTER II: Framing the Global and Local Indigenous Mobilization                              17


CHAPTER III: From the “Old” to the “New” Social Movements                                     21


CHAPTER IV: The Emergence of the Latin America Indigenous Movement                     26


CHAPTER V: The Colombian and Antioquian Indigenous Movement                             32


CHAPTER VI: The New Social Movements: Legal and Political Mobilization                38

A. The Legal and Political Mobilization of the L.A. Indigenous Movement.          40

B. The Mobilization of the Colombian and Antioquian Indigenous Movement 49

C. Legal Mobilization and Land Recovery in Colombia and Antioquia                   50

D. Other Mobilizations of the OIA                                                                         51


CHAPTER VII: The Construction of Indigenous Identity and Cultural Identity in Latin

American, Colombian and Antioquian –OIA- Indigenous Movement    53

A. On New Social Movements’ Identity                                                                 53

B.    The Indigenous Identity in the Latin American, Colombian and Antioquian   

Indigenous Movement                                                                                       55


CHAPTER VIII: Questioning Paradigms: The Urban Indigenous Peoples

Mobilization in Medellin                                                                       63

A.   Approaching the Chibcariwak                                                                            63

B.    More than a Struggle for Indigenous Status                                67

C.    From the “Real” to the “Political” Indigenous Identity: Makes the

Chibcariwak part of the Indigenous Social Movement?                                     71                        

CONCLUSIONS                                                                                                                  78


APPENDICES                                                                                                         82

Table # 1. Estimated Indigenous Population and its Percentages in Latin America          82

Table # 2. Total Indigenous Population and Territory by regions until June 1998          83

Table # 3. The 12 Regions with the Largest Amount of Indigenous Population 1998     84

Graph # 1. Indigenous Population / Percentual rate by Regions in Colombian 2005       84

Graph # 2. Medellin Main Indigenous Ethnicities in the Map                                      85

Table # 4. Budgetary Report Medellin- the Chibcariwak 1996-2003                               85    

Table # 5. Comparative the Chibcariwak- the OIA Territory                                          86    

Table # 6. Comparative the Chibcariwak- the OIA Identity                                            86

Table # 7. Comparative the Chibcariwak- the OIA immediate objectives            86

Diagram # 1 Levels of Recognition and Identification                                                       87







AIDESEP                   Asociación Interétnica de la Selva Peruana


CIDOB                       Confederación Indígena del Oriente Boliviano


COB                           Confederación Obrera Boliviana


COICA                       Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica


CONAIE                    Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador


CONAMQ                 Consejo Nacional de Markas y Ayllus del Quillasuyo


CRIC                          Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (Colombia)


CSUTCB                    Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia


DANE                        Departamento Nacional de Estadistica (Colombia)

                                   National Region of Statistics


DGAI                         Dirección General de Asuntos Indígena /

General Office for Indigenous Issues

(Dependency of the Ministry of Internal Affaire)


FEINE                        La confederación Ecuatoriana de Indígenas Evangélicos


FENOCIN                  La Federación Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas, Indígenas y Negras (Ecuador)


MAS                          Movimiento al Socialismo (Bolivia)


OAS                           Organization of American States


OIA                            Organización Indígena de Antioquia /

Indigenous Organization of Antioquia


ONIC                         Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia/

                                   Nacional Indigenous Organization of Colombia


U. de A.                      Universidad de Antioquia/

                                   University of Antioquia


This work would not have been possible without the

permanent support of my parents,

the patient supervision of Anne and Ed,

the helpful advice of Elida,

and the collaboration of the members of

the OIA and the Chibcariwak.











“…individuals bear their gods in their heart. They do not reason, they believe. They are the bodily manifestation of god’s eternal values, and as such, they cannot be dissolved, lost in the whirlwind of information flows and cross and cross organizational networks.” Manuel Castells


The fast expansion and rapid growth of the indigenous movement in Latin America has threatened its vitality and cohesion, one reason among many has been the brisk expansion of indigenous organizations with competing claims and programs. This situation was already visible 15 years ago when the French Anthropologist Christian Gross said:


“With the proliferation of indigenous organizations contradictions arise at the core of the Movement, and now we don’t know if we should admire the vitality of the process they are involved in, or fear for its fragility.” (own translation Gross 1991: 172)


In Colombia although one can claim the indigenous movement has strong central representation, some differences have recently arisen between its policies and the proposal of a new regional indigenous organization. The disagreements at the center of the so-called “indigenous movement” have been played out in very neutral and pragmatic terms that hide the underlying assumptions that are used and questioned by the world-wide indigenous movement, the state and scientist. These agents making use of discourses with material and symbolic effects develop their struggle in political, juridical and scientific[1] fields (Bourdieu 1995: 163-202) in which it is define what makes the indigenous identity legitimate.

In the Antioquia[2] region of Northwest Colombia, the Organization Indígena de Antioquia –the OIA- is the administrative organization currently representing the indigenous population at the regional level. The OIA has entered into direct confrontation with an urban ethnic indigenous group; the Chibcariwak[3] that has involved not only a struggle for political representation of the indigenous population but also for unity of the indigenous movement identity, claims on land and goals and, especially the requisites under which a person and a group can be considered indigenous[4]. Furthermore, resources and budgets can be compromised, and this plays an important role in the decisions and discourses put into practice by the different groups.


It is for this reason that this thesis proposes a critical approach to the indigenous peoples’ struggle in Colombia, through an empirical study of the two main indigenous organizations in the region of Antioquia and its capital Medellin[5]. Crucial theoretical and practical questions have been raised regarding the traditional indigenous movement and of the two categories under which Social Sciences have analyzed them, namely social movements and identity. Both concepts bring to light previous studies and research (among others Tuhiwai 2002; Hodgson 2002; Dávalos 2005; Hidalgo 2005; Quijano 2005) that investigated the development of indigenous struggles, often leaving aside important issues that should have been be introduced in order to fully understand some of the new trends. The main objective of this thesis, is to portray what is really at stake in the struggles undertaken by the indigenous groups in Latin America, as well as globally.

The thesis will also explore differing insights into the indigenous peoples’ movement, showing their attempts to renew their indigenous identity in order to assess how they are positioning themselves in the political field and their various achievements. It also aims to show how the indigenous organization the Chibcariwak created itself under a different paradigm from that framed within the “indigenous movement”. This organization undermines the concept of “indigenous movement” to the point that it has entered into direct confrontation with representatives of the transnational indigenous movement in Colombia, namely the Organization Nacional Indígena de Colombia –ONIC- and the OIA. Finally, this study aims to create a dialogue between the established concepts of identity and social movements. It will analyze the indigenous movement from empirical data obtained from the research in order to reconceptualise how cases such as that of the Chibcariwak should be perceived.


Chapter 1 deals with the methodology used for gathering the data during my fieldwork and on its analysis. It presents the type of study that is undertaken i.e. case study, followed by a presentation of the primary (section A) and secondary (section B) data. Chapter 2 illustrates the emergence of the global mobilization giving an overview of the situation of indigenous people in the different continents. It portrays the indigenous population in the former English colonies, Asia and Africa, showing the numbers, claims and national and international objectives of their struggle. Chapter 3 provides the theoretical framework of new social movements, when considered in tandem with the claims, goals and structure of the old workers movements. It shows the new social movements as a product of determine historical and social conditions.


Chapter 4 and 5 show the ways in which the Latin American, Colombian and Antioquian indigenous movements comply with the concept of a new social movement. These two chapters, that are closely linked, demonstrate how the indigenous movements in these regions may be viewed as part of the global indigenous movement, and how this in turn may be viewed as a new social movement. In chapter 6 the composition of the indigenous movement, its political transformations, its mobilization of law and resources as well as its various political achievements are documented. This process of construction is documented for Latin American in section A and for the Colombian and Antioquian indigenous movement in Section B. Section C illustrates how recovery of land marks the main achievement of the Antioquian movement’s legal mobilization. Finally in section D other mobilizations of the Antioquian indigenous movement are outlined.


In chapter 7 the concept of indigenous identity is further expanded upon by introducing the concepts of individual and collective identity from a symbolic interactionist perspective (section A). Subsequently, in section B, these concepts are applied to the Latin American, Colombian and Antioquian indigenous movements. It aims to show the intrinsic connection between these new indigenous movements’ identity culturally based and the development of the indigenous movement struggle for rights, recognition, and autonomy. The main goal of this section is to show how the current indigenous movement’s identity discourse is being shaped by the indigenous movement struggles.


Chapter 8 focuses on the Cabildo Chibariwak and the challenges it raises to classic analyses of identity in the indigenous social movement (section A). Section B shows the conflict between the different ethnic claims of the OIA and the Chibcariwak.. It presents the different mobilizations undertaken by the OIA, as a representative of the global indigenous movement, to delegitimize the claims and basis of the Chibcariwak. This strategy, as it is shown, pursues the monopoly on the profits given to ethnic groups. Finally in section C, the bibliographic and empirical information is analyzed according to the political use of identity that is employed by both indigenous organizations. For I argue that that although the Chibariwak can be considered an indigenous ethnic group it does not fit the concepts used for studying traditional indigenous organizations. This is because its background as a political ethnic social group that has become urbanized raises questions about what kind of framework would be suited to comprehend a group that basis its claims to social justice on an ethnic identity in which autonomy –territory- and cultural claims are not its primary cornerstones.

The thesis concludes by re-examining various data found throughout my study, and will close with some thoughts about the different uses to which ethnic identity is put to access scarce resources and to reposition discourses within the political field. I conclude with saying that the Chibcariwak group seems to be the utopian version of the “old” new indigenous social movement, but that given its position as a minority discourse within a minority discourse, it lacks the power to mobilize resources to position itself in the political field. Finally and more provocatively, I put forward the view that the concept of an urban social movement may provide a suitable framework for analysing other social groups that are similar to the Chibcariwak.


This work recognizes the importance of people at the base of the indigenous movement for the formation and functioning of the organizations. Nonetheless it focuses on the directive level of them because it can provide more accurate information regarding the strategies and discourses implemented by members and structure to pursue their goals. For this reason, although this work partially follows the classic breakdown proposed by Alan Touraine (1978) for analyzing social movements i.e. main demands, social actors involved and identity formation, it also questions this conventional approach for analyzing our “case study”.

Chapter I. Methodological Issues


The methodology for this study is based on empirical data I collected through significant actors in the Chibcariwak and the OIA. It is, however, supplemented by secondary data documenting the Latin American and Colombian indigenous movement: its history, demographics, and geographical locations. This allows for a flexible form of data analysis that permits new questions to be raised, as well as allowing the proposal of new analytical frameworks. Although this research does not fit easily within conventional research categories, it can, nonetheless, be defined as a case study[6] with comparative design,[7] fusing intuitive and deductive processes. It can also be viewed as a qualitative study with cross sectional[8] design because it analyzes interviews and qualitative secondary data in order to obtain the guiding variables: identity, territory, political goals, population, etc. Subsequently these variables are compared to draw the conclusions.


The category of case study can be assumed here because one of the principal objectives of this work conforms with the main characteristic of the case study, i.e. the interest of the researcher to elucidate the unique features of the case (my emphasis, Bryman 2004:50-51). It aims to show the particularities of the Cabildo Chibcariwak as well as the theoretical and practical implications of its discourse. The comparative design is important because by contrasting the variables between both organizations it is possible to better understand their differences. By showing the political aspects of the OIA, as a representative of worldwide indigenous movement, and the Chibcariwak, as a non-traditional indigenous organization, it is possible to understand their differences and similarities and conceptualize the use of identity in the political arena and their compliance or not to the concept of a social movement. Although the empirical research was based on interviews that were qualitatively oriented, nonetheless, some quantitative data was gathered through secondary sources such as documentary research. This effective fusion of strategies also involves a convergence of inductive/deductive stances, since there is no straightforward direction of research. In other words, this study is not meant to convey a general theory to be confirmed or rejected based on the empirical work, nor a piece of work from which a general theory will emerge as the outcome of the research (Bryman 2004:9), but, rather, a combination of both. For I not only aim to open up a discussion regarding the aptness of traditionally used concepts that analyze the indigenous issue, but also plan to demonstrate how the cases presented can help to improve the understanding of indigenous peoples’ mobilization.


The data gathered can be classified according to its primary and secondary origin.


A. Primary Data

The primary data comprises seven semi-structured interviews conducted over a period of three months, from May to June 2007. They include the following:


1. Two members of the Cabildo Chibcariwak who were interviewed simultaneously over 1 hour period. One was Luis Fernando Yauripoma, the current governor of the Cabildo, who started his position on the 13th September 2006. He holds a Law degree from the public University of Antioquia -U. de A. The other was Cristofer Orozco[9] an accountant for the Cabildo and a person with extended knowledge of its history and foundation.

The interviews were conducted in the main offices of the Cabildo in Medellin, where I walked around to see, among other things, the place where they conduct their meetings and cultural activities –Maloka.


2. Two lawyers of the OIA, Carlos Zapata and Alejandra García who were interviewed on the same day in the head offices of the organization in Medellin. The former was interviewed for 40 minutes and the latter for about 20 minutes within the presence of Carlos.


3. Three anthropologists were interviewed. These were.


B. Secondary Data

The secondary data came primarily from official documents, relevant books, articles, journals, newspapers and conferences. The anthropological expertises conducted by Rover Dover (1999) and Giovanni Méndez (2006) regarding the indigenous “status” of Chibcariwak were also reviewed. The anthropological experts conducted the following studies:



The data gathered was assessed and evaluated according to a number of different criteria including their origin, credibility of the source, consciousness of the position held by the people interviewed and the objectives they pursue. The authors’ point of view was also an important consideration when dealing with the documents analyzed (Bryman 2004: 387), their context and date of production, etc. For this reason the data analysis also included discourse analysis (Barker et al 2001:29-85; 156-185) in order to take account of the fact that subjects speak from a position that informs the construction of their narratives (Hall 1998b).


It is also crucial to be aware of the fact that in undertaking a study on indigenous people one must deal with traditional critiques, and especially those espoused by the indigenous people themselves. Often academic research in universities has been considered as a way of entrenching the privileges of the elite (Tuhiwai 2002:129) or of continuing colonialism through certain methodologies (Pels 1997:165-66).


Given the limited time available for the research, my own study’s limitations must be acknowledged for it is limited to seven interviews and documentary research from the various organizations, as well as bibliographic research. As a result I had to rely on a large amount of secondary data -admittedly not always well organized and clear- to obtain a wider view of the case. It is also important to acknowledge that in this research project that data on which I draw is based mainly on the work of lawyers, anthropologist and directors of the organizations - and that little attention was paid to the grassroots base of the organizations, namely the ordinary people on the ground.


Ethnography is understood as method in which the “observer/ethnographer immerses him/herself in a group for an extended period of time, observing behaviour, listening to what is said in conversations, both between others and with the field worker, and asking questions” (Bryman 2004:292). This method was not undertaken in this research due to the lack of time and the nature of the study. My field research was conducted to capture the political significance of the movements rather than to describe the functioning of the indigenous communities themselves. As a result this work does not constitute a cultural study understood either as an “ontological comparison of cultures” nor as “an analysis of confrontation between cultures” (Dongen 1997:52). Instead, the interviews and quantitative/qualitative data taken from secondary sources were considered in the light of a methodological design that was geared to capturing the different strategies and goals pursued in the political field by the organizations studied.


