ethnic identities

In this paper, I’m asking you to think about the various ethnic identities expressed in the Andes and how life is changing in Sonqo, in Camahuara, and in similar places.

We’ve explored the ideas of ethnic identity in Latin America in terms of local identities (ayllu runakuna) and national identities (indioindigena). In that discussion, I quoted a man in Guatemala as saying that even when the people of communities like Sonqo aren’t Indians anymore, they’ll still have those local identities. On the other hand, toward the end of the book The Hold Life Has focuses on changes in the community of Sonqo in the period after Katherine Allen’s initial fieldwork. In it, a resident of Sonqo says, “No somos indios ahora” (“we’re not Indians anymore”).

So, what’s going on in Sonqo and places like it regarding these identities, both local (runakuna) and national (Indian)? Do you think the people of Sonqo and of Camahuara from the movie would agree with the assertion that local identities outlive the “Indian” identity? To answer that you might address the sorts of identities people feel themselves connected to; the identities their children and grandchildren feel; and whether outsiders (mestizos) would agree with those assessments. To answer this, you’re going to have to read ahead to the end of the book (which is due about the time this is anyway).

What do you think will happen in the future, after the end of the book? Do you foresee that a new indigenous identity like that we see in the United States might arise? Or are “Indian” identities (both nationally and those local identities) disappearing for good in Latin America? Does the rise of indigenous leaders like Evo Morales in Bolivia, who is indigenous (Indian) and was a leader of the legal coca-growers union, change that perspective? I’d note that another published paper observed that in Bolivia “people who speak indigenous languages (or people with indigenous ancestry) who participate in trade associations, including peasant organizations, frequently, or even occasionally, tend to self-identify as indigenous at much greater rates than do indigenous language speakers (or people with indigenous ancestry) who never or almost never attend such meetings.” (Raúl Madrid, Politics, Socioeconomic Status, and Indigenous Identity in Latin America: The Bolivian Case, 2006, But I’m interested in your thoughts; make an argument one way or another.

Write your thoughts about this in a single, well organized paper; 5 pages requirement to be a typical length. A good paper will: (1) discuss what runakuna and Indian have meant historically, (2) discuss recent changes in Sonqo and places like it that have altered how people think of themselves in terms of those identities, and (3) address the questions in the two paragraphs above. The third section should be at least half the paper.

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