Radical media, politics and culture.

Michelle Amaral da Silva, “Our Bolivian Model is not Communist, but Community Based”

“Our Bolivian Model is not Communist, but Community Based” Michelle Amaral da Silva

Fernando Huanacuni, one of the most important Aymara intellectual references in Bolivia, defends that the foundation for the process of change in the country is structured around the return to their original culture.

Fernando Huanacuni, uma das principais referências intelectuais dos aymara na Bolívia, sustenta que a base do processo de mudança no país está na retomada de culturas originárias

The current Bolivian political process has undoubtedly attracted the attention of the Brazilian left. The high level of protagonism from popular movements in national politics and the fact that the country elected an indigenous President, the fierce confrontations with a racist elite – which renders a state coup a plausible possibility – their international struggles to assure sovereignty over their natural resources, the strong presence of the ethnic component as the motto for mobilizations, the changes in the Constitution of a country that now defines itself as a Plurinational State, among other elements, attract attention to Bolivia, giving it credentials as the main political laboratory now.

The originality of the process however makes it difficult to understand, from classical analysis. If it is difficult to systematize the diversity of organizations facing large capitalists in the country, imagine the task of understanding the project behind each and every one of them. If we focus on the indigenous movement alone, leaving aside other popular movements, trade unionism and party organizations, we will see a massive plural organization, composed by cultures born at least five thousand years before western thought. (Bolivian plurinationalism recognizes 36 original peoples). The interview with the Aymara intellectual Fernando Huanacuni, is a sample of the Bolivian political mosaic.

Brasil de Fato – During a seminar about original cultures, you said that we are living in “times of change” and this change is not only political, but much more. What were you talking about?

Fernando Huanacuni – The original indigenous thought, not only in Bolivia, but in other countries, such as the Amazon peoples in Brazil, they all have the same explanation, the same projection of history. There are cycles in life. The night ends, the day starts. In one year, there is a time for drought, rain, cold . But those are small cycles. There are much bigger cycles, which individuals are not aware because they only live 80, 90 years. There are 500, one thousand, four thousand , 20 thousand, 40 thousand year cycles. One sun has a four thousand year history cycle, being two thousand years rising and two thousand years waning. Thus, there are the days of history and the nights of history. The rise is the Day of history and the wane is the night of history. For us, in 1992 (which in Aymara calendar corresponds to the year 5,500) a Sun ended. So history will begin rising again.

But how is it going to rise?

Our grand-parents, from different indigenous cultures, knew about these cycles, of the rebirth of the Sun, and they started to organise. In 1992, different peoples gathered to stat this new Sun. Ancient cultures specially kept values and principles, and that is what is rising now, because it is necessary, it is a matter of life, not only something political or social. Even though what we see most is the political aspect, the spiritual, the offerings, ceremonies, those are the fundamental bases of all political, social, juridical, economic and educational power.

But this organization propelled since 1992, are these values and part of the living culture of those peoples?

In the 80s, when we were going to Willkakuti (Aymara´s New Near) in Tiwanaku, there weren´t many of us, but there was some people. Just to give you an idea, before in the 70s, 50s, 40s, 30s, in the 1900s, there were just celebrations in the houses, with our grand-parents, nothing else. But the ceremony never disappeared. In 1992, we gained power, and now there are more people. This year there were 20 thousand people. In Mexico – in Teotihuacan, Tchenltza – even in England there were similar ceremonies. In Peru, Colombia, from North to South, there were ceremonies. They are simply not talked about by the media. Here, they are starting to talk about it a bit, because the movement is already stronger.

What are the ceremonies for?

To remind humans that they have a heart, that the father Sun exists and that there´s a mother earth. We want to remember that it is very important to be grateful. We do not live alone. I work, you work, but that is not what life is for. There´s life because there is a Sun, there is the rain, seeds, rivers, mountains, trees. We must awaken and understand that life is complementarity and reciprocity of the whole, a perfect balance. If we destroy one part, we will destroy everything.

Here we say Pachamama, or Mother Earth. In other parts, indigenous peoples say Mother jungle, Mother water. Therefore, it is identified that we are not human beings and nature, but part of nature, we are not superior. This way of thinking is present in the ancient culture. The rebirth of the time is inviting us to go back to this old way of thinking. We cannot cause more harm to mother earth, this is the first message. All indigenous peoples, from Alaska, are mobilizing in defence of life. We are inviting all States to turn its policies, its decrees, its constitutions. So far, only the constitutions of Equator and Bolivia recognize the existence of mother earth, while all the other constitutions only speak about Human Rights. That is not feasible, because life is not only human.

Many government speeches in Bolivia talk about decolonization, especially those linked to cultural policies. This decolonization means to rescue the ancient culture?