Finally, I wish to draw attention to the classic discussion over the objectivity or subjectivity of the research and the role of the researcher. This thesis does not follow the trend that considers that social sciences should attempt to follow the epistemic conception of natural sciences, as in Weber for example where the researcher should pursue value free inquiry developing a Vestehen attitude (1949) or in Durkheim in which the researcher analyzes social facts (1982:52). Other scholars have documented this objective trend in the Social Sciences: Albrow, (1990:58); Mouton, (1997:1-35); Tilo (2003) and Dongon (1997:72). Nor does this thesis follow the value laden research proposed by some feminists who argue that, “in feminist research the postulate of value free research, of neutrality and indifference towards the research objects, has to be replaced by conscious partiality” (emphasis in original. Mies 1993:68 quoted in Bryman 2004:22). The concept proposed was “only research on women that is intended for women can be consistent with the wider political needs of women” (Emphases in original. Bryman 2004:22). Instead, this study aims to overcome this dualist perspective by acknowledging that the researcher has some opinions and preconceived ideas that cannot be left aside but that can, nonetheless, be recognized and made explicit. Such an approach, that seeks to avoid an untrammeled incursion of values into the research process, demonstrates a degree of self-reflexivity (Bryman 2004:22) that makes it possible to view science, not as a neutral exercise (Santos 2004: 31-49), but as one that encompasses acts of power and that is goal oriented.


The basic orientation that I bring with me into this research is the understanding of culture as a dynamic and permanently changing force. In addition, I believe that identities, races, ethnicities, culture, etc. are socially constructed and therefore I argue that the approaches advocated by constructivist[10] -symbolic interactions[11]- and discourse analysis[12] represent an appropriate means for analysing them.

CHAPTER II. Framing the Global and Local Indigenous Mobilization


The intellectual and political shift during the last two decades accompanied by the implementation of appropriate strategies adopted by the indigenous organizations for re-stating the value of their culture has certainly transformed the nature of the global indigenous mobilization. Throughout the world, the total number of indigenous people climbs as rapidly as their territorial and identity claims are recognized. “Researchers believe that there are from 250 to 500 million native people living 70 countries, and they make up more than 4% of the worldwide population”. Divided in 3.500 Amerindian groups or “ethnic categories” they constitute the body of what can be called the global indigenous movement[13] (Burger 1992: 18-19; Heintze, 1995: 7 Quoted in Gregor 2003: 37). Supported by NGO’s, international organizations and in general by the different indigenous’ pressure networks it has been able to position many of its claims at a national and international level, especially in the case of land (Santos & Rodríguez 2005: 2; Mato 2000: 343-360; García 2001:98). This convergence of peoples, institutions, claims and efforts has consolidated the indigenous movement as a transnational one with access to the world’s global-political power centres (Castillo et al 2002: 68).


The international struggles in which indigenous peoples are currently immersed vary widely from country to country, according to their history and present situation. The indigenous people living in the former English[14] colonies of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and United States were subjected, in different degrees, to similar poor treatments by their colonizers- Australian natives provides an excellent example of this (see Waston 1996:107; Morse 1992). Many of those colonial policies continue after the colonial period and were mainly oriented towards the acquisition of territories, expropriation of culture and extermination of the people (Morse 1992: 460-470). Consequently, during the early and mid 20th century the indigenous groups in those countries have mainly claimed the right to live in their ancestral territories according to their traditions and worldview. In the late 20th century with the global expansion of the struggle, in response to the emergence of the decolonization theories and the expansion of new technologies (Mato 1997:100; García 2001:100) indigenous movements in those countries have adopted international demands against discrimination, political participation and recognition of their rights in national constitutions, courts and international conventions (Waston 1996: 111-118).

African and Asian indigenous people, although sharing part of the international agenda with groups in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, despite their common past of oppression under colonial powers, face dramatically different issues. The term indigenous “has been used in Africa and Asia by distinct cultural minorities who have been historically repressed by the majority populations that control the state apparatus” (Hodgson 2002: 1042) and therefore an important part of their struggle is to be recognized as indigenous by their national governments. “Although few claim to be the “first people” as such, these groups argue that they share the same structural position vis-ą-vis their status as the indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia: maintenance of cultural distinctiveness, a long experience of subjugation, marginalization, and repression by colonial and post-colonial powers; and for some, a historical fight over the occupation of their territories” (Hodgson 2002: 1042).


The common international agenda for rightsę recognition of the worldwide indigenous movement has led to the strengthening of the transnational network. The movement attempts to avoid at the international level the reproduction of national conflicts such as the one that arose in Tanzania where “despite the attempts to foster unity and promote common political agendas, the indigenous rights movement has been fractured by sometimes quite hostile disagreements over priorities, competition over resources, and tensions over membership and representation” (Hodgson 2002a: 1086). Globalization has helped the indigenous movement to emerge in the international sphere with a solid plan based on a transnational processes of cultural affirmation and political participation in order to consolidate what is called today “indigenous cultures” (Mato 1997:101). Nevertheless, this apparent solid international body faces a great number of challenges in their respective home countries. In Africa and Asia, there is a fight for basic recognition as indigenous people. In Australia[15] and New Zealand (Hopa 1999) there is a continuous fight for political participation and recovery of ancestral land. In North America a struggle for reparation over historical harms, greater autonomy, respect for territories and worldview. For a discussion of the Canadian case see Mawani (2005:315-339) and Nadasdy (2002). The Latin American indigenous people’s struggle includes among its concerns language, geographical location, self-determination, reclaiming their native cultures and customs (CELAD 1999; González 1999 quoted in Gregor 2003: 37), territories and self-government (García 2001:101). These concerns clearly coincide with the main claims raised by indigenous people around the world. The particularity of the Latin American indigenous movement lies in the strategies it has adopted with respect to goals and achievements regarding territory, autonomy, culture, identity, resources and politics.


In spite of the great danger of extinction of small ethnicities worldwide, the indigenous population in Latin American remains stable. (sin autor 1990: 11 quoted in Gregor 2003: 24) One estimate is some 32 to 40 million people (Mato 2000:344; Dávalos 2005:17,20-21) while another reaches approximately 50 million people (See Annexes Table #1; Burger 1992: 8-9; Heintze 1995: 7; Matos 1993: 158; Stavenhagen 1992: 66-68 quoted in Gregor 2003: 24). This population is divided into approximately 400 different Amerindian groups or ethnic categories. Regardless of the disagreement over the exact number of indigenous people in Latin America, there is a wide consensus that the indigenous population is growing. Colombia (Table#1) provides a good example, where the indigenous population has almost doubled within 12 years.


The power of the populace becomes even more important when analyzing the national percentages indigenous people represent, with regard to the places they inhabit and in some specific countries intervention in politics. Indigenous people represent between 8 to 12 % of the Latin American population, which is considerably higher than in the rest of the world (Jordán 1990: 33; Matos 1993:158: 66 quoted in Gregor 2003: 37). In “Bolivia and Guatemala they constitute more than half of the population, in Peru and Ecuador almost half of the population, in Mexico and Honduras 15%, in Chile 8% and in the rest of the region’s countries between 1% and 7%” (Own translation PAHO, 1993, Annexe II: 7 quoted in Mato 2000:344, see table #1).


Considering the amount of the population that is said to be indigenous, the question becomes how did this population organize itself in its rights’ struggle? It is possible to answer this question in various ways. I propose to adopt the classical approach from the social movements and identity perspective, arguing that the historical process of constructing an indigenous’ identity is completely inseparable from the political struggle. This will show that the struggles have been, and still are, based on the construction of an identity discourse i.e. the “new” indigenous identity.


Following the assumption presented in the introduction, that life is socially constructed and that social movements are the result of an ensemble of circumstances in space and time, the following chapter develops a theoretical framework of the new social movements from a historical constructive[16]- symbolic interactionist perspective.


Chapter III. From the “Old” to the “New” Social Movement


Departing from the classical theory of approaching social movements on the basis of “Collective Behaviour”, two trends can be used to interpret and describe social order, namely Functionalism and Symbolic Interactionism. The former departs from the concept of social order, in which collective behaviour is a consequence of psychological disruption caused by the modernization process. According to this perspective, social movements are masses made of irrational, blind and wild actors. The latter, however, understands that permanent change in social orders is a consequence of the collective behaviour itself; hence social movements are sources of new ideas, as well as the platforms for the development of new social norms. This trend following The Chicago School understands collective behaviour as the seedbed for new social institutions rather than as a deviant phenomenon (Turner & Killian 1986; Gusfield, 1970, 1981, 1994; Turner 1981; Parsons 1973; Eisenstadt 1956; Smelser 1963; McAdam 1982:10; Flacks 1970; LaraĖa 1982 quoted in LaraĖa 1999: 50-54). Unlike the functionalist approach, the Symbolic interaction concept of social movements remains a widely accepted and influencing perspective (LaraĖa 1999:31).


Mannheim drew some guidelines for understanding social movements as the result of a dialectical process between ideology and utopia. The former, he said, is the tool of the status quo and the latter the proposal for changing the existing order (Mannheim 1946: 179). Following this thought one can interpret the workers movement as a utopia: it is the antithesis of the dominant ideology established by the elite owning the means of production in the industrial society.


Workers stop understanding their social and labour conditions as a misfortune without moral considerations and started understanding them as an injustice (Turner 1969). This shift of perception was undoubtedly the first step in the formation of the workers movement. It implied their self-recognition as workers and their consciousness of being an exploited class (Marx 1975: 159-160) whose members agreed on the concept of “injustice” that incorporated a guiding ideology that emphasized class claims (for similar idea see Johnston et al 2001:23). This bi-polar idea of society during the industrial period, where the worker’s social class began its struggle for better working conditions, “lodging, education as well as political recognition” (Touraine 1992: 129-130) has been transformed into a diffuse society. A space where “the culturally based movements” (LaraĖa 1999:137) have replaced the working class as the main social agent commanding the transformation of the new society (Tournaine 1981 quoted in LaraĖa 1999: 138)


During the 60’s, there were “an increasing number of movements and social conflicts that were not grounded on economics or class, but based on less “objective” elements such as status, identity, empathy for other human beings and spirituality” (own translation Johnston et al 2001:24). The Students’ movement became the icon in the sixties, since they not only claimed issues related to the status of its members but also undertook claims of peace and egalitarian economic growth. It also reacted against multinational corporations and technological development.


The vast number of social movements that emerged during the 70’s, are impossible to sum up in this work but some ideas can be outlined with respect to the most representative ones. The ecologist or Green movement was one of the most important actors in this decade based on a reinterpretation of the “Marxist concept of alienation”. It showed how alienation not only linked the relationship of the worker to his job, but also showed how our work, health, and environment, affects our everyday in life (Turner 2001: 81-85). Another example is provided by Feminist groups of the late sixties and early seventies, in the United States and Europe, who based their ideology on the liberal, socialist and humanist utopia, and demanded reforms that reduced the gap between genders. In North America, various ethnic groups –Chicano, Native American and Asian American- influenced by the Black power movement, began the development of demands for political and social reforms. They grounded many of their demands in the assumptions of ethnic nationalist’s movements and in anthropological and political theories that were emerging at that time (Turner 2001: 89-90). Finally, among nationalist groups, I focus on the Catalonian Nationalist Movement because it highlights the ways in which new social movements emerge as a result of particular conditions in time and space. This movement regained strength based on different elements that are outlined below. These include:


Š      The convergence of different groups opposing the Franco’s regime (Snow and Benford 1992 quoted in LaraĖa 1999: 371; Johnston 1991; Smelser 1964 quoted in LaraĖa 1999:372);

Š      The doctrine proclaimed by Pope John XXIII in defence of minority rights that allowed the unification of Marxist and nationalist perspectives with the post-conciliar Catholic's culture in Catalonia;

Š      The increasing worldwide proclamation in favour of nations without states and the consequent international attention given to those issues, as well as change in the political structure.


During the 80ęs, the Mobilization of Resources theory in The United States and the New Social Movements theory in Europe became the most important trends for understanding new social movements. The former, based on the Rational Choice Theory, observes the prudent organization of movements for pursuing specific goals and their dependence upon the resources available for their constitution (See Cohen 1985: 675). The latter, emphasizes the role played by the collective identity processes in their foundation (See LaraĖa 1999: 14-15).


Before discussing the mobilization of political and juridical resources undertaken by the indigenous movement it is important to introduce a parallel discussion showing the more “organic or structural” differences between old and new social movements. This can help to explain the identity processes undertaken by the indigenous movement in Latin American, Colombia and Antioquia (section B) and to examine subsequently, why the indigenous movement in these regions can be defined as a new social movement (section A.2-A.3).


The construction of the new social movements relies on an informal belonging of its members rather than in a structural positioned held by them. Conversely to the Marxist conception of the workers movement as composing the base of the social structure, the member’s origins in the new social movements are diffuse and grounded in non-structural factors such as age, gender, sexual orientation, etc (Johnston et al 2001:7), ethnicity, nationalism and religion (Habermas 1981: Cohen 1985 quoted in LaraĖa 1999:140). Similarly workers in the old social movement are united around the Marxist ideology according to which their collective actions as proletariat must oppose the ideology of the Bourgeoisie. On the other side new social movements have a wide variety of ideals and values that bind its members together towards common goals: the widening of political participation and democratization of day-to-day life. In other words, while in the workers’ movement the binding function of the group lies in economic claims (Melucci 1985, 1989 quoted in Johnston et al 2001:7), new social movements are centered in cultural and symbolic issues related with identity problems and therefore their constitution is grounded in group identity processes.


The former situation is reflected in the structure of both types of social movements. The new social movement’s structure is diverse and autonomous, contrary to the hierarchical and centralized one of the workers’ movement. The informal base with no organized membership of the new social movements (Ferreira 1995: 475 quoted in Duarte) allows autonomy of the local cellules to organize their action. This informal structure is often backed up by volunteers that participate in campaigns, organize information networks and contribute with donations.


Regarding the tactics employed by new and old social movements for executing their programs one can also find important differences. The former employ a wide variety of non violent strategies such as civil disobedience and pacific attitudes often complemented with a dramatization of resistance. Their aim is to organize and gain participation in politics. In contrast, the latter developed direct confrontation strategies in order to change the oppressive regime in power. In brief, “the old social movements were associated with the idea of revolution, the new ones are associated with the idea of democracy” (Touraine 1992: 143).

Finally and although it is not strictly a difference between the two types of movements, the epistemological change that took place in the social sciences when approaching the new social movements, should also be noted here since this work itself is a reflection of that change. On the one hand, the new social movements contributed to overcome the disciplinary division among social sciences and the consequent monopoly of Political Sociology as the authorized voice on the field. On the other hand, the research of the new social movements implies a reflection process named by Jesus Ibánez as “second order social thought” meaning that not only the “object” of investigation is approached –as it is done by the “first order social thought”- but also the assumptions that inform the researchers’ perspective (1979; 1985; 1991 quoted in LaraĖa 1999:130-13).

Chapter IV. The Emergence of the Latin America indigenous movement


In Chapter Three I presented a comparative historical approach on the evolution of the new and old social movements. This theoretical framework will be useful in setting out in the following two chapters how the indigenous movement, as a new social movement, is ethnically grounded within claims to culture and autonomy.


The departing point that links most of the Latin American indigenous peoples is the common submission to the Spanish colonial policies and therefore to common processes of exclusion and construction of the indigenous as wild, mad, irrational, poor, etc. undertaken during the colonial and postcolonial period, first by the Spanish and then by the “Criollos” or European descendants. After the atrocities the indigenous people underwent under colonization, they were relocated to restricted territories under the power of the new states (OrdoĖez 1994:58) in order to civilize and incorporate them into society. (Ariza 2007). In fact the first Constitutions establishing the Latin American states did not include indigenous people as citizens. They were excluded from the political, economic and social functioning of the modern state as far as they were not “civilized” (Dávalos 2005:25, Frank 1966: 26-27).


The combination of the liberal reforms in the 20th century emphasizing private property and the strong anti-indigenous policies during the colonial and post colonial period led indigenous people to assume a peasant identity and exploited class consciousness, leaving aside the issue of ethnicity (for Mexico: Durand 1994:136; Colombia: Gross 2000: 59-96, Peru: Quijano 2005; for Bolivia: Andolina et al 2005: 139 ). In fact indigenous people were deprived of their collective lands and subsequently forced to migrate to the cities or become farmers (Bello et al 2000: 18).

