Max Cameron is so positive this week! I feel like he was delivering his interview responses with a small smile and a twinkle in his eye. Though we definitely have to be cautious that we don’t paint the future with an overly optimistic brush (think Creelman), there are some encouraging developments since the 1980s. What I thought was most significant was that the indigenous seem to be gaining a measure of agency, or at least are able to speak more freely than ever before. Though violence and inequality is still there, the inequality gap is shrinking in Latin America, even as it widens in the United States. More and more states are attempting to help the poorest (often indigenous) and are addressing some of the humanitarian violations that have gone unchecked for centuries. Indigenous communities are able to voice their wishes for self-determination and basic rights. There is a long way to go before these wrongs are righted (if they ever truly can be), but the ability to speak without violent repercussions is a positive milestone.
One of the most encouraging aspects of this week’s material was the concept of “buen vivir,” a concept brought by the indigenous meaning that we should strive to live well in harmony with nature, as opposed to the Western model of progress, which emphasizes “getting ahead” and economic growth. This concept has even been written into the constitutions in Ecuador and Bolivia! After reading so many accounts of abuse, violence, and silencing of the indigenous, this development felt like finally taking a full breath. We’re getting somewhere.
Of course, we can’t let ourselves believe that the struggle is over. There is still massive corruption, violence, and power imbalance. But maybe we can allow ourselves to hope that things may be turning around in Latin America. With the example set by Hugo Chavez (that social programs can be effectively implemented) and in Brazil (redistributive policies can function in Latin America), the hope is that the Latin American narrative will change from one of corruption and hopelessness to one of strength and fairness. Gradually. These things take time (and are never fully realized).
My question this week is: If neither a drug economy nor an extraction-based economy are sustainable options, how can Latin America participate on even footing in the global market?