Working Paper #238 — July 1997Over the past two decades Latin America has experienced a wave of political organizing within and across indigenous communities. Indigenous communities have formed national and international indigenous peasant confederations, indigenous law centers, indigenous cultural centers and, more recently, indigenous political parties and platforms. To challenge the historical image of Indians as a submissive, backward, and anachronistic group, these newly formed organizations have declared, embraced, and mobilized around their indigenous identity. They have established translocal indigenous ties, voiced demands on behalf of indigenous communities, and mobilized to pursue those ends. 1 Demands include, among other things, the right to territorial autonomy, respect for customary law, new forms of political representation, and the right to bicultural education. Organizations have articulated these demands in the streets as well as in the halls of state ministries and legislatures. While the specific characteristics of the organizations and agendas vary considerably, they have collectively demanded changes so that their democratic individual rights may be respected and that new collectively defined indigenous rights be granted. In short, they are contesting the practice and term
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