Indigenous populations throughout the Americas have been continuously exploitation and marginalized since colonization

Indigenous populations throughout the Americas have been continuously exploitation and marginalized since colonization. Scholarly literature often perpetuates an image that these indigenous people were “passive victims” during colonization and that colonization was inevitable (Thigpen, 3). This characteristic as the “passive victim” remained after colonization as indigenous people, including in Bolivia, were described as ignorant and indifferent (2nd group, 5/24/18). This was a way for countries to justify their displacement, exploitation, and constant human rights violations towards these indigenous populations. However, the indigenous populations were not these “passive victims”, but were instead meticulously involved in great social and revolutionary movements that although were dangerous and fatal at times still exemplified their actions to fight for their livelihoods and selves. Nonetheless, it is important to not group indigenous movements as homogenous and acknowledge the differences in these movements that took place throughout Latin America. Comparing and contrasting the indigenous Zapatista movement from Mexico and the Bolivian indigenous movement allows for a concentration of their effectiveness and agency to social change in Latin America during times of corruption and globalization.
Both movements included respective indigenous populations in their efforts and were ignited by previous years of human rights violations of indigenous people and displacement from their lands. The Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN) was found in 1983 and was formed by the indigenous people who lived in Chiapas and included non-indigenous members of the Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (3rd group, 5/29/18). Precursors to the creation of the EZLN included the push by the Mexican government for foreign investment in order to create “economic modernization” during the 1980s and 1990s (3rd group, 5/29/18). This resulted in private businesses exploiting natural resources from Chiapas such as petroleum, lumber, and coffee which greatly benefited these businesses, but maintained the indigenous population of Chiapas at a disadvantage (3rd group, 5/29/18). Furthermore, in 1992, changes to Article 27, which protected indigenous land from sale, allowed for the privatization of ejido land which was communally used by indigenous people (3rd group, 5/29/18). The changed to Article 27 ignored the land entitlement from the indigenous communities involved in order to solidify foreign investment and profit (3rd group, 5/29/18). This resulted in the displacement of thousands of indigenous individuals who were pushed into the Lacandon Jungle (3rd group, 5/29/18). Disadvantages for the indigenous community prevailed as education opportunities were sparse, poverty rates were high, malnutrition was a constant, and there was very little access to medical services (3rd group, 5/29/18). These conditions were further magnified with the introduction of NAFTA in 1994, as indigenous farmers could not compete with the largely subsidized American corn in the Mexican market (3rd group, 5/29/18). This was a turning point for the Zapatistas according to Subcomandante Marcos and the same day that NAFTA was passed, the EZLN became public in order to fight against globalization and for indigenous peoples human rights, local autonomy over their natural resources, and a horizontal and participatory “community-based structures of authority” (1st group, 5/8/18 and 3rd group, 5/29/18).
Similar to the EZLN movement, indigenous populations in Bolivia suffered years of exploitation before their revolutionary movements. Even after Bolivia’s independence in 1825 which was thought to give rights to indigenous people, Bolivia’s government continued to oppress the indigenous population through policies like the “qualified vote” and the “Law of Expropriation” which further excluded and marginalized the indigenous community (2nd group, 5/24/18). This continued into the 1900s when indigenous communities were displaced by the government implementation of foreign investment which continued their loss of land and resources (2nd group, 5/24/18). After Bolivia’s loss in the Chaco War which ended in 1935, there was a formation of new political parties which influenced indigenous individuals to become more involved with politics (2nd group, 5/24/18). After years of human rights violations and government control of land and resources, the Revolution of 1952 with the support of indigenous labor unions resulted in the National Revolutionary movement which replaced the system where only a small group of people had control and benefits over the country and its economy (2nd group, 5/24/18). Although this was a positive outcome, indigenous people continued to not have human rights. During the 20 years of dictatorship and massacres, military continued to suppress indigenous people from their human rights (2nd group, 5/24/18). However, at the same time, the indigenous movement in Bolivia became more established with their fight for democracy, similar to the EZLN, and also for an acknowledgement of their cultures (2nd group, 5/24/18). Both indigenous movements were ignited by not only years of exploitation of indigenous populations, but by also foreign intervention in their home countries which privatized and took over land that had been previously used by these communities. With little support from their respective governments, the indigenous movements in Mexico and Bolivia pushed for democracy, land reforms, and human rights. Both movements were most prominent and most necessary during the 1990s and early 2000s due to the heightened foreign interventions in these countries and the continuous loss of their land during this time, but continue to have an impact, in present day.