Therefore “indigenous claims” for better living conditions in the early 20th century were incorporated as one more of the exploited class’ claims as demonstrated by the mobilizations in all Latin America during the first half of the 20th century. A good example are the social revolutions and mobilizations in Mexico (1910-1927), Bolivia (1952), Peru and Ecuador (1969-70) with huge participation of “indigenous farmers” that unleashed an important amount of reforms. They aimed to transform the land relations and the bourgeois structure of the state. The land distribution measures and labor reforms adopted between the 1957 and 1969 (Quijano 2005) are some the achievements of those mobilizations.


But it was only in the 1970ęs[17] when the indigenous mobilization started to gain strength as an ethnic rooted movement having to deal with two main issues: the risk of becoming nothing but common farmers -and therefore one more rural organization- and the risk of ethnical essentialism (Dávalos 2005:28). This ethnic identity impulse was supported by different facts: first “the confluence of different process as the Teology of Liberation, the emergence of the new social cultures and the reestablishment of democratic states in Latin America” (own translation Dávalos 2005:28). Second, the development of the Meetings of Barbados and the autonomization process in Nicaragua of the Ethnicities and Peoples of the Atlantic Coast that led to the emerging indigenous organizations demanding education according to their own necessities and characteristics. Finally, the development reached by the Social Sciences in this decade concerning the theories of interculturalism, multiculturalism, bilinguism, respect for cultural diversity (Bello et al 2000: 24-25) and cultural pluralism (Hutnik 1991:33).


The progressive mobilization of the 70ęs ended with the conformation of the macro indigenous organization at the national level aiming to unify and strengthen their claims. As an example, in the Andean region many organizations were founded. In Ecuador these organizations were: Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador –CONAIE-, La confederación Ecuatoriana de Indígenas Evangélicos –FEINE-, and La Federación Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas, Indígenas y Negras –FENOCIN-. In Bolivia there was the Conferederación Indígena del Oriente Boliviano –CIDOB- and for the communities of the Amazonian Basin the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores de Bolivia CSUTBS- along with the Altiplano and the Consejo Nacional de Markas y Ayllus del Quillasuyo –CONAMAQ- that were also created during this period. In Peru the groups living in the forest founded the Asosicación Interétnica de la Selva Peruana –AIDESEP- while other communities kept class structures because it wasn’t possible to create organizations that were ethnically grounded. Finally in Colombia the Organización Nacional de Indígenas Colombianos –ONIC- was formed and included most of the indigenous communities of the country” (García 2001:97). In the same Andean region but at an international level emerged the Coordinadora de Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA) in 1984 was formed integrating the most important indigenous communities of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela all inhabiting the Amazonian Basin. These organizations joined previous transnational claims undertaken by the “Mames in Mexico and Guatemala, Guajiros in Colombia and Venezuela, Shuar in Peru and Equator, Mapuches in Chile and Argentina, and the Quechuas in five or six different regions in the Andes (OrdoĖez 1994: 58). In addition to the previous examples there are other cases of transnational cooperation among indigenous people in Latin America (for an example of experiences in Ecuador-Bolivia see Andolina et al 2005: 156). Nonetheless, up until 1997, García documented the absence of a unique structure encompassing the various indigenous organizations in the region (2001:97). This situation appears to continue today as no mention is made of it in the specialized literature.


Some of those emerging Latin American organizations proposed a reformation of the political and social practices in which they directly challenged the state’s projects designed by the elites (Toledo 2005: 71)[18]. The elite’s project experienced a political crisis during the 80ęs, due among other reasons, to the failure of the economic adjustment policies and the neo-liberal reforms. With the inclusion of proposals by the indigenous groups of new models of participative democracy based on the grassroots movements’ identity” (own translation Dávalos 2005:17-19) they consolidated not only the indigenous movement as first order political actor but also positioned their claims as requiring a solution from the state. Emilio OrdoĖez (1994:64-65) summarized those historical claims that took place in the 80’s into five categories, including right to land, right to culture, right to autonomy, constitutional recognition and multicultural policies respectful of national diversity. I will expand here in the first three points since the last two will be developed throughout the forthcoming chapters.


Right to Land:

The right to land is undoubtedly at the core of indigenousę claims. It should be understood not merely as right to cultivate a plot, but as a right to necessary and sufficient territory where indigenous people can develop their own economic, social, political, religious and cultural activities. The territorial claim is thus, not economically rooted in the individual concept of property, but in the collective one oriented towards the well being of the entire community (OrdoĖez 1994:64-65; Durand 1994:136;133; Plant et al 2002:3; Toledo 2005: 80-96; Rodríguez et al 2005: 242).




Right to Culture:

This right involves the “right to negotiate on fair terms their engagements with the larger world” (Rodríguez et al 2005: 244). For indigenous people, indigenous culture is not only different from the mainstream and other ethnic cultures, but also different among themselves, since they have different “life styles”. They became to claim the right to be different and have their own ethnic identities as an expression of equality, since “a genuine concept of equality deconstructs the notions of identity and non identity, of sameness and difference” (Eagleton 1998:50). The mixture of economic development and cultural respect assumed has been called by the indigenous movement ethno-development.


Right to Autonomy:

The autonomy claimed by the indigenous communities is based on ownership of communal territories with political jurisdiction, this does not mean an independent state, only an arena where they can make their own decisions according to their worldview. In most cases this implies juridical use and “exploitation of natural resources, jurisdiction as the right to develop their own norms, procedures and trials; respect to their native languages, culture and traditions. (García 2001: 101; OrdoĖez 1994: 64-65). “Regarding this claim, the most organized indigenous cultures in Latin America have already set up “communal authorities” or even better said; the community as “structure of authority”, as the ideal organizations at grassroots level to democratically control domination coming from national, external and even global organizations (Quijano 2005).


After the struggles undertaken by indigenous peoples during the 60’s and 70’s they were able to organize themselves into social groups that were ethnically based with claims to culture and autonomy. Grounded in a territorial claim, their demands for cultural autonomy with the right to self-determination and self-government within the framework of “multi-national”, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural states, enabled them to open up the doors of political participation. This shift in perspective made the indigenous mobilization a new social movement. It can be confirmed by the emphasis made in their struggle to the recovery of lost identity through “theatrical practices” that dramatize resistance i.e. recovery of language, history and traditions. Also the strengthening of traditional authorities and the autonomy-territorial discourse were key elements in their construction as new social movements.


In conclusion, in so far as the current indigenous movement has made identity the center of its political struggle (Castillo et al 2002: 65) one can define it as new social movement that is ethnically based and that has cultural claims. The following chapter will detail the characteristics of the Colombian and Antioquian indigenous movement. Through the examinations of ONIC’s and the OIA’s context, goals and claims. It will not only show the compliance of the former groups with the transnational indigenous movement’s foundations but also to confirm their nature as new social movement.

Chapter V. The Colombian and Antioquian Indigenous movement[19]


Since the Colombian indigenous movement very closely follows the emergence of the Latin American indigenous movement, I will only refer to it insofar as it helps to contextualize the Antioquian indigenous movement represented in the Organización Indígena de Antioquia -OIA- as the “official” indigenous association of Cabildos in the region.


In general there are two types of authorities in the indigenous communities in Colombia. “There is the power and authority exercised by the Chamanan, traditional doctors or the walas, neles, sailas, mamos and in general the figure of the wise or traditional authority, and there is the Cabildo that is elected by the community for governing during a determined period of time, in relation to titling, conservation and defense of the reserves, and for deciding legal problems and imposing punishments” (won translation, Etnias de Colombia 2007) [20]. Although the Cabildos are always supported by their respective communities in the decision making process, their main function is to make possible the participation of all the community in the political processes. The Cabildo was originally defined in the article 3 of the centenary law 89 of 1890 that is still in force:


"In anywhere indigenous people have settled, there will be a small Cabildo elected according to their customs... to be legally constituted, its authorities doesn’t need any requisite other than the recognition by the members of the Cabildo and the recognition by the major of the municipality (or place) where they settle down” (own translation).



The decree 2164/ 1995 later on refined the definition of Cabildo stating that it is:                      

“A special public entity, whose members belong to an indigenous community, elected and recognized by it, with a traditional socio-political organization that is established to legally represent the community, exercise authority and the other activities assigned by the laws, uses, customs and internal regulations of each community” (own translation)

In the region of Cauca, where a large number of the indigenous population lived among landowners, the first indigenous organization was founded in Colombia in 1971 supported by a large number of cabildos, farmers and rural workers. The Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca –CRIC- as it was named, stated as its principles “Unidad, Tierra, Cultura y Autonomía[21] and established the following objectives:

Based on the successful experience of the indigenous the CRIC several indigenous cabildos created regional organizations to strength their claims and later on, regional organization and independent Cabildos – as in Antioquia (Salazar, no date:4)- promoted in the First National Encounter of Indigenous People in 1980 the creation of a National Indigenous Organization. The Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia –ONIC- was finally founded in 1982 to unify the regional struggles for land, preservation of culture and demands for autonomy and self-determination. One can read in its principles the continuation of the CRIC slogan: unidad, tierra, cultura y Autonomía (Salazar no date: 4). Nowadays it is the largest indigenous organization in Colombia with more than 30 institutions from all over the country, including the most influential and largest ones. Indigenous people have also founded national political parties among the best know are "Autoridades Indígenas de Colombia" AICO; "Alianza Social Indígena" ASI; y el "Movimiento Indio de Colombia" MIC that undertake claims’ processes before the state through direct political participation.

One of the regional organizations created in the 80’s was the Organización Indígena de Antioquia -the OIA- that operates in the region composed by rural and small towns Cabildos. It is incorporated in the national indigenous struggle through its affiliation to ONIC. The OIA was born in 1985 when the regional indigenous authorities decided to organize themselves under a legal entity of public law, able to represent the different indigenous’ interest of the region. Although it was originally constituted in the 80’s under the original name of Comité Coordinador Indígena de Antioquia it is now known as the OIA (Salazar, C.A. no date: 4) and is legally framed in the Decree 1088 of 1993 which gives basic legal principles and guidelines to this kind of regional association.


The origins of the OIA were documented in some of the research interviews. Luis Fernando Yauripoma, the governor of the Chibcariwak mentioned that the first steps the OIA made were within the Chibcariwak itself, although currently their relation seems to be distant. Giovanni Mendez, the official anthropologist of the OIA, provided similar information in his interview. He observed that “the OIA was born because they felt that the process in the city was going nowhere and there were no economic resources available. Contrarily, communities in other part of the Antioquian region were willing to organize themselves since they were also supported by the national legislation”. It is certainly true that there is a very limited presence of indigenous peoples in Antioquia where there are currently 16.000 people organized in 150 communities.[22] The national movement, therefore, played an important role in the OIA constitution, binding the very basic claims of this regional organization to the progress, structure and achievements made by the national indigenous movement from the 70’s until today, stating that:


“This organization was born as a consequence of the indigenous struggle that were held at the national level for the recuperation of lands, reclaiming of reservations, reconstitution of Cabildos and cultural identity in the 70ęs and mid 80’s” (Etnias de Colombia 2007)

At this point it is important to observe that the Colombian indigenous population in not as representative as it is in countries like Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador (Table #2, Annexes). Although the Colombian indigenous population is concentrated mainly in the regions of Cauca, Guajira, NariĖo, Chocó, Caldas and Córdoba, they do not constitute a majority in any of them. In the region of Antioquia in 1998 there were only 15.020 indigenous people representing only 0,3% of the total population of the region. Table # 2 presents a comparison of the indigenous population between 1993 and 1998 in the twelfth regions with the largest presence of indigenous population. It is important to note the evolution of the region of Antioquia that added 835 persons over 5 years -from 14.186 in 1993 to 15.020 in 1998 (table # 2 and #3)[23]. Nonetheless it is no longer one of the 12 regions with the most indigenous people in the country. Before 1993, it was the eleventh region with 2,68% of the national indigenous population while in 1998 it represented only 2,1% (see tables # 2 and #3). According to the national 2005 Census data the population has not changed much. The percentage has slightly increased (0,51%) but the indigenous population in this region continues to be less than one percent (Graph 1 in Annexes).

In spite of its small population the Colombian indigenous movement has followed the international trend emphasizing territorial claims (see among others Serge 2005; Gross 1991:158) as the most important way to safeguard culture, along with self-government and self-determination. This historical claim has naturally had a strong presence in the strategies and goals that the OIA has designed since its creation. In its development plan the OIA includes four different strategic lines that are based on territory, population, culture and administration.


The territorial line states that the “constitution and control of territory is essential for ethnic survival, as well as for social and cultural reproduction”[24]. In those territories the organization aims to improve, and provide in other cases, health and education for the indigenous peoples. In the cultural field it seeks to analyze the current cultural situation of the communities, as well as the external factors and public policies affecting their set of values, beliefs, traditions, etc. These guideline also aims to establish the Cabildos as the local government indigenous’ institution and natural instrument for juridical, economic, cultural and political participation and control. Finally, the administrative directive seeks to create conditions under which communities will be able to undertake their own development, at the same time promoting an appropriate technical method for administration.


These guidelines must be interpreted within the context of “Ethno-development” (etnodesarollo) proposed by the OIA. Ethno-development states that the foundations and methods in which indigenous development is grounded most be decolonized. Therefore the programs based on this perspective are basically directed towards the reaffirmation of the “original” indigenous identity in their ancestral territories. Consequently, regardless the fact that the OIA aims to make an integral development of the guidelines formerly described, the importance they have given to ethno-development has driven them unequivocally to emphasize the territorial claim as far as it became the standing point of any other claim.


I conclude, that one the one hand that although ethnic structures don’t follow the national, regional and local borders of the political administrative division of the countries (OrdoĖez 1994:58), because of the small indigenous population in Colombia, the indigenous groups in the country and region of Antioquia have understood the strategic importance of having a solid larger organization. The ONIC and the OIA have voiced the most important claims of the different communities at their geographical level in order to face as a “solid block” the multiple challenges. On the other hand, however, I also argue that the Colombian and Antioquian indigenous movements, represent a political and identitarian shift prompted by the new social movements. This involves abandoning the kind of goals associated with the “old movements”, that were pursued by guerrillas, left wing radicals or exploited social classes and that had to do with conquering state power, in favour of prioritising access to politics. This marked an identity shift from a class based perspective into one based on cultural and ethnic values and practices. Thus language, membership, kinship and worldview became focal rallying points. It is evident that the OIA and the ONIC- have adopted “organic elements” that enable them to be conceived of as new social movements. This will be made clear in the discussion of strategies of mobilization that they employ, that follows in the next section.


Chapter VI. The New Social Movement: Legal and Political Mobilization


Part of the success of the new social movements comes from their capacity to “politicised” issues (see Santos 1994: 222) that were usually only the concern of the private sphere, represented by individuals or special interest groups[25]. A good example is provided by the ecologist movement that transformed environmental fears from merely representing ecologists’ concerns into an issue that was included in the world’s political agenda. Subsequently the new social movements constituted themselves as legitimate political actors entitled to participate directly in. In some cases, they even claim to be the voice of the free civil society[26] (Touraine 1992). Open discussion held in the public sphere provides feedback to social movements at the grassroots level and supports theirs claim to endorse a wide social consensus. Furthermore, support from other actors, namely NGO’s, consumers’ associations, etc. has also contributed to the positioning of indigenous movement’s claims in the concrete political field[27]. The objective of most social movements is not only the recognition of rights, but also to have an impact on society in general, as shown by “the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. This group not only achieved the facto recognition of the black population’s rights, but also produced changes in the social stereotypes underpinning the relations between white and black Americans” (own translation LaraĖa 1999:64).