We have to look at what colonization brought to us. The process of colonization individualized thought, desensitized us. We no longer feel for a fellow human being, least to say for animals, mountains. It one has food to eat, it does not matter if others have nothing to eat. The process of decolonization now has to sensitize, has to naturalize us and bring us back to the community concept. For people with western thinking, the sun is simply a star, nothing else. For us it is father Sun, and we refer to it with respect, because its energy gives life. When mother Earth awakes, we give food to her, because it is not simply an inert object, but a living being. So, we have to awaken people. We are isolated in our own houses and apartments in cities, disintegrated. We must reconnect what colonization has disconnected.

My grand-mother did not speak Spanish, she spoke Aymara. In reality, she spoke Pacha-aru, the language of life. She spoke with animals, the wind, and understood its different ways of blowing. My mother also speaks Pacha-aru, I can only speak a little. You must have seen in the media that during the Tsunami, animals in the region retreated to the centre of the island two days before the tragedy. What did the tragedy do to them? CNN? Animal Planet? No, Pacha-aru. And what did humans do? Applied Sun Tanning lotion and went to the beach.

And today, what relationship countries in Latin America which have had their cultures colonized should establish with countries with colonizing cultures, from European origin?

First, I would say that Latin-Americans have to meet as indigenous peoples, and then enter in dialogue with Europe. Their thought does not relate to the indigenous movements, they have rendered the indigenous movement invisible because they thought it was inferior. They simply imitated Europe. They call it Latin America, you see. For us, we are Abya Yala which is how we have called our continent for thousands of years: we have more dialogue with Europeans than with Latin-Americans

Why is that so?

Because Latin-Americans want to be like the Swiss, the Germans, the English, Italians, and continue in the process of colonization. Indigenous peoples from the Amazon still fight miners. They destroy forests, destroy mother trees, father trees, they CUT them and send them to the western world. For us they are the grand-mothers, grand-fathers, they are life, they are our masters. Indigenous peoples cried a lot and continue crying because they have unbalanced everything. Europeans are getting more worried. Europeans became aware about pollution. They have reached the peak of their capitalism, of the development in modernity, they have reached the abyss and they know that this is not the answer. This model left them ill and they are now seeking alternatives, that´s why they intently seek for advice from indigenous peoples. They came here to get our architects, not those who have graduated from the University, but those who work in the field, to learn adobe techniques (houses built with mud). Europeans know that in these houses they don´t get ill so frequently. But, someday, when modernity can no longer offer answers, Latin-Americans will realize that the answer was right there, beside them, they only refused to listen to us because they think that we are not very intelligent.

Beyond the indigenous movement, do you not see a joint process of decolonization in Latin-America ?

There´s confusion now between socialists and indigenous peoples. When Evo Morales rose to power, Chavez said that he was his indigenous brother, in his speech for socialism of the twenty first century, in his “left” way of thinking, which is western. But in Venezuela, they have recently discovered indigenous peoples. Many think that the Bolivian movement is socialist, but it is an indigenous movement. Our model is not communist but community based.

But the party organised by the president is called Movement towards Socialism [Movimento ao Socialismo (MAS)].

Yes but the word MAS was bought, nothing else. It was registered in the National Electoral Court and it was lent to Evo could run as a candidate, it was circumstantial, you see? We think that socialism, communism and capitalism are all the same. Because they only think about humans, they are individualists, homogenizing and materialists. You will not see a communist involved in ceremonies, you will not see them honouring his ancestors, will not see him looking after his lhaminha. Or rather they will raise llamas because it is a good business to make money.

There are Marxists who profess a faith. In Brazil, for example, there are Marxists who maintain Christian religiosity. You can say that Christianism is also western, but there are Marxists who maintain Afro originated beliefs. Don´t you see some connection with Marxists?

We start from premises. When we talk about community, we are not talking about humans alone. Community is everything: animals, plants, stones. Not for sale. For example, there are Marxists in the Bolivian Government. Well, our country has very big reserves of Lithium and its prospection is the target of a lot of speculation. Lithium could make Bolivia powerful. But the indigenous world does not want to exploit Lithium. Marxists do, they only think in material terms. We prefer to exploit what is important for the balance of life. But Marxists don´t think that way. To change the course of a river, the Marxist would simply bring tractors. Indigenous peoples say “no, hold on, wait, let’s ask for permission from our ancestors and see if it is good”. A Marxist will say “of course it is good, we will produce here”. They do not see the importance of the spiritual, they do not fell it. That is why they do not understand.

And within those premises, what to do with life in the cities?

You must look for that answer in Europe. They are looking for alternatives. But the indigenous movement is not only from the countryside, it is a way of life and an invitation to live with respect. The mountains are melting. There will be shortage of water. And that will affect everyone, white, mestizos, indigenous people etc. That is why we need new political ways, the current ones do not allow for solutions. This is everyone´s responsibility. The west is seeking answers and indigenous peoples are giving those answers: is order for everyone to have food, we must produce along the cycles of nature, not with chemical elements, