Political Representation, Policy & Inclusion NINA AGRAWAL, RICHARD ANDRÉ, RYAN BERGER, AND WILDA ESCARFULLER
in tackling inequality, poverty lines
still fall along racial and ethnic ones,
with Indigenous and Afro-descendant populations disproportionately
represented among the poor.
The transitions from military rule to
democracy in the late 1970s and 1980s
brought in their wake race- and ethnicity-based social movements, civil
society groups and even formal political parties inspired by a newfound
sense of civic participation. At the
same time, growing public awareness
of the needs of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples was fueled by international support—most notably, by
Convention 169 of the International
Labour Organization (ILO) on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. Assisted by
A RISING TIDE
Today, self-identification by Indigenous and Afro-descen- dantsin Latin America is atan
historic high. In Central America and
the Andes, Indigenous peoples make
up a significant share of the population: 62 percent in Bolivia and 41
percent in Guatemala (although unofficial estimates put Guatemala at
about 60 percent). In Ecuador and
Colombia, Indigenous peoples represent a smaller share of the population ( 7 and 3 percent, respectively),
but both also have substantial Afro-descendent populations ( 7 and 11 percent, respectively). 1
The willingness of Indigenous
and Afro-descendant peoples to self-identify is relatively new. Social and
political identities began to shift
during the 1980s and 1990s, bringing about corresponding changes in
mobilization. Among Indigenous and
Afro-descendant groups, there was
a newfound awareness and willingness—pride, even—to self-identify. 2
And the political environment and
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012
institutional and legal reforms in individual nations, Indigenous and Afro-descendant representatives began
to formally participate in local and
national politics. Today, the region
boasts numerous elected Indigenous
and Afro-descendant mayors, municipal councilors, state and national legislators, governors, and even presidents
in the case of Peru and Bolivia.
But are representatives elected
from Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities better at representing the demands and serving
the interests of those populations?
To answer these important questions, we conducted field research
in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and
Guatemala. All four countries have
climate of democratic rights created
by the transitions to elected governments provided a sustained, fertile
ground for new voices and demands.
that established local elections.
The Afro-descendant movement,
which we examine in Colombia and
Ecuador, developed later. They had
suffered from greater fragmentation,
a less clearly articulated sense of collective identity and a less coherent
set of demands than the Indigenous
Indigenous peoples in Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Guatemala have
been largely rural. For many of the
groups that emerged in the late 1980s
and 1990s, popular and political identity were closely bound to the preservation of cultural and linguistic
traditions and tied to ancestral lands.
In contrast, Afro-descendant communities tended to be more dispersed
across rural and urban communities.
As a result, by the time constitutional reforms were implemented in
a number of countries, their Indigenous peoples had already mobilized
sufficiently to participate in the constituent assemblies and help shape
the resulting constitutions.