Concerning the rights’ recognition goal pursue by the social groups, it implies an active role from the state, although in many cases it is also considered to be the principal enemy (Serrano 2001:96). Though new social movements are considered non institutional social actors with transformative power in themselves, direct intervention in politics has opened the door for them to public economic resources – e.g. through the participative budget-, and to the general state infrastructure. It has also facilitated the recognition of their claims and the actual implementation of favourable policies and material actions both at a national and international level (García 2001:100). In this sense, one can ratify the generalized understanding of the new social movements as a bottom-up approach, thereby promoting the “democratization of democracy” (Lopez 1994: 209-210; Santos 2003b) because “the ideas of democracy can no longer be fully defined by institutional rules” (Touraine, A 1992: 143). Nonetheless, one may argue that social movements also make use of top-down actions in order to enhance the materialization of their claims. Therefore new social movements can be defined as both counter hegemonic and resistance groups with emancipatory potential, making legitimate use of hegemonic elements -science, politics, economy, law, etc- in so far as they are useful for achieving their goals (regarding the use of law see Santos 2003:36; Santos et al 2005: 5-18)


The importance of legal mobilization –legislative, judicial and constitutional- within the new social movements’ has been criticized in different realms. Thus some argue that in the judicial realm, judges’ decisions do not have concrete practical effects in the claims of the social movements because the tribunals cannot implement their own decisions (Kessler 1990; Rosenberg 1991). In addition it has been argued that vulnerable persons and minority groups are rarely satisfied with the tribunal decisions. Regarding the juridification produced by this strategy of mobilising law one can argue that it may play against the social movements since the state may exert control over their actions and can at any moment condition their functioning (Tushnet 1984) so that the activists start to use a language defined by the state. Thus the state can use legal recognition as a powerful tool in arguing against the continuity of the movement. In other words, we can argue that the consequence of the legal mobilization is that at the end “rights frame [social movements’] identity and vice versa: their identity is expressed in terms of rights” (Blankenburg 1999: 49).


A. The Legal and Political Mobilization of the Latin American Indigenous Movement

The indigenous movement in Latin America provides a good example of legal and political mobilization proposed by the new social movements. In a snapshot of the indigenous movement political power in Latin America one can note in Mexico their contribution to reducing the influence of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional –PRI- (Dávalos 2005:28-29). Also gaining international recognition was the Chiapas culture led by Comandante Marcos. In Guatemala after the violent civil war the indigenous leader Rigoberta Menchú won the Nobel peace prize in 1992 (Quijano 2005) and is currently candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. In Ecuador “CONAIE after gaining political legitimacy in the 1992 Quito’s demonstrations, was actively involved in the Presidential abdication of Abdala Bucaram in 1997 and Miguel Mahuad in 2000 after which Antonio Vargas, the principal leader of CONAIE, held the presidential chair for a short period. Afterwards with the strong support of the indigenous movement, Lucio Gutiérrez won the presidence in 2003” (own translation Quijano 2005) and later on the current president Rafael Correa supported[28] by CONAIE on the second round also reported the elections of November 2006. Finally in Bolivia, in what is probably the most symbolic case in Latin America, indigenous people started to get organized based on the labor union’s structures of the 40’s that had an active participation in the 1952 revolution. From there indigenous people have always been present in the political life of Bolivia as part of the Confederación Obrera Boliviana –COB- and other groups have joined together, farmers and workers, forcing for example the government of Paz Estensoro to extend the legalization of rural properties and participating in the military Coupt dęétat. But it was not until 90’s when the indigenous movement’s struggle as such joined other social mobilizations to found the political movement Movimiento al Socialismo MAS[29]- that supported Evo Morales in the presidential elections of 2002 in which he came in second, and finally in the elections of 2005 in which he won. The synergy of MAS, CSTUCB and other social forces have led Bolivia to design a plan for “re-founding the State” that can not be consider an achievement of only the Bolivian indigenous movement (Quijano 2005) but of the grassroots movements in general.


The importance of the Bolivian and Ecuadorian cases referred to earlier is that they have shown the feasibility of direct political participation in countries with large percentages of indigenous population. Nonetheless in every country in Latin America with indigenous population regardless their percentages “indigenous groups have played an important role in incorporating at the core of the political debates indigenous claims for new legal regulations (Brysk, 2000 and Van Cott, 1996 quoted in Toledo 2005: 68; for Ecuador Walsh 2000).


Now, at the level of juridical mobilization indigenous groups have achieved their main goals at the national level with Constitutional reforms that incorporated the recognition of legal pluralism (Yrigoyen 1999:345-356) and multiculturalism (Plant et al 2002:3).


The Constitutions of Nicaragua (1987 modified in 1995), Colombia (1991), Paraguay (1992), Peru (1993), Ecuador (1998) and Venezuela (1999) have the most advanced constitutional protections in Latin America. They all recognize, although in different terms, the ethnic an cultural plurality of the country. The Constitution of Nicaragua values in the preamble the struggle of the indigenous peoples in the construction of the state and recognizes therefore in article 5 the ethnic plurality of the state. Similarly the Colombian Constitution redacted with the participation of the indigenous movement, has recognized in article 7, the multiethnic and pluricultural nature of the state. The Constitution of Paraguay on its turn consecrates Chapter 5, inscribed in Part I title II, to indigenous peoples, recognizing the rights of this population “existing before the formation of the Paraguayan state” to land, own organization, culture and identity. In Peru the 1993 Constitution recognizes the nation as pluricultural and pluriethnic where any person has the right to “ethnic and cultural identity” (art. 2 n.19). Finally in Venezuela the preamble of the 1999 Constitution states as an example for the nation the heroism and sacrifice of their “aboriginal ancestors” as well as it recognizes and declares the state as multiethnic and pluricultural.


An important consequence of the previous recognitions is the embracement of indigenous languages. The Colombian (art.10), Peruvian (art. 49), Ecuadorian (art. 1) and Venezuelan (art. 7) Constitutions declares indigenous languages official in the indigenous territories. The article 140 of the Paraguayan Constitution goes further and recognizes Guarani as one of the official languages of the country and the other indigenous languages as cultural patrimony of the nation.


The political strategy designed as part of the national project in which indigenous people were included and respected as proclaimed by the constitutions was the establishment of reservations or indigenous territories. In Nicaragua articles 5, 121, 177 consecrate the lands and territorial organization of the indigenous people in general. The Colombian and Venezuelan Constitution established in articles 286, 321 and 329 and Chapter 8 title 3 respectively the rights of indigenous people to territory, namely indigenous reservations. In Ecuador, in Title 3, Chapter 5 the constitution considers the collective rights of indigenous and black peoples to identity and collective property of ancestral lands. The Peruvian Constitution only makes reference to a specific agrarian regime for “native communities” in Chapter VI, articles 88 and 89.


The territorial autonomy consider in most of these constitutions comes with a complement of other important rights, mainly attached to land. The Constitution of Nicaragua recognizes in article 5 the rights of indigenous people to develop their culture, identity and own forms of organization. This constitution gives especial attention to the Comunidades de la Costa Atlántica for which it established an autonomic regime (89 and 180) also encompassing the education system (107). In Colombia, the constitution based on the previous territorial recognition establishes juridical jurisdiction (art. 246) and recognizes indigenous own authorities (art. 330) and participation in the national budget (art. 357). Among the other articles concerning the indigenous population in the Colombian Constitution I underline the article 171 that establishes seats in the congress for the representatives of indigenous people. In Ecuador Title 3 in Chapter 5 also recognizes indigenous own organization and authorities, intellectual property, bilingual education and “ethnodevelopment” (art. 84 n.12). Article 191 and 275 also recognize respectively jurisdiction in their territories and “political participation. In Venezuela again Chapter 8 in Title 3 fully consecrated to the indigenous peoples embraces rights to identity, own organizations and authorities, health, traditional economic practices, natural resources, intellectual property, political participation -also article 186- are recognized. The legal jurisdiction of indigenous peoples in their territories is stated in article 260.


Other countries have less detailed and direct Constitutional recognition of indigenous rights:

The Mexican (1917 amended in 1994 and 1998) constitution in article 4, the Guatemalan in Chapter 2, Title 2, section 3 the nations as pluricultural mainly due to the native indigenous peoples.


Some recognition of languages, culture and indigenous values have also been accorded in the following Constitutions: The Mexican in article 4 and the Guatemalan in Chapter 2, title 2, section 3 recognizes the existence of indigenous communities and declares the State’s respect and promotion role regarding their traditions, culture, social organization, languages and dialects. Indigenous languages, culture and values are also protected by some of the less advanced constitutional protections: In Panama the amendments introduced in 1994 to the 1972 Constitution recognize the “aboriginal languages” (art. 84) the ethnic identity of the indigenous communities as well as their culture and values (art. 86). The 1985 Constitution of Guatemala amended in 1993 recognizes in the article 58 the right of persons and communities to identity based on their values, languages and traditions. The Brazilian Constitution (1988) reserves for the union the authority to regulate indigenous peoples, lands and conflicts (art. 22). Nonetheless article 210 establishes respect for indigenous languages and groups in the educational system, article 215 states the promotion of cultural manifestations of indigenous groups and finally article 231 recognizes the social organization, believes, traditions and rights to land of the “indian” peoples. Although the Argentinean 1994 Constitution recognizes the cultural and ethnic diversity of the country and the indigenous rights to identity, bilingual education, land, etc. it is all mediated by the congress, who has among its attributions to “recognize the ethnic and cultural preexistence of the Argentinean indigenous peoples” (art. 75 n. 17).


The constitution of indigenous territories in which indigenous people are allowed to develop their worldview has also been in some cases expressly incorporated in these Constitutions. In Guatemala Chapter 2, tile 2 section 3 gives access and collective property of land to indigenous people. In Panama articles 104 and 123 consecrate respectively the rights to education according to their culture and access to collective property. Other Constitutions such as the Brazilian and Argentinean have established intermediate procedures to provide indigenous people with territory.


Although currently there is a Constitutional Assembly running in Bolivia it is important to note that the 1995 Constitution recognizes in article 1 the country as multiethnic and pluricultural. Article 171 inscribed in Part 3 “Especial Regimes” title 3 “Agrarian and Peasants Regime” also recognizes the social, economic and cultural rights of the indigenous peoples, especially their rights to collective property, use of their language, traditions, values and institutions.


It is important to note that Latin America legal systems are also grounded in international instruments as Victor Bazan (2003:759-838) demonstrates for Argentina. In many countries international conventions have supremacy over the internal law and therefore the states are obliged to respect the identity, cultural diversity and Human Rights of indigenous peoples for avoiding international responsibility


It is also interesting to observe how the most advanced constitutional texts in Latin America have protected indigenous people. On the one hand they recognize the cultural and ethnic diversity of the countries by providing general statements that highlight the role play by indigenous people in the formation of the modern states and the importance of keeping their ancestral traditions. Those traditions are mainly represented in the conservation of their own language. On the other hand the constitutions identify territorial autonomy as the cornerstone of any other protection regarding self-determination, jurisdiction and culture –language, traditional practices, etc. The comparison of the two groups of constitutions shows the agreement on the importance of protecting language, culture, ancestral authorities and territory of indigenous people. Certainly the most important difference between the two groups is the degree of autonomy allowed to indigenous people in their territories and the participation in politics and state budget. Nonetheless one most conclude that Latin American countries have understood that protecting culture and territory one protects indigenous peoples.


This constitutional recognition of indigenous rights in Latin America through which most indigenous’ claims were embraced have nonetheless been contested[30] since according to some authors “the positivization of “claims” into “rights” caused the “collapse the indigenous’ institutions, programs, groups and politics (González 1999 quoted in Toledo 2005: 71-72). This consequence was also remarked upon by the lawyer Carlos Zapata from the OIA, in his interview.[31] He viewed this development as a double-edged sword, since on the one hand it is certainly an achievement of the indigenous movement, but on the other hand it is a strategy to diffuse the increasing strength of the indigenous peoples’ mobilization. Besides the Constitutional reforms formerly described some legislative measures were also put into effect. Although I will not go over those reforms (see Van Cott 2000: 145; Andolina et al 2005: 148-149) it is important to comment on the fundamental role played by the “ILO 169 Convention. It was used in some countries as a reference point for the legislative production even before its ratification” (Own translation Van Cott, 2000; Sieder 2002 quoted in Andolina et al 2005: 137). In others countries such as Bolivia and Mexico, it was used after its ratification, as the basic pillar for modifying “their Constitutions to recognize the existence of indigenous peoples and the multiethnic and multicultural nature of the State” (Rasmussesn at al 2003: 70).


In fact the ILO 169 Convention in the international sphere constitutes the main achievement of the worldwide indigenous movement during the late 80’s and early 90’s. The ILO 169 Convention was adopted on the 27th of June, 1989 by the General Conference of the International Labour Organization, but did not enter into force until September 1991. Until recently, it was the only international instrument dealing with indigenous rights, especially on the land issue. Besides recognizing and promoting measures for the state recognition of the collective and individual ownership of land, the convention also regulates other rights linked to territories. One example is the consultation procedure that has to be implemented in cases in which the state aims to explore mineral and other natural resources locate in the indigenous` lands. The right to profits taken from the land, and compensation for damages (art.15.2). The protection of the environment in coordination with the indigenous communities and the right not to be displaced from their ancestral territories (16.1) except in exceptional cases. Many authors consider that the real important achievement is not the convention itself but its ratification by the states (Assies et al 2002:95-96) since its mere existence does not have any binding effect for the non ratifying states. Many Latin American countries have ratified the convention: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela had ratified as early as 2003 (Swepston 2005: 55). Arguable, Chile is the most controversial case in Latin America regarding the recognition of indigenous’ rights, because although it has a large indigenous population, it has neither ratified the ILO 169 Convention nor introduced Constitutional reforms for the recognition of indigenous peoples right’s.


During the 90’s UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was discussed but it was adopted only by the UN Human Rights Council on June 2006. It was finally approved by the UN General Assembly in the 61st session held on September 2007[32]. The Draft, finally approved, according to Swepston (2005: 61) builds on ground already broken by ILO 169 Convention, but it goes considerably further by attempting to firmly the recognize the rights and self-determination indigenous people in international law and international organizations.


With respect to Latin America, the indigenous movement there has mobilised the Inter-American Court of Human Rights especially with regard to territorial issues:


“It is the opinion of this Court that article 21 of the Convention protects the property right in a sense which includes, among others, the rights of members of the indigenous communities with in the Framework of communal property” (Paragraph 148 of Inter- American Court of Human Rights The Mayana (Sumo) Indigenous Community of Awas Tingi vs. The Republic of Nicaragua, Judgment of 31 August 2001)


Considering the frequency with which cases like this were reaching the Court (see Anaya et al 2001) there is currently in the Americas a Draft on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Organization of American States (OAS) is supporting it. This development in the Americas is possible because the indigenous groups are well positioned in the political field and its members are not questioned to be first nations – contrarily to Asia and Africa where “the term indigenous has been adopted much more recently as a tool for political and social mobilization” (Hodgson 2002: 1037).


Finally, indigenous groups in Latin America have been able to mobilize a large number of transnational NGO’s in favour of their interests. These organizations, based on “universal values and grounded in human rights, diversity and protection of the environment groups” (Castillo et al 2002: 68-69) have allowed the indigenous culture to access an enviable amount of economic and political resources, that were previously unavailable to them. Nonetheless some argue that current mobilization isn’t enough to positively impact the indigenous peoples because their intervention in public policy and decision making processes is still restricted to the symbolic dimension and not to a substantive and operational one (Toledo 2005: 77-78). Although many indigenous indicators such as the ones concerning social welfare remain low (health and education examples in: Toledo 2005: 71-72; Bello, A et al 2000: 27) it cannot be denied is that at least the goal of rights’ recognition by the legal systems has been achieved.


