October 12, a claim that lasted five centuries

While in Spain, October 12, Columbus Day is celebrated and considered a national holiday, in Latin America the anachronistic concept of “Día de la Raza” has largely been left aside.

October 12 is the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity in Argentina, in order to claim the importance of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, modifying another presidential decree from 93 years ago, when in 1917 Hipólito Yrigoyen imposed this date as a national holiday in commemoration of the “Día de la Raza”.

Mexico, since 2019 commemorates the Day of the Pluricultural Nation. In Cuba, the arrival of the conqueror Christopher Columbus in America is called the Meeting of the 2 Worlds, but no commemoration takes place because for Cubans “there is nothing to celebrate”.

Costa Rica celebrates Day of Cultures. In Nicaragua, it is the Day of Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance. Guatemala, in 1995, declared October 12 National Unity Day, to recognize the contribution of indigenous peoples to societies. And the Dominican Republic commemorates the Day of Identity and Cultural Diversity.

Venezuela since 2002 and by decision of the then President, Hugo Chávez, commemorates the Day of Indigenous Resistance while in Ecuador it is the Day of Interculturality and Plurinationality. Peru celebrates the Day of Native Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue, with the aim of revaluing ethnic and cultural diversity, on the basis of equality, respect and cooperation. In 2011, President Evo Morales instituted Decolonization Day in Bolivia. While Chile celebrates the Day of the Encounter between 2 Worlds, and Uruguay the Day of the Americas.

The original peoples, in letters and numbers

According to Unicef ​​data, Latin America is home to 522 indigenous peoples who speak 420 different languages, of which 103 (24.5%) are cross-border languages ​​used in two or more countries. Among them stands out Quechua, which is spoken in seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

Latin America has the greatest linguistic wealth in the world. But, according to Unicef, almost a fifth of the people have stopped speaking their language and this risks losing part of the Latin American identity and culture.

“Nothing to celebrate” “The invasion is not the discovery” “Abya Yala resists” are some of the phrases that two women hung on the monuments of Isabel La Católica and Cristóbal Colón in the capital of Granada, in Spain. With red paint they drew bloody hands. Granada police took little time to remove the posters and clean up the graffiti: the paint was waterproof. But the two women were arrested “for the alleged commission of a crime against historical and cultural heritage”.

For countries like Spain, October 12 is a day of celebration. This is established by a law that celebrates “the historic anniversary in which Spain (…) begins a period of linguistic and cultural projection beyond European limits”. With a military parade through the streets of Madrid, the Spanish monarchy likes to say that it celebrates the discovery of America.

This not at all innocent insistence on qualifying a discovery as genocide, is far removed from the concept that environmental and environmental organizations and activists have been promoting for decades: ecological debt. This concept is based on the idea of ​​environmental justice: if all the inhabitants of the planet are entitled to the same quantity of resources and the same portion of environmental space, those who use more resources or occupy more space (countries from the north) have a debt to others (those from the south).

And in this claim, the 500 years of plunder by European colonizers in Latin America pays interest.

The power that environmental activism has acquired in recent years has meant that this year, at the Parliamentary Preparatory Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) held in Rome, the Argentine delegation raised the ecological debt that the great powers have vis-à-vis climate change, for example.

Until 11 years ago, the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America was also celebrated in Argentina. For five centuries we celebrated Columbus Day and in the schools they told us about the feat of Columbus and showed us caricatures of a very European white man shaking hands with a black-haired man in a loincloth, a feather on his head and a spear in his hand. All very friendly (and racist).

It took more than 500 years for Race Day to become Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity, a date more in tune with the struggles and demands that indigenous peoples have been carrying for five centuries.

Peoples who were not only invaded and massacred from the 15th century, but colonization took other forms in modernity: we see it all the time in the south of the country, where the Mapuche try to recover ancestral territories , occupied by landowners and private corporations, and resist police, judicial and media attacks. We saw it with the assassination of Rafael Nahuel and with the persecution of communities. We see this in the extractivist model.

Racism and colonization are not things of the past. José Luis Espert expressed it very clearly: “Tomorrow, October 12, normal human beings celebrate, like all life, Race Day. And there’s nothing racist about it. The Kirchnerist drugged monkeys, who knows what linguistic monstrosity they are going to celebrate”. He talks about normal human beings, Columbus Day and drugged monkeys. It was said by a candidate for national deputy.

The anti-racist resistance of October 12

October 12, original people, indigenous people, extractivism, capitalism, massacre, respect, diversity

While in European countries we celebrate “Hispanidad” and the colonial genocide, from the south of the world the decolonial and anti-racist movements are heard.

part of society criminalizes them and tries to make their struggle invisible, they don’t need white people to give them a voice. They have their own voice. They know our sad and unjust porteñocentrisme and for this reason, in addition to resisting in the territories, they organize actions in Buenos Aires to have more visibility.

Like the historic march organized this year by the Movement of Indigenous Women for Good Living, during which representatives of 36 indigenous nations traveled 2,000 kilometers from the north and south of the country to Buenos Aires, to shout Enough Terricide.

They also organized today the first multinational strike and a rally in solidarity with indigenous peoples which will take actions throughout the country. It is not an appeal to the original peoples alone, they specified: it is to all of society. They denounce the emergency situation experienced by the various communities, a consequence of the extractivist economic model, situations of gender-based violence against women and girls, and job insecurity.

In 2006, Argentina sanctioned the Indigenous Territorial Emergency Law, to survey the lands occupied by indigenous peoples throughout the country. The investigation was to be done in three years, but since it was never completed, the law was extended three times: in 2009, 2013 and 2017. On November 23, the last extension expires.

According to official data from the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI), of the 1,760 indigenous communities identified throughout the country, only 745 have been investigated. In other words, 57% of the communities were not yet.

This law also suspends evictions from lands traditionally occupied by indigenous communities until registration is complete. Something that, as we see month after month, would not be fulfilled. We receive daily communications from indigenous people denouncing the evictions, repression and violence.

Nothing to celebrate, a lot to hear from the communities that no one has “discovered”: they inhabited the territory long before with their own rules, cultures, languages ​​and knowledge of the land.

We recommend that you follow IdentidadMarron on Instagram, which this year, for the second time, has organized Brown October, a series of activities to resignify the “Discovery of America” ​​and transform it into an event where indigenous communities are commemorated and celebrated.


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