Indigenous Peoples’ Claims ARE POLITICAL

For some time, indigenous peoples in El Salvador have been demanding recognition. Indeed, until recently, the mere existence of indigenous peoples was denied by the Salvadoran state and by Salvadorans at large.

Since the Funes administration came into power, there has been more recognition of indigenous peoples. After all, there have been a number of efforts at recognizing indigenous peoples (support for native language programs, apologizing for the 1932 massacre against indigenous peoples and setting up an indigenous affairs bureau).

However, the purpose of this post is to challenge the Salvadoran state that recognition is not an end, but a means to an end. Indigenous peoples demand recognition because they want to influence the way in which the Salvadoran state is managing the natural, social, political and economic spheres.

Natural environments are subject to appropriation and exploitation, as is seen in the way that land is developed without any care for the environment. I recently saw a report on proposals that tried to set up a new garbage dump in the town of Izalco. According to the mayor, there were “no environmental impacts” as a result of this new dump. One of the most important things for indigenous peoples is their natural environment and their coexistence (harmonic relations) with nature. The dump’s characterization as having no impact on the environment is simply false and the lack of investigation into the environmental effects shows how little the present administration values indigenous voices. Actually recognizing indigenous peoples implies listening and being responsive to their concerns, which in this case is the health and sustainability of the Earth.

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