Mobilization, actions, and even failures were imperative for the effectiveness of both movements. In 1990, indigenous groups in Bolivia united for the “March for Territory and Dignity” in order to demand their control over their land as more people were moving in and displacing them (2nd group, 5/24/18). This march was extremely effective as it resulted in an immediate response from the Bolivian government and the Agrarian Reform Law of 1996 which protected indigenous territories (2nd group, 5/24/18). This march also ignited more protests during the early 2000s. Two of these subsequent effective protests were the Cocaleros of 2000 and the Gas War in 2002 where indigenous people fought and protested against foreign investment and influence (2nd group, 5/24/18). The Cocaleros are the coca leaf growers in Bolivia and during this time the US funded efforts to destroy coca crops in Bolivia (2nd group, 5/24/18). As a result, the Cocaleros united with the indigenous movement in order to unionize and fight against this foreign intervention which would leave several workers unemployed, but would also prevent the use of coca by indigenous people who had cultivated and used the plant for thousands of years for medicinal, religious, and cultural purposes (2nd group, 5/24/18). This effort was significantly effective due to the coalition formed with the Cocaleros, indigenous people, and the MAS political party which formed out of the indigenous movement (2nd group, 5/24/18). Furthermore, in 2002 the indigenous population also fought against the Bolivian government’s efforts to export natural gas to the US (2nd group, 5/24/18). Indigenous people demanded the rights of sovereignty and control over land rights and natural resources (2nd group, 5/24/18). These efforts were further effective as in 2006, President Evo Morales who was the leader of the MAS party nationalized all gas reserves (2nd group, 5/24/18). In 2009 a new constitution was established in Bolivia by Morales which granted equal rights and representation to both men and women (2nd group, 5/24/18).
The EZLN faced similar threats of foreign intervention and land exploitation around the same time as the indigenous people in Bolivia which similarly ignited actions and demonstrations in Mexico. One of the main goals of the Zapatista movement was to challenge neoliberal policies which promote these foreign interventions (3rd group, 5/29/18). The Zapatista uprising which took place in 1994 was a rebellion coordinated by the EZLN as a response to the NAFTA agreement (1st group, 5/8/18). With the introduction of NAFTA Article 27 was amended and the formerly indigenous landholdings which were protected from sale were now open for sell to foreign investors such as the US (3rd group, 5/29/18). On January 1, 1994 the EZLN declared a state of war against the Mexican government (3rd group, 5/29/18). During this uprising the EZLN occupied many city centers and fought for twelve days (3rd group, 5/29/18). Unlike the protests and uprisings from the indigenous movement in Bolivia which were extremely effective, this uprising were only effective for a short period of time. Although the result of the uprising was an agreement between the EZLN and the Mexican government, the San Andres Accords, which granted autonomy and acknowledgment to the indigenous population of Mexico, the Mexican government eventually reversed these agreements and did not fulfill the agreements in this accord. However, the effectiveness of these efforts by the indigenous movement in Bolivia in comparison to EZLN efforts in Mexico cannot solely be attributed to the actions and strategies by these respective indigenous movements, but can instead be attributed to their governments. The Bolivian government was eventually aligned with the efforts of the indigenous people due to President Evo Morales who was the leader of the indigenous supported MAS party and was the first indigenous president (2nd group, 5/24/18). Evo Morales pushed for the representation of indigenous people which significantly helped the efforts of the indigenous movement and pushed for women’s rights (2nd group, 5/24/18). In contrast, the Mexican government was not supportive of the efforts of the EZLN and was rarely accountable for the agreements they made. The Mexican government was more preoccupied with protecting the interest of global capital. However as a result of this failure, the EZLN restructured their revolution approaches since they believed the state was not the only power structure (3rd group, 5/29/18). The EZLN was then instead concentrated in challenging capitalism and globalization. In order to move away from the old ideology of fighting the state, they opted for self-government and created their own laws and a created a “community-based” structure to their self-governance which allowed for their community to best create solutions for their own specific needs (3rd group, 5/29/18). Although not all the actions in the EZLN movement were effective in the sense of state change, the EZLN was effective in their efforts of self-governance with many non-Zapatistas going for the EZLN for land disputes over assistance by the Mexican state because the members of the movement were characterized as being more equitable, accessible to indigenous people due to language, and would not punish those who sought help (3rd group, 5/29/18). The EZLN was also effective in their autonomy through the establishment of thirty-eight self-governing spaces called the Zapatista Autonomous Rebel Municipalities in Chiapas (3rd group, 5/29/18).
Furthermore, both movements were effective in igniting other movements from their work. From the Bolivian indigenous movement came out the women’s movement in Bolivia. The women’s movement was mostly made up from involvement and leadership of indigenous women. The fought against economic disparities caused by foreign intervention and patriarchal practices in Bolivia. This movement was effective in the creation of networks between indigenous women. By influencing these movements to arise through the effective empowerment of the Bolivian indigenous movement more progress towards human rights and representation has occurred in Bolivia. Similarly, because the Zapatistas had taken a global approach to the problem of neoliberalism they garnered several transnational ties. The EZLN movement was effective tackling local issues through a global framework which allowed for influence of movements in other countries such as on December 2001 in Argentina (3rd group, 5/29/18).
All in all, although not all efforts of the EZLN movement were successful, both indigenous movements were effective in navigating their own different social and government contexts. This perseverance from members of the movement signified the effectiveness of the movements and their significance to their respective countries in pushing for social change.

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