The mobilizations undertaken by the global and Latin American indigenous movement regarding recognition of rights, political participation, etc. have played an important role in the consolidation of the Colombian indigenous movement. The Colombian movement has become completely incorporated into the global struggle, and is able to make use of transnational networks for producing national mobilizations and legal reforms as well as demanding effective protection of the rights of its members (Rodríguez et al 2005). At the national level some interesting goals have been achieved as it will be shown in the next two sections.


B. The Mobilization of the Colombian and Antioquian Indigenous Movement

Since the political and legal mobilizations in Colombia have already been partially sketched in the previous sections, I will only remark here on the former the direct politics participation the indigenous people had in the 1990’s when they took advantage of the “organic” crisis in the country and through its most representative organizations -ONIC and AICO - was able to elect two indigenous representatives to the national constitutional assembly. Another arrived later from the former-guerilla faction, Quintín Lame (Castillo et al 2002: 57). There are two points to note here: the advanced constitutional text issued in 1991 regarding indigenous rights, and important decisions of the Constitutional Court interpreting this text in a number of cases, concerning territory, jurisdiction, political participation and self-determination, that were favorable to the indigenous movement. In addition, important laws concerning free access to health service and education, bilingual education, exemption from the military service and taxes over lands (Gross 2000:64) as well as affirmative actions for entering into universities were enacted in later years. The most important result of the legal mobilization undertaken by the indigenous movement, apart from being able to “speak in their own words” –hablar con voz propia- in the political sphere without white or mestizos’ interference (García 2001:100), is the recovery of land on which I will discuss in the following section.

C. Legal Mobilization and Land Recovery in Colombia and Antioquia

According to some indigenous sources[33] there are in Colombia 511 indigenous reserves with approximately 282.000 square kilometers (28.2 million hectares) representing 25% of the national territory. This extension of land compared to the amount of indigenous population (around 3%) seems a big disproportion (see table#2). Table#2 also underlines the data from Antioquia where in 1998 there were 15.020 indigenous people constituting only the 0,3% of the total population but owning the 4% of the territory. The OIA has certainly developed an important mobilization of the legal resources to acquire territory. Supported on article 330 of the Political Constitution it has successfully applied different programs for the granting of territories to their people. The 1991 Colombian constitution clearly renews the colonial figure of “Resguardo” giving way to a consolidated policy of indigenous’ reserves that has been seen as a political gain of the indigenous struggle. Taking into account only the region of Antioquia it is possible to verify that in the period of 1991 to 2005 the OIA has been able to gain 38 more reservations, namely from 6 to 44 that represents 4.000 square KM -400 thousand hectares- passing therefore from 4% of the total territory of the region in 1998 to 6.28% in 2005 (Salazar, C.A. no date: 14). This “recovery” of land has been accompanied by a policy of community mobilization, land zoning and management. It has also promoted and executed studies regarding environmental offers and communitarian development in the territories acquired.

In 1994 the indigenous reservations started to participate directly in the state national budget. That year 345 indigenous reservations received resources from the government and in 1998 that number reached 501. Although these numbers show an interesting economic progress in support of the national indigenous movement some criticism have been addressed to the land achievements: some of the indigenous territories are outside of the agrarian border (Gross 1991) and therefore they are practically useless and disconnect with the nations life. For others (see Etnias de Colombia) the indigenous territories in Colombia are just a matter of numbers because in practice most of them are under the power of illegal armed groups, drug traffickers and landowners, they lack state services such as education, health, housing and other basic necessities, and they are not appropriate for cultivation.

Beside land recovery another important achievement of the OIA is the increasing participation in the public funds, because of its status as the “official” organization of indigenous people in the region and the support of the ONIC, as it can be drawn from the references made by its members in the interviews. Only through the regional and national government did the investment to indigenous people in the region go from 20 million pesos in the period 85-87, to 126 millions in 1988 and 1000 millions in 2000 (Salazar, C.A. no date:4).


D. Other Mobilizations of OIA

Finally, some physical mobilizations have been undertaken by the Antioquian indigenous movement –the OIA-. Besides the symbolic effects of these mobilizations, they have also given the movement visibility in the media and other spaces on which public opinion is constructed. I remark the take over of the INCORA offices in Medellin in 1987, the regional march to Medellin stopped by the army in 1988 and the take over of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Medellin in 2000. These mobilizations have positioned OIA as a important organization for official and non official political actors concerned with the indigenous issue.


The struggle of the ONIC and the OIA, their mobilizations and achievements can certainly be understood as belonging to the general indigenous struggle described by the French anthropologist Christian Gross as "an old factor of dispute undertaken by the indigenous populations everywhere: rights to land, autonomy for the direction of their own affairs and the rights to dignity and respect” (see Etnias de Colombia).

As at the global level, the Colombian and Antioquian indigenous movement cannot be considered a homogenous block. Nonetheless I conclude at this point, that due to their common goals in terms of legal and political mobilization, territorial acquirement policy, claims to autonomy and identity, these organizations have reached an important synergy and position as “official indigenous groups”. Therefore, the OIA and the ONIC are interested in strengthening their discourse on unity and struggle not as representatives of the new social indigenous movement, but as the movement itself.


In order to understand the global, Latin American, Colombian and Antioquian indigenous organizations as a social movement ethnically grounded and with cultural claims, it is important to approach the processes through which indigenous identity is constructed. The indigenous identity is composed of two processes: One is the identification of an individual or collectivity as indigenous; the other is the identity that binds together individuals and groups into an ethnically based movement with cultural claims. Although the objectives of this work are concerned only with the latter, I will argue that these two types of identities are inseparable. The emergence of the indigenous movement within the framework of the identity of individuals and groups cannot be understood unless it is framed in the perceptive of the indigenous movement’s struggle.

Chapter VII. The Construction of Indigenous Identity and Movements’ Identity in the Latin American, Colombian and Antioquian –OIA- Indigenous movement


This chapter sketches a theoretical framework on social movements’ identity from a symbolic-interactionist approach and subsequently shows the compliance of the indigenous movement in Latin America, Colombia and Antioquia with it.


A. On New Social Movements’ identity

The central position in most recent studies on identity has been the underlying assumption that “human beings have an identity, that they have to have an identity, and that identity has to be coherent” (Haselbach no date: 141). The construction of identity according to my assumptions cannot be found anywhere else but in social interaction. This perspective has been assumed for example by Greverus’ who affirmed that “identity is consciousness of self in an interactive process i.e. to know oneself, to be known and to be acknowledged” (Greverus no date: 130). Although this definition is useful in helping to understand the meaning of identity, as highlighting the connection between his/her/its own self and alien others, I prefer Hall’s definition of identity as “the meeting point, the point of suture, between groups and practices which attempt to “interpellate”, speak to us. Identity in this sense bring individuals into place as social subjects of particular groups, present them in processes that produce subjectivities and render them subjects that can be “spoken” (Hall 1996: 6). By conceiving identities as “points of temporary attachment to the subjects’ positions, it allows practices to construct us” (Hall 1996: 6). I also take Hall’s viewpoint that “identities are never unified, never singular, but multiply across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourses, practices and positions” (Hall 1996: 6). Following Castells stance, I argue that among those multiple identities proposed by Hall there is a primary identity that embraces the others and is constituted in the main meaning according to which individuals and organizations conduct their struggles and actions across time and space. (1997: 6-7). Those embracing identities in the new social movements can be gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture, etc.


The ideas of the classic Symbolic Interactionist authors such as Herbert Blumer (1971) and Goffman (1986 [1974] 1959) remain very clear in the explanations of collective action as the basis for the collective identity process (LaraĖa 1999:33). The terms Social Identity or Collective Identity refer to concepts of sameness or similarity with others. Such –symbolic- representation of sameness within a group includes a notion of being different from others, from those who don’t belong” (Heidrum 2002: 1-2). Although the individual’s identity may not match completely the identity of a given group it does not mean that, the identity of the individual’s are pre-given since they are in unending construction by the individual, groups’ members and outsiders’ interaction. The social movement symbolic messages and actions’ systems that provides alternatives for approaching social problems, helps to organize action and implies a number of assumptions regarding identity and continuity. The movements are actionsę systems because their structures are constructed based on the interaction, negotiation and conflict regarding the collective definitions of their objectives, and opportunities. In that sense collective identity is a “shared and interactive definition produced by various individuals or by groups in a more complex level and connected with the opportunities and restrictions in which it takes place” (Own Translation Meluci, 1995:44 quoted in LaraĖa 1999: 99).


Certainly this interpretation of collective identity opposes a dual conception where “identity is something that one “has” and can be manipulated, that one can “choose”; or, conversely, it is something that acts as a source of “constrain” on the individual, as recognized rather than a chosen feature of life” (Gupta et al 1999a:12). I argue that identity is constructed in a conflictive process based in social interaction, in “an active process of resistance” rather than in one direction (Castells 1997; Gupta et al 1999a: 14) and therefore change must be understood as inherent to the concept of identity.


Indigenous identity both individually and collectively is a good example of an identity construction through a conflictive process. Especifically for indigenous people, this construction is closely linked to the struggle undertaken by the indigenous social movements as it will be shown in the next section for Latin America, Colombia and Antioquia.


B. The Indigenous Identity in the Latin American, Colombian and Antioquian Indigenous Movement

What I propose here is that after the emergence of the indigenous movement the identity of indigenous persons is constructed based on the membership to an indigenous community participating in the indigenous movement, since the collectivity provides the basis of external recognition from both the indigenous and non-indigenous people, at the same time allows individuals to confirm their self-identification as indigenous.


The components of an ethnic group identity –and therefore indigenous identity- can be defined completely differently depending on the elements emphasized: objective attributes, subjective feelings, and behaviour (Brass 1996:85). Therefore, I will point out some characteristics that scholars (Schermerhorn 1996: 17; Hutchinson & Smith 1996:6; Nash 1996: 24-28; Riggs 1991: 288-298; Tonkin et al 1996: 18-24; Eriksen 1996: 28-31;Vuciri 1992: 413) have identified as giving rise to an ethnic group identity. These include the following:

Š      A common proper name that identifies the group,

Š      A myth –rather than a fact- of common ancestry,

Š      Shared historical memories of a common past or pasts,

Š      “one or more elements of common culture which do not need to be specified but include normally religion, customs-traditions, or language”,

Š      Real or symbolic attachment to ancestral land,

Š      A sense of solidarity.


These elements must be understood within a constructive-interactionist perspective rather than in an essentialist one, furthermore I do not discard subjective and objective elements as the result of collective construction. Finally, it is important to remark that contrary to what some authors have considered (Schermerhorn 1996: 17; Morris 1968: 167 quoted in Vuciri, 1992: 413) ethnicities – indigenous people in specific- are not necessarily link to minorities’ identity (Hutchinson & Smith 1996:15; Tumin 1964: 243 quoted in Riggs 1991: 288).


With regard to indigenous identity in Latin America, and the concepts used to mark the self and the other[34], I maintain that the concept of ethnicity or generic ethnicity, and thus the concept of ethnic identity, is a colonial construction. It emerges with the arrival in the Americas of the colonizers and African slaves, allowing for the construction of the other in the modern sense of alterity[35]: Indigenous, white Europeans and blacks.


Since the terms to refer to indigenous people are not clear and unique in the literature, I propose to follow the concepts expressed by the anthropologist Giovanni Méndez during the interview: to understand ethnic category as a specific collectivity within the indigenous ethnicity i.e. Emberra, Zenú, Chibcha, etc. Peoples, ethnicity, ethnic group or generic ethnicity will refer to a general division of ethnicities i.e. indigenous, blacks, white, etc. In this sense, ethnic categories can be understood as a pre-colonial and post-colonial creation, in the sense that at first they were based on territorial networks and power held by organized groups before the arrivals of the Europeans in America. Later on ethnic categories will become a consequence of concepts introduced by studies undertaken under the western rational paradigm –anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, etc. Those “new” ethnic categories were imposed by the state from one side and assumed by indigenous groups from the other, to categorize themselves and gain legal recognition.


Although certainly the identity processes depends upon specific particularities of an époque and place, one can point out some similarities in the construction processes of indigenous identities in Latin America due to submission to European colonizers in most of the region. In the colonial period one identifies tough colonial policies directed towards the extermination or/and assimilation of the “primitive” communities settled in the colonized territories (Córtes et al 1989: 359). These policies drove many indigenous peoples to assume the status and identity of peasants, consequently losing or transforming part of their original characteristics (Córtes et al 1989: 355-356). I even argue that the main consequences of state policies applied during the 19th and most of the 20th century were the loss of indigenous identity among the majority of its population and the construction of the remaining as poor (similar ideas are developed in Bello et al 2000: 18; Castillo et al 2002: 61).


It was not until the emergence of the social movements and their consolidation in the 70’s and 80’s that people became mobilized by groups grounded in ethnicity (Breton 2001 quoted in García 2001:95). After the 80’s, indigenous ethnicity and ethnic categories’ identity can be characterized as having a strong cultural component that allows them to justify their other claims with more strength than before: self-determination, self-government, territory, etc. Nonetheless, this emphasis on culture and especially in the objective elements[36] of culture as a central point in their identity is not a neutral or spontaneous situation. It is the response from indigenous groups to the implementation of cultural pluralism politics in the mid 60’s, still in force, to protect ethnic minority groups. The basic statement of Cultural Pluralism is that different ethnic groups should be allowed to retain their cultural identity over time and under a common government (Huntik 1995: 33; Sara et al 2002: 1-25).


Culture has generally been defined as a constructed or learned pattern of behaviour consisting mainly, according to Taylor, of “knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, customs, and other capabilities and habits acquired by man [and groups] as a member[s] of society” (Singer 1969: 527 quoted in Vuciri 1992: 414). To the detriment of more abstract elements such as values and beliefs, objective components such as kinship, language, territory, theatrical cultural practices and rituals have been emphasized in legal regulations and courts’ decisions (See in Canada R v Glaudue (1999); R v Powerly (2003; in Colombia). Social Sciences have not escape from this conception of culture. Colom provides a good example of the concept of culture within Social Sciences:


“In the sociological and anthropological traditions culture has been understood has a specific dimension of human groups referring to their symbolic practices. The role of the culture in the collective identities is that its narratives[37] provide shared references in the regulation of their behaviour, on which linguistic, religious, racial and historical factors converge” (own translation Colom 1997:13-14)


The cultural approaches that predominate in Latin America[38] for protecting indigenous people have the implicit requirement of historical continuity of indigenous peoples’ cultural identity and therefore they emphasize the objective elements of culture as representative of the real indigenous identity. This link is grounded in a colonial understanding of indigenous identity (See Canada: Mawani 2005:316-317; USA see Clifford 2005: 203-204; General identity as culture in Greenhouse 1994: 1231-1241) as territorialized groups with nothing else for the eyes of the outsider to see but theatrical cultural practices i.e. language, rites, dress and eating habits, etc. From this perspective, the expressive dimension becomes important as far as it reaffirms different lifestyles and identities: “An important function here is developed by symbolism, ritual and corporal mobilizations” (García 2001:96).


The Latin American, Colombian and Antioquian indigenous movements are good representatives of the cultural discourse on which indigenous identity is grounded. The former peasants and “old” indigenous organizations have rediscovered many of their rituals, dress, and physical practices, to present themselves as having a “truly” indigenous identity. This situation was highlighted by Mato from one of the interviews he made to the Panamanian Emberra Fecundo Sanapi who “felt pained by this situation when I privately interviewed him latter. He then told me that wearing their own indigenous clothes, the guayuco that only covers men’s genitals, and body-painting would have been very important for them in order to demonstrate <<that there are also indigenous people who truly still conserve that traditions in the Darien ... we should present it as indigenous peoples in order to make the public see that those who present this document are true indigenous individuals>>” (Mato 2000:347-348).


Another important element in the construction of the new indigenous identity is belonging to a territory. Some scholars have argued that the attachment of indigenous identity to territory is an exercise of power from outsiders (Appadaurai, A 1988b:37 quoted in Malkki, L 1999:58-59), a way of domination and segregation. Nonetheless I think this attachment to territory, environment and nature is an “implict agreement” between indigenous and governments. Specifically, for Colombia Peter Waise has shown how indigenous people are both empowered and disempowered with their roles as guardians of the environment (Waisse 1999).


The cultural grounding of indigenous groups’ territorial claims is the cornerstone of the indigenous cultures identity, since they are an instrument that recomposes the balance of forces between the people and their perceived enemies. Culture becomes an organized force of resistance in a battle for keeping the “indigenous identity” (Cortés et al 1989: 361). Those elements are therefore what characterizes an “authentic” or “truly” indigenous person and makes them members of an indigenous movement.


Regarding this “true” identity, some argue that in the era of globalization identities are subjected to all kind of different conceptualizations and therefore there is no chance to build “authentic identities”. The construction of a global legal system based on human rights and its enforcement through international tribunals is exterminating the identities based on epistemes different from the western worldview , in the sense that the latter is being imposed as languages on which claims have to be expressed, homogenizing the creation of identities (Benavides 2004: 391-417).


In order to react to the cultural requirements of the state it is not enough to recover cultural practices, but certification and recognition of expert outsiders is also needed[39]. Therefore indigenous people have mobilized science. Although in past days science was used as an instrument to justify the oppression of indigenous people, they are now going to use it for their own benefit i.e. as a counter-hegemonic instrument. This new era could be described as a mutual dependence between Social Science, in particular anthropology, and the indigenous movement. Rover Dover confirmed this interdependence in his interview when he referred that it is “useful for anthropologist to keep problematizing the indigenous issue” and by Giovanni Méndez who said that the function of anthropology as a “comparative sociology is to certify ethnic differences” and in that sense it has become a necessary “armed wing of the liberal pluralism”.

Some questions have certainly been raised regarding the reconstruction of indigenous identity based on culture. As Assies et al (2002: 100) observe, “in that context the use of the traditional cultural practices as making part of the identity core must be understood as a political resource and part of a culture of resistance [I add dramatization of resistance]. Since the construction of community and identity are not processes out of the bonds of power, it exists the preoccupation that the politics of identity go directed towards the closeness, reification or instrumentalization of identity and the potential of an interethnic polarization”. In conclusion, I argue that there are two inseparable constructions of indigenous identity. Although there is only really one, I separate them out to make their meaning clear. On one hand there is the erection of the indigenous individual and group identity based on cultural and territorial discourses. On the other hand the second identity arises through its incorporation in a political struggle that forms the basis for resistance and action as social movement. The construction process of the “new indigenous identity” is completely framed in the political struggle not only since its re-emergence in the 60’ and 70’s but even today. It is the permanent struggle of the indigenous people for rights and recognition that has pushed them to ground their identity in culture and territory, while constructing a movement identity based on their interaction in both facets of society political and non- political. It is this mixture that can be consider the core element of the indigenous peoples’ identity as individuals, groups and movements.


In the following chapter the Cabildo Chibcariwak is introduced. Its description is undertaken in order to analyze its compliance with the concepts of indigenous social movements and indigenous identity as they have been previously developed. The empirical data presented aims to raise some questions regarding the consolidated theoretical framework from which indigenous claims have been approached i.e. that of social movements and identity.



Chapter VIII. Questioning Paradigms: The Urban Indigenous Peoples Mobilization in Medellin


A. Approaching The Chibcariwak

The urban indigenous population is not a recent or unexpected phenomenon, since it is the natural consequence of urban expansionism and the rapid destruction of rural life. In fact the migration of indigenous population to cities started long time ago and most of it is already incorporated in “modern life”. This situation renders their ethnic status problematic because they are in a transitional process where their ethnic condition is ambiguous. One can easily define their condition as urban inhabitants rather than belonging to the indigenous ethnicity (OrdoĖez 1994:61). In some countries in Latin America like Bolivia and Peru the urban indigenous population is demographically representative (García 2001:97) while in others like Chile the majority (70%) of the indigenous population lives in cities (Bello et al 2000: 19-21). In Colombia, the city of Cali has an important indigenous population, due to its location in the area of influence in the Region of Cauca, the main indigenous area in Colombia. In fact one common element of almost all the urban indigenous population formerly mentioned is that they keep the relationships with their places of origin. For Cali Vladimir Llano affirmed during the interview that the urban monoethnic Cabildos settled there are a political strategy of the rural Cabildos in the region of Cauca.


The origins and history of the Cabildo Chicariwak in Medellin are a different case. Its origins as described by Cristofer Orozco were founded by certain impulsiveness, since they did not have the support of any major indigenous group; it was more an effort of indigenous individuals from different ethnic categories to begin grouping in the city:


“It was long time ago when some indigenous people met up together over coffee in Medellin and decided it was necessary to have a more frequent contact between them to allow self-identification as indigenous people and to talk about their problems”[40] (Own translation).


According to classical sources the history of the Chibcariwak goes back to 1979 when a group of indigenous people led by Abadio Green Stochel, Francisco Roks Birry among others founded the "Nacionalidad de los Pueblos Indígenas" in Medellin. They later on became the multiethnic indigenous Cabildo; the Chibcariwak[41]. Other authors note that during its foundation in 1979 by “some ethnic minorities” from Colombia and Panama, its expressed objectives were “to search for solutions to the socio-economic situation of the indigenous immigrant population in Medellin (Sierra 1998: 162 quoted in Méndez 2005: 87). It must be noted that after the 1991 Colombian Constitution there has been an explosion of indigenous organizations oriented to get profit of the benefits established in the Constitutional text. Nonetheless the origins of the Chibcariwak oblige us to go further than that simple thought.


During the 80’s important issues touched the Cabildo Chibcariwak. The most remarkable was an important discussion in one of the assemblies regarding the effective role that the “Sección de Asuntos Indígenas” was having in protecting some indigenous interest for which the Chibcariwak had no competence. Therefore part of the assembly proposed to convert the Cabildo Chibcariwak into an indigenous organization so it could deal with the issues that the “Sección de Asuntos Indígenas” was not taking care of. Finally after some meetings and deliberations, in the last reunion held in 1984 this proposal was voted down, since the majority felt the Cabildo Chibcariwak should remain as it was (Méndez 2005: 87). Many of the persons that did not agree with the ratified project decided to join the emerging OIA. Due to this breakup in 1985, the Cabildo went through some difficulties during rest of the 80’s that thanks to the dedication of Gabriel Bomba Paipa were overcome, reaching even legal recognition by the Medellin’s authorities in the early 90’s. It was only then that it became the only Cabildo in the city recognized by the municipality according to law 89 of 1890. Nonetheless it should be added that there are two other small cabildos not legally recognized in Medellin, namely Quillacingas-Pastos (250 persons) and Inga-Kametzá, both nonetheless supported and recognized by their native communities. It is also important to remark that although “the cabildo is considered as one of many organizational forms the urban indigenous cabildos can take” (own translation Mendez 2005: 87), it is nevertheless the most appropriate for political participation. The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia -ONIC- no longer includes the Cabildo Chibcariwak in its data base, either as a regional organization affiliated to ONIC or as an independent indigenous organization[42].


At this point, it is important to understand the social context where the Chibcariwak has developed its struggle in order to understand the particular reason for its emergence, claims and goals. Medellin and its surroundings have not been for a long time -200 years or more- a traditional settlement of indigenous communities. Contrarily to the cities of Popayan and Cali in southwest Colombia- where some indigenous urban ethnic Cabildos have settled down as a branches of larger rural organizations- Medellin has not been lately a central point for indigenous groups. In Medellin the indigenous people is very few, and therefore the Chibcariwak, although being the only legal indigenous political organization only counts around 2,000 members. This population compared to the 3,500,000 inhabitants of Medellin is an invisible grain of sand in a huge beach. The members of the Cabildo Chibcariwak belong to 19 different ethnicities and are spread all around the city. In some cases there are little groups from the same ethnicity living in common areas as shown on Graph # 2. Nevertheless what makes the Chibcariwak a unique case in Colombia it is that besides undertaking is struggle in the city, it represents the interests of 19 different ethnicities, each one of them with particular characteristics.


The Cabildo Chibcariwak’s organic structure is composed by a Directive Committee, a Committee of Advisors and a Council of Justice. “The Directive Committee of the Cabildo is composed by the governor, a secretary, an accountant, fiscal, minor and major alguacil and a vocal. The Committee of Advisors is composed by one member of each community. The Council of Justice is also composed by one member per community and is in charged of solving the conflicts between the members of the Chibcariwak[43]. Usually it is the governor who imposes the punishment and decides the cases within the Cabildo but since the Chibcariwak is a multiethnic Cabildo when there are problems between members of one community is the representatives of that community itself who solve it in order to respect their values. None of the persons participating in this structure is paid” (Luis Fernando Yauripoma).


Concerning the financial resources and benefits received by the Cabildo Chibcariwak it is remarkable the amount of contracts signed by the Chibcariwak. From 31 contracts signed between indigenous organizations and the Municipality of Medellin during 9 years -from 1996 to 2005- to improve the situation of the indigenous population in Medellin, 21 were obtained by the Chibcariwak and only 3 by the OIA (Mendez 2005: 97-102). This adjudication of resources by governmental authorities shows the importance of being legally constituted as a Cabildo and politically positioned. According to the data provided by Giovanni Mendez in his research the other two Cabildos in Medellin without legal recognition did not receive any resources from the municipality by assistance programs (2005:97-102; Table # 4).

Concerning the goals of the Cabildo Chibcariwak I will just mention here that during their legal recognition in 1990 the journal El Colombiano quoted the objectives of the organization:

“1. Health: Our purpose in this topic is to claim the free health service due to the indigenous communities (resolution 10013 Ministry of health)

2. Education: The Cabildo will be in charge of presenting and linking the indigenous students living in the city or coming form the countryside with the academic institutions. For these goals the Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana and Universidad Nacional have played an important role”

3. Employment: The Cabildo will try to connect different governmental organizations and private companies with the indigenous persons that have acquired professional degrees.

4. Recreation: The Cabildo will establish cooperation programs with different recreation centers in order to benefit the children of the indigenous people.” (Own translation, El Colombiano 1990: 8B quoted in Mendez 2005: 97-102)


B. More than a struggle for the indigenous status    

The Chibcariwak and the OIA are immersed in a direct battle for being the only organization to represent the indigenous interest in the Antioquia’s political field. Giovanni Mendez when referring to the Chibcariwak in the interview said: “today there is a very serious problem because another parallel structure has been created [The Chibcariwak], and it is competing with the traditional one [the OIA], which in some cases is being suffocated and supplanted.”


Both organizations, but in particular the OIA with the support of its powerful pressure network, have mobilized the available resources to prove their indigenous identity and to keep –the Chibcariwak- or enhance -the OIA- their political position. Anthropology was used by both organizations due to the importance given by the state to scientific official recognition. The state considers science a neutral judge in the battle, forgetting that “sciences invoke scientific authority to ground in reality and in reason the arbitrary division they seek to impose” (Bourdieu 1995: 222-223/ Italics in the original). Nonetheless today anthropology does not share a unitary political project and therefore “one must analyze anthropologist works according to their practical political commitments” (Gupta et al 1999a:24). In the three interviews that I conducted as well as in the two anthropological concepts examined during the field work I found that anthropologists are aware of the power that their opinion carries in the actual constitution of legal indigenous identity as well as its validity in the political field. Giovanni Mendez as the official lawyer of the OIA shows a view of the Chibcariwak in which the individual and collective indigenous identity is questioned as well as the “legitimacy” in political and ethnic terms of the political organization they have constituted. On the other side, the anthropologist Rover Dover supports the claim of indigenous identity and community made by the Chibcariwak departing from a dynamic concept of identity and community.


In this battle the central government and the law have been mobilized by the ONIC and the OIA against the Chibcariwak. They argued that they do not represent a “truly” indigenous community and that they pervert the benefits that the state has conceded to the indigenous population[44]. Although the law 89 of 1890 and the decree 2164/ of 1995 do not state any other requirement to constitute a Cabildo than the recognition by its members and the local authority “the 5th November of the previous year [1999] the official resolution 5310 of the DGAI requested the municipality of Medellin the reversal of the recognition as Cabildo to the Chibcariwak. This request is in accordance with a directive established by the DGAI and ONIC in which the state does not recognize “the constitution and registration in the municipalities of multiethnic urban Cabildos that have been created by the association of people from different ethnic origins (Art.6 resolution 001/1999 ONIC). In that request the Cabildo Chibcariwak is retroactively derecognized as representing the indigenous community in its conformation as political organization according to Law 89/1890, Decree 2164/ 1995 art. 3, and resolution 001/ 1999 of ONIC as far as it does not accomplish the socio-cultural and political requirements to be constituted neither as Cabildo nor as indigenous community” (Own Translation from Rover Dover’s anthropological expertise). Since the Municipality of Medellin has not reversed its position and the governor of the Chibcariwak is still approved by the Major of the City as was the case of Luis Fernando Yauripoma, the ministry has recently decided by a resolution that even if the Cabildos are legally constituted with the recognition of the local authority, the recognition by the Ministry of Internal Affairs –DGAI- is necessary in order to obtain the social benefits that are given to their members i.e. affirmative action for entering into universities, free health and education service, exoneration of the military service, etc. While I was doing my research, the Chibcariwak received a communication from the Ministry in which it provisionally stopped recognizing the Chibcariwak for allowing its members to obtain the benefits mentioned before until the DGAI visited them to verify their real “status as indigenous”.

The OIA’s solidarity network has had a powerful effect on the recognition of the Chibcariwak’s status as indigenous organization and community, since it has not been recognized by many “traditional” cabildos and established indigenous organizations. Despite the fact that the refusal is not generalized and that it certainly depends on specific conditions, they have also faced another important issue concerning traditional indigenous authorities i.e. the refusal of some taitas”[45] to perform indigenous rites in urban spaces. They remark those rituals should be done only in rural environments.


As there are problems to be recognized as an indigenous community, there are also some close relationships with other indigenous communities that “for example transfer the jurisdiction of their members to the Chibcariwak while they remain in the city”. Going even deeper in this inside perspective of recognition, according to Giovanni Méndez in some “general assemblies of the Chibcariwak to which he has assisted there are some indigenous (Quechuas) that reproach or question the membership of some of the people to the Cabildo Chibcariwak belonging to specific ethnic categories (Emberra) since they do not think they are really indigenous because they do not have language, traditional clothes, etc. Either the “original indigenous” remain or abandoning the Cabildo they remark that they are “the real” indigenous people” (Interview Méndez). We can conclude that there are two different levels of conflict regarding recognition within the indigenous organizations in Antioquia. On the one hand there is a lack of recognition from other indigenous organizations[46] and on the other hand inside the Cabildo Chibcariwak itself there is a division between some that consider themselves “more indigenous” than others, based on understandings of culture. I argue that the latter does not affect the identity of people to this particular organization because they implicitly agree that the actual indigenous and indigenous organizations’ identities are constructed in the interaction both, among its members, and between its members and outsiders. This interaction is composed by action and resistance.


Before going into the next section two ideas must be clear: First, the relevance of The Chibcariwak’s case does not rely on its numbers, but on the threat it raises to the indigenous principles on which the OIA and ONIC have build their causes and achievements, which are the basis of the global indigenous movement. Second, that there are important inquiries to the Chibcariwak coming from the regional group –the OIA- in two senses: on one hand there are definitely questions –mistrusts- about the community and indigenous identity; on the other hand questions concerning the institution of the Cabildo Chibcariwak as a political indigenous organization being legally constituted” (Interview Méndez).


C.   From the “real” to the “political” Indigenous identity: Makes the Chibcariwak part of the Indigenous Social Movement?

Understating the construction of identities as part of a discourse created in specific time and space, allows a better understanding of the strategies designed by the Chicariwak in order to attain certain goals. When examining the cultural component that the interviewees of the Chibcariwak give to their Cabildo, one recognizes that values, consciousness of generic ethnicity[47], and common social conditions are the cornerstones of their foundation as a group. The common identity that binds them together in a collectivity does not come from inhabiting a common place in the sense of a reserve, or a limited place in the city, (see picture #2), neither does it come from common cultural practices, since they are 19 different ethnic categories, but it comes from shared values and social conditions. Conditions framed in their consciousness of belonging to the indigenous generic ethnicity since they share a common “imagined past and present” of resistance[48] that legitimate pursuit of political participation for better social conditions.


It is the absence of obvious cultural differences between the Chibcariwak and mainstream society this is questioned by the “traditional indigenous movement”. The OIA[49] following Vuciri, affirms that the ethnic origin in itself is insufficient criterion (1992: 414). As the transnational indigenous movement –the OIA- conceives identity rooted in culture, as their main battle strategy -and in that sense their groups perpetuate traditional cultural practices- for stating their difference and therefore justify their claim of autonomy and territory. There are other indigenous groups –the Chibcariwak- that challenging this understanding of ethnicity, also aim to make political use of their ethnic identity for claiming social justice.


The Chibcariwak deny the attachment of indigenous identity to territory: “That is a theory that is being support by them –the Nukaks, a traditional Colombian indigenous group. They say that if anyone goes out of an indigenous zone they are not indigenous anymore, but that is not true” (Interview Orozco). The Chibcariwak affirms that there is no such thing as an indigenous territory since “historically the indigenous territory is all of the Colombian territory” (Interview Orozco) and furthermore they affirm that “the rights are for the individual not for the territory” (Interview Yauripoma). The Chibcariwak challenges this conception that enables a “vision of territorial displacement as pathological” (Malkki 1999: 62) and that in many cases sees supralocal identities (diasporic, refugee, migrant and so forth) as spatial and temporal extensions of a prior, natural identity rooted in a locality and community” (Gupta et al 1999a: 7). This perspective derives from the migration to cities the lost of the language, traditional clothes, socialization in spaces of origin, and other important elements of their worldview or “common collective unconsciousness” (Faust 1990 quoted in Urrea, 1994). An indigenous group without these elements has loosen an important part of its culture (Bello et al 2000: 19-21).


Here I want to remark on some ideas expressed by Carlos Zapata and Giovanni Méndez –the OIA- concerning the territory issue. On one hand, they argue that it is not the identity that is attached to the territory but the autonomy. On the other hand, they hold the importance of autonomy for constructing the organization of the community according to their viewpoint. Although they recognize that ethnicity and culture do not involve each other, they question the Chibcariwak as an indigenous organization because it does not seek a cultural program but only the improvement of their social conditions: “They do not want to bring back the old culture…They are not worried about having a space for their rituals, but for having better housing, employment, health, etc” (Interview Zapata). The previous description shows the contradiction in their declared discourses that nonetheless does not question the solidity of their historical strategy where territory -as one can perceive in the last quote- is fundamental to theatrealized their culture and therefore to justify their differentness and need of autonomy: unidad, tierra, cultura y Autonomía. “Discourses are tactical elements or blocks operating in the field of force relations; there can exist different and even contradictory discourses within the same strategy; they can, on the contrary circulate without changing their form from one strategy to another, opposing strategy” (Foucault 1978: 101-2). In fact one can see that the territorial issue remains untouchable at the center of their interests when Carlos Zapata affirms: “one of the reason for which the national movement has not recognize the urban cabildos is because if one admits that indigenous have the same rights in the city than in the reserves, all of them will migrate to the city and the reserves will be empty. Then we ask: what is it going to happen? Is the territorial and autonomy claims going to finish?”


The second paradigm that the Chibcariwak challenges is the historical cultural continuity of indigenous identity represented in the traditional indigenous movement under the proposal of ethno-development. This concept has given great economic benefits to the transnational indigenous movement, as shown by Adolina in Peru and Ecuador (2005: 145,159), and has been embraced by the OIA in its development plan. Contrarily, the Chibcariwak sees culture not as a founding element on itself but one of the components that at any given moment they can support. When they refer to culture in their institutional documents, besides language, one notes that the meaning they give is to “promote the culture of ethnic diversity”, promote the “communitarian development” and lastly to promote the “cultural development” of many communities. I argue that although indigenous communities have been able to re-construct their identities during their struggle, it is impossible to demand a “pure” or total continuation of their “original” identity for two reasons. Firstly because official rules have set some conditions for protecting indigenous groups under western guidelines of cultural/ethnic minorities that have been incorporated by the indigenous groups for achieving protection. Secondly, because to demand complete historical cultural practices such as oral traditions, determined rites or even specific ways of relating to nature, to an indigenous group, implies an arbitrary determination of a past date as the reference point according to which one judges the indigenous character, and implies a “static” conception of culture, of an “authentic” indigenous identity (Anders 1997: 82).


The Chibcariwak challenges this discourse promoted by cultural pluralism approach that assimilates ethnic groups with external signs of cultural identity. This perspective, assumed by the Latin American Constitutions, has encouraged indigenous groups to emphasize external or theatrical elements of culture such as dressing, language, arts and even territory to be considered the core of culture.


Contrarily, the Chibcariwak make use of a discourse in which “otherness” is based on the values that express their worldview and binds them in a political ethnic organization, which does not necessarily present its identity in cultural practices -since some of them do not have any “real” meaning outside of the natural spaces. The Chibcaiwak concept follows more closely Hall’s understating of identity as a matter of “using the resources of history, language and culture in the process of becoming rather than being. It is not “who we are” or “where we came from”, so much as what we might become, how we have been represented and how that bears on how we might represent ourselves” (Hall 1996: 4). The Chibcariwak seem a good example of Hall’s statement, they do not aim to reaffirm the 19th century indigenous identity but they aim to construct an ethnic identity as they attempt to improve their social, economic and academic condition. For achieving these goals the Chibcariwak mobilizes its history, its “imagined past”, its imagined resistance, its imagine ancestors, and even in some cases its imagined traditions.


In that sense I argue that the ethnic identity of the Chibcariwak as a “social movement” is closely related with the resistance and their struggles based on a historical perspective of inequality. That although much has changed, from wild and mad people to poor, uneducated, without political participation, etc, the core idea remains as alive as it was before. “Representations of resistance play a crucial part in the legitimation struggle ... If one of the modes of operation of power is to attach identities to subjects, to tie subjects to their own identities through self-knowledge, then resistance serves to reshape subjects by untying the relationship” (Gupta et al 1999a: 20). I follow Castells argument that if the process of building a political identity –based on resistance in this case, is successful in the long term; it could create a collective and cultural identity (Castells 1997: 59). This idea is also presented by Rover Dover in his anthropological expertise in relation to The Chibcariwak: “[It is possible that] for a group that is socio-culturally constituted to suddenly point out that they are an ethnic group composed of 18 different ethnicities and reinvent themselves as a cohesive group”.


Although this affirmation may seem widely accepted, the political use of identity has not always been regarded as the foundation of the indigenous movements’ identity, but more as the result of a previous identitarian agreement on the basis of culture, territory, etc. under which operate the membership or not membership of a person to the movement. Although I argue that both the traditional indigenous movement and the Chibcariwak are constructed under that premise, the OIA’s slogan concerning this issue would be that “one’s [must have the] ability to use the prescribed languages that are taken as signs in that one is inherently “of” the group (Scott 1995: 10) while the the Chibcariwak’s would be more in accordance to my reasoning and would state “we will construct those signs in the struggle”. The identity of resistance “leads to the formation of communities in Etzioni’s formulation, against otherwise unbearable oppression. It is often on the basis of identities were, apparently, clearly defined by history, geography, or biology, making it easier to form boundaries of resistance” (Castells 1997: 8).


“It seems to be in the attempt to rearticulate the relationship between subjects and discursive practices that the question of identity recurs” (Hall 1996:2). That is what I have proposed here when linking the Chibcarwiak to a new conception of identity, while trying at same time to show how it can open new doors for understanding the indigenous mobilization outside of the indigenous movement concept, or at least within an enlarged one. The Chibcariwak is a grouping in which cultural difference is not stressed in its theatrical element but in its abstract and “moral” sense, and at the same time has allowed a construction of claims based on “imagined common elements” to capture resources in a milieu in which they have been discriminated.


When the Chibcariwak challenges the shift proposed by the indigenous movement based on unidad, tierra, cultura y autonomía, it is challenging the ethnic paradigm that has become dominant in the resistance strategy inscribed in the new social movements struggle. I state that when the traditional indigenous movement –the OIA- says that an indigenous organization is not “a legitimate representative of indigenous people”, they are not only denying its political status but also its indigenous identity. I conclude here that the Chibcariwak’s identity is not only being forged in resistance to outsiders –as the indigenous movement has always done- but to the transnational and powerful indigenous movement itself.


At this point it is clear that there is an incompatibility between the Chibcariwak and the transnational indigenous movement’s assumptions regarding identity, political claims and immediate goals. I argue that the Chibcariwak’s proposals contradicts the core of the transnatioanl indigenous movement, and therefore it is not possible to categorize the Chibcariwak as an “indigenous social movement”. The embracing of the Cabildo Chibcariwak’s proposal by the global indigenous movement will drive inevitable the latter to strong internal paradoxes that can play against its successful performance, struggle and achievements. Nonetheless if the reader persists in considering Chibcariwak as a social movement, I propose here only as a provocation to approach it in further analysis under the category of urban social movement with ethnic groundings.


Just as a brief introduction Castells argues that urban social movements are “processes of purposive social mobilization, organized in a given territory, oriented toward urban related goals”. Those movements he continues, “ have three main sets of goals:1) urban demands on living conditions and collective consumption; 2) the affirmation of local cultural identity; 3) and the conquest of local political autonomy and citizen participation” (Castells 1997: 60-61). Although the Chibcariwak my not stick strictly to this proposal if we understand the city (Mumford 1936: 4) as the struggle arena of a plurality of actors where power relationships are permanently being constructed, we can understand the proposal of the Chibcariwak for gaining some resources as an strategy for establishing itself and its member as competitive actors in a space with scarcity of resources as the Latin American cities, under a category already positioned, i.e. the ethnic groups.




The mobilizations of social actors for capturing the available resources in society include a wide variety of strategies and discourses. The discourse constructed under indigenous ethnic basis has been dominated since the emergence of the new social movements by the transnational indigenous movement. It has reaffirmed the cultural pluralism theory adopted by many states, by emphasizing cultural identity as the grounding for demanding a differentiated treatment i.e. own territory, autonomy, self-determination, etc. The strategy of the indigenous movement has positioned it successfully and nowadays it has direct access to scare resources. Those resources to which the indigenous movement at the global and national level has privileged access include among others: land, affirmative actions, exoneration from military service, participation in the state budget, free health and education service, etc.

The traditional indigenous movement in Colombia –ONIC- represented in Antioquia by the OIA has undoubtedly the monopoly of the ethnic discourse in the country, and therefore of the access to resources that discourse provides. The national movement is in a permanent reaffirmation of the indigenous identity through the performance of public acts that positions them as the official and original indigenous organization. In brief, the national indigenous movement passed from a permanent resistance in old times to a well established position of power from where they perpetuate the ethnic statuo quo discourse. Its current position within the political sphere has empowered it to the point that they have the capacity to point out who is doing an appropriated use of indigenous identity. The OIA and the Chibcariwak make use of different discourse directed towards same goals of better conditions to its members, but at the same time with different interpretation of what “those better conditions are”. This work shows how the former indigenous counter hegemonic discourse -ONIC, OIA- has been positioned in the worldwide, national and regional level at the point that any other groups claiming to be indigenous under different basis are denied and labeled as deviant or only interested in the benefits that an ethnic discourse can provide. I conclude that they are both groups pursuing legitimate goals: The ONIC –OIA- supported by the transnational networks of knowledge, political and legal mobilization. The Chibcariwak constituted as a “new minority discourse” with less capacity of mobilization since it is a minority discourse in the already minority indigenous discourse. Given the successful experience of the ONIC one can agree with Castillo when he affirms that “to maintain the identity according to circumstances plays an important role in the strategic use of ethnicity. This can be seen in the expressed effort of leaders, individuals and ethnic communities for mobilizing ethnic signs to access scare resources, both material and not material, that have been denied to them by the by the nation state” (Castillo et al 2002: 57).


I hold that the questioning the OIA –as “representative” of the transnational indigenous movement- to the Chibcariwak’s conception of indigenous identity relies on the direct challenge that it implies for the goals achieved and to be achieved by the national indigenous movement -ONIC. If one can accept an indigenous movement with no territorial grounding, a different concept of identity and to which the cultural discourses are not a priority[50] the statu quou groups of the indigenous movement can be threaten by a new Utopia, a Utopia that is directed towards social justice and in which the ethnic discourse is mobilized and transformed (see Tables # 5-7, Annexes).


The disputes between the OIA and the Chibcariwak are an expected result in the current political situation where as a consequence of the indigenous movement struggle, the indigenous identity today, contrarily to the groups of the 70’s and 80’s, is infused in politics. Identity roles and strategic reasoning of pressure networks (Andolina et al 2005: 136) play an important role in positioning within the power structure the claims performed by legitimate ethnic groups. Therefore the theatralization of cultural practices as an expression of a distinctive culture i.e. “the indigenous culture” is necessary in order to keep the benefits provided by the policies based on cultural pluralism. Especially in Colombian and Latin America where the Constitutional texts have embraced the cultural pluralism approach.


The Chibcariwak is reacting to new forms of domination of ethnic minorities, is reacting against the cultural and autonomic paradigm of the indigenous peoples imposed by the state hand by hand with the transnational indigenous movement. This “alliance” is nowadays blocking any other form of indigenous emancipation that is not done through the “legitimate” indigenous cultural canal. That new resistance, the one of the Chibcariwak, is being undertaken still using the ethnic discourse but in an urban context and therefore necessarily with different groundings and goals. The cultural and autonomy project proposed by the traditional indigenous movement –the OIA- is an unsustainable proposal for an ethnic group claiming social justice within the city.


Therefore the Chibcariwak has been obliged to modify most of the terms of the discourse, but still has not been able to leave completely aside the cultural discourse because, and here I recall Castells to close, “individuals bear their gods in their heart. They do not reason, they believe. They are the bodily manifestation of god’s eternal values, and as such, they cannot be dissolved, lost in the whirlwind of information flows and cross and cross organizational networks. This is why language, and communal images, are so essential to restore communication between the autonomized bodies, escaping the domination of a- historical flows, yet trying to restore new patterns of meaningful communication among the believers. This form of identity building revolves essentially around the principle of resistance identity” (Castells 1997: 66).


I argue that the Chibcariwak’s concept of identity and “social movement” challenges the current construction of the ethnic identity and organization of the traditional indigenous movement –the OIA- as culturally based, i.e. Culture as the political field and counter hegemonic element from where dominant ideas can be contested (Gramsci 1971; Raymond William 1977; Hall 1986). More than culture as the basis of identity, the Chibcariwak questions the concept of culture in which identity is grounded. Questions that are taken for granted, “rootedness of peoples and cultures in “their own” territories” (Gupta et al 1999a:7) or the land as a necessary space for culture, and in that sense challenges the expectation of historical continuity of traditional practices as the expression of the “truly” indigenous isolated and autonomic culture.


The Chibcariwak is leaving behind some of its ghosts, is bearing a double resistance, namely before the indigenous movement and before the outsiders of the indigenous movement; it is also reconstructing a new meaning of indigenous ethnicity, but today it is still incapable of positioning its social demands and discourse in the political sphere. This work aims to be a modest step to encourage future researches to questions the categories under which the new processes of indigenous identity and indigenous mobilization are being constructed, and especially, the urban indigenous mobilization.





Table # 1[51]

Estimated indigenous Population and its Percentages in Latin America[52]



















3 058 208(a)

5 600 000

4 133 134









1 500 000








998 385 (b)

692 192








744 048







3 800 000








3 476 684

4 600 000







48 789 (c)






Official Est.




5 282 347(c)

10 900 000

9 533 126








67 010(c)






194 269






29 482





9 000 000






314 772(d)


Source: (own Translation) Adapted from Peyser Y chakiel (1999), y de Aspectos conceptuales de los censis de 2000 CEPAL/CELADE, Santiago, p.361. a) Only population over 6 years old. (b). Population over 16 years old. (c) population over 5 years old. (d) indigenous Census. (e) Self-recognition. See Bello y Rangle (2000), p. 17. Quoted in Hopenhayn, M et al 20001: 14. The items marked with * were added by me based on official statistics.

Table #2

Total Indigenous Population and Territory by regions until June 1998








% POP.

% POP.


Area *


Dpt. **

Indig. ***









Total Nation

























































































































































































































































































































































Source:: DNP-UAEDT. Listed based-Ethnographic Guide of Colombia, 1998.

* Indigenous areas encompasses reservations –old and new-, reserves and partialities or communities.

** Dane: Population estimation for head town and regions, 1997.

*** DNP-UAEDT, Based on Post census study made by Dane, June 1997.

Nota: In the Column Ethnic grpups , where it is marked “0” the 1993 Census registered at least 8 persons from different ethnicities. Total ethnic groups: 80. Due t o the presence of the same ethnicity in different regions the data in that column can be added.

Taken from: Arango, R et al no date: 18





Table # 3

The 12 Regions with the Largest Amount of Indigenous Population 1998

Dane Census 93


without adjustment

% a)

% b)

Post census study 97

Population adjustment


% a)

% b)















La Guajira






























































































Source:DNP-UAEDT. Base GEC, 1998. a) regarding total indigenous population registered;

b) Accumulated. (Taken from Arango, R et al no date: 17)



Graph # 1

Indigenous Population / Percentual rate by Regions in Colombian Map, 2005

Zone de texte:






















Taken From Census DANE 2005: DANE





Graph # 2 Medellin Main Indigenous Ethnicities in the Map

Source: Mendez, Giovanni, Anthropologial Expertise: 2006






Partial Budgetary Report of Cooperation Programs Signed Between the Municipality of Medellín and Cabildo The Chibcariwak Between 1996 and 2003.



Amount in Pesos

Institutional Consolidation


Reform, adjustment, restoration and equipment


Recovery and Strengthening of the cultural patrimony of the urban indigenous population




TOTAL 616’232.675

Source: Mendez, G 2005: 105



Table # 5



The Chibcariwak



“How to read autonomy without territory of the urban cabildos? Interview Carlos Zapata, Lawyer THE THE OIA

Logic territory/ autonomy/ auto- determination


self-government without territory

Material and spiritual conception of territory

Territory as spiritual reference

Cultural reference based on the territory


“..For the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Direction of Ethnicities at the national level, the urban cabildos are not recognized. Certainly there is a fight between urban cabildos with them because they understand that to be indigenous one most remain attached to the territory”. Interview Cristofer Orozco, member and directive of Cabildo The Chibcariwak.



Table # 6



The Chibcariwak


Ethnicity and culture as political platform- Autonomy

Ethnicity doesn’t imply necessarily culture (author.)

Ethnical categories



Linked to Autonomy, Autonomy linked to terriory

Linked to values


Static. Ex. Etno-development




Table # 7



The Chibcariwak

Immediate Objectives

Recovery and titling of territories

Drug addiction and alcoholism

Alimentary programs and social welfare

Design of a life plan


Single mothers

Maintenance and expansion of cultural practices

Recovery of language and traditions conditioned to resources







Diagram # 1






































Regional culture,

Ministry of Internal Affairs,

Local Authority



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Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) online Webpage:


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Gobernación de Antioquia (Budget 2007):


Gobernación de Valle del Causa (budget 2007)



Income per Capita Medellín:


El Colombiano



Inter- American Court of Human Rights The Mayana (Sumo) Indigenous Community of Awas Tingi vs. The Republic of Nicaragua, Judgment of 31 August 2001.


Official Statistics

Argentina: Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos

Bolivia: Instituto Nacional de Estadística:

Chile: Instituto Nacional de Estadística

Colombia: Departamento Nacional de Estadística

Map indigenous percetages 2005:

Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática







[1] Here one can recall all the “postmodern” critique” to science as the teller or holder of the “truth” (for example: Santos Boaventura de Sousa Toward a New Common Sense: Law, Science and Politics in the Paradigmatic Transition and Crítica da Razčo Indolente. Regarding the role played by anthropology in Colombia and its influence in the Constitutional Court judgments read Libardo Arizaęs paper presented to the Berlin Law and Society Conference 2007 “We are indigenous too”: anthropological knowledge, indigenous subjectivity and constitutional adjudication.

[2] Antioquia is the 6th largest region in Colombia with 63,612 km² and with the second largest population (5,671.689 according to National Census 2005) after Cundinamarca, Bogota included. Antioquia is also considered to have the least mixed populations in the country and there are claims of being a “genetic isolate”, claim that has been scientifically supported by a recent molecular genetic research developed by the Universities of Arizona, Antioquia, Montreal and London where it is shown that the population in Antioquia presents a high predominance of European genes; and can be considered regarding for example surnames frequency “more isolated” that the most isolated town in French-Canada i:e Ile de la Madeleine (Bedoya, G et al 2006:7234-7239). Antioquia is considered to be one of the richest departments in the country. It produces 15.42% of the country’s GDP; Census 2005- holding the largest public budget for a region- 2,2 billion Colombian pesos for 2007 (see web page Gobernación de Antioquia); while the second, Valle del Cauca has 1 billion 134 thousand million Colombian pesos also for 2007 (see web page Gobernación del Valle).

[3] The concepts the Chibcariwak, the Cabildo Chibcariwak and the Cabildo are used indistinctively throughout this work to refer to the same organization.

[4] Among others: Oficio 5319, November 5, 1999 from DGAI; Art. Resolución 001, 1999 ONIC.

[5] Is the Capital city of the department of Antioquia in which metropolitan area -Valle de Aburra- lives around 57% of the people of the department -3.312.165-. (Census 2005; see Annexes). Medellin is the capital city of the country with the highest income per capita - US$ 3.794 (Proexport).

[6] Regarding case study design, Bryman mentions that” the most common use of the term associates the case study with a location, such as community or organization” (2004:49)

[7] A comparative design according to Bryman again, “entails the study using more or less identical methods of two contrasting cases. It embodies the logic of comparison in that it implies that we can understand social phenomena better when they are compared in relation to two or more meaningful contrasting cases or situations.” (2004:53)

[8] Defined as “a research strategy that comprises the collection of data on a series of variables (obs1, obs2, obs3...) at a single period of time, t1. The effect is to create a rectangle of data that comprises variables obs2, obs2 and cases case1, case2.

[9] The reference given by the people of the Cabildo regarding the membership of Cristofer Orozco to the cabildo is that: “Cristofer is not a member of the cabildo, but he helped us with the organization of the Cabildo. He is also the father of one of our members, so he could be consider a member by first degree indigenous’ blood relationship”. According to this and for the sake of the argument I will consider Cristofer to be a person defending the interest of the Cabildo and in that sense with membership to it.


[10] Not in the sense of “cultural constructions” as actual “choices” made by individuals or groups “by the need and opportunity to maximize self-interest” (Greenhouse 1994:1237) but in the sense that identities are the result of interactive process between different agents, interests and powers, contrarily to pre-given concepts with core essence (Castillo et al 2002:56)

[11] Mainly following Blumer, symbolic interactions is understood as the study of human behaviour –and the conformation of social groups- based on their permanent interaction with the others and as members of larger social groups. From that interaction is from where the meaning of individual and collective actions most be derived, from taking in account that due to their groups’ membership individuals’ actions may go beyond themselves. At this point, we can recall the three premises on which Blumer bases his construction of symbolic interactions: “1. human beings act toward things on the basis of the meaning that the things have for them; 2. meaning of such things is derived from the interaction that one has with one’s fellows and 3. these meanings are handle in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he encounters” (Blumer 1969: 2)

[12] Departing from constructed nature of identities, ethnicity, etc, there is a two ways communication among the social actors that allows the construction of the identity thought interactive discourses. In that communication language plays not only the role of referential function but it also has formative effects (Anders 1997:83)

[13] Not understood as a homogenous group but as one that shares key claims, developments and a history of oppression mostly under a colonial form.

[14] For further information, an interesting paper by Alan Brad presented in the Commission on Folk and Legal Pluralism in a 1992 Congress at Victoria University of Willington.

[15] The paper presented in Indigenous People and Constitutions in the Australian Reconciliation Convention 1997.

[16] I hold in this regard following Karskens that concrete identities are shaped in historical processes operating as well on the level of political and social practices as on the level of cultural experiences and values as on the individual and collective behaviour (1991:111)

[17] Nonetheless Christian Gross establishes for some countries links between the origin of the indigenous movements ethnically based with the Guerrillas of the late 60’s and early 70ęs (1991: 126-157)

[18] For regional examples see: Dávalos 2005:28; for Notheast Brasil Andino, A J M 1999: 200-201; Mexico-Michoacán see Zárate 1999: 250-251; Cauca CRIC-Colombia see Gross 1991: 171-200; for Bolivia – CSUTCB Andolina et al 2005:)

[19] For the sake of the argument I will restrict my interpretation of the Colombian indigenous movement to ONIC and the Antioquian indigenous movement to OIA

[20] Own translation: See Web page Étnias de Colombia, Section Organizaciones-Nacional

[21] Unity, land, culture and autonomy

[22] OIA documentation. Medellín-Antioquia, Colombia. Online at:

[23] These two tables are comparable since they were taken from the same source

[24] ReseĖa Histórica OIA-Medellín, available at:

[25] Regarding the difference between Social Movements and Groups of Interest, see LaraĖa 1999:96-99. In fact one of the critiques addressed to the Mobilization of Resources theory is that emphasizing this situation it makes almost impossible the differentiation between interests groups and new social movements, since the cultural and symbolic characteristics are not taken into account (LaraĖa 1999: 152)

[26] Alain Touraine problematizes the concept of “civil society” asking if it can be consider free from the mass media and the state power as well as able to reconstruct itself beyond the increasing diversity of demands of the market (1992: 135-145).

[27] I use here “concrete political field” meaning the institutional national or international system, in order to differentiate it from the political sphere in general that is also constituted by the public sphere and the civil society.


[29] MAS online Webpage:

[30] Miguel Carbonell in his very well known text “La Constitucionalización de los Derechos Indígenas en América Latina: Una aproximación teórica” raises a number of questions, concerning the possible tensions between community and individuals, national and indigenous law and the problems for identifying the indigenous subject.

[31] Interview conducted for this work on May 2007

[32] International Work group for Indigenous Affairs:

[33] See Étnias de Colombia - Documentation Center: (

[34] The opposition between the self and the other is not taken as the privation of identity, but “states the unlikeliness of situation or things in relation to each other. As Aristotle used to say: Everything in relation to every other thing is either the same or the other (Aristotle, Metaphysics X.iii, 1054b15)” (Karskens 1991:119)

[35] Similar argument is held by Dussel from a European perspective when he refers that modernity began in 1492 with the arrival of the Spanish in America allowing to Europe the confrontation with the “other” (Dussel 1994: 7-8 quoted by Dávalos 2005:21). Francesco Remotti nonetheless points out that this encounter has not meant the openness of Europeans to the extreme otherness, since “for the greater part it has constituted an experience of exploitation an annihilation of the otherness, the conquest” (own translation 1996:52). For Latin America Anibal Quijano in his text El “movimiento indígena” y las cuestiones pendientes en América Latina develops similar ideas as the ones proposed by Dussel.

[36] Objective elements of culture are those that allow a dramatization of resistance. The “evident” signs of difference i.e. language, rituals, cloths. etc.

[37] Here one may add that besides the narrative discourse –the history telling act-, indigenous movement also use what MariĖas describes as normative discourse -the discursive evaluation of the norms- and the argumentative discourse- the argumentation procedures taken during the deliberation (MariĖas, M 1995:117).

[38] Concerning the external cultural elements, Rover Dover argues that in Colombia the external signs of culture are central elements to categorize a group as indigenous or not. He mentioned that some time ago the DGAI was demanding universities the practice of anthropological expertises of indigenous groups that did not keep their external signs of culture, i.e. cloths, rites, etc. but that had territory in order to take them out of the indigenous list.

[39] Here I would like to recall the cultural reconstruction that a Muiscas’ group of people is doing in Bogotá. This ethnic category is said to be extinguished about two centuries ago. Nonetheless about 10 years ago a group of persons considering themselves not the “descendants of the Muiscas but the Muiscas themselves” have undertaken a systematically reconstruction of their ancestors culture in order to reproduce and reconstitute themselves as an indigenous group to claim their ancestral land. This reconstruction has been developed with the support of Anthropologist, sociologist, historians, etc. (Cabildo Muisca Bogotá 1999).

[40] The importance of this quote is that it makes part of the oral tradition of the Cabildo regarding its origin, although there are other sources, especially bureaucratic where one can find this information.

[41] Redacción Actualidad Étnica. Bogotá. Agosto 18 de 2006.

This information is also contained in the Chibcariwaks’ documents I was allowed to access.

[42] See Web page ONIC:

[43] Chibcariwak has the legal jurisdiction in Medellin and the metropolitan are of the city, while OIA has the jurisdiction in the rest of the department. Some have point out that the conflict between the two organizations is mainly based to this issue. Rover Dover affirms in the interview for example that “OIA has the jurisdiction over Medellin in their agenda and they will not stop until Chibcariwak disappears”.

[44] Diagram # 1 in Annexes shows the recognition issue of Chibcariwak as indigenous organization and community in all the levels.

[45] Taitas are traditionally some of the oldest members of the indigenous’ communities who have the knowledge to perform sacred practices or rites in general.

[46] In the interview of Carlos Zapata, the main OIA lawyer, he refers for example to Chibcariwak as an “organization that receives indigenous’ immigrants, being only a community of interests”.

[47] Both Yauripoma and Orozco affirmed several times during the interviews that first the members of the Cabildo identify themselves as indigenous and then as belonging to an ethnic category.

[48] Not necessarily understood as entirely outside of and against a well established structured of power as Grossberg suggest it has been (1996:88), but as being unable to participate in equal conditions of the power positions, at least in what is of their concern. The resistance identity according to Castells is“Generated by those actors that are in positions/conditions devalued and/or stigmatized by the logic of domination, thus building trenches or resistance and survival on the basis of the principles from, or opposed to, those permeating institutions of society, as Calhoun proposes when explaining the emergence of identity politics” (Castells 1997: 8)

[49] Giovanni Méndez will call them “indigenous inmmigrants

[50] For a comparative parallel between OIA and Chibcariwak regarding territory, identity and objectives see Tables # 5-7 in the Annexes.

[51] I rely on some secondary databases –official and non-official- that recognize their limitations concerning the different methodologies, criteria and variables on which they relied on to gather their data. This table gives a general idea of the numbers of indigenous population during the 90ęs in Latin America based on national censuses and estimations, as well as some updated numbers supported on recent national censuses.

[52] Another estimations: late 80ęs-early 90ęs See OrdoĖez J, E 1994:90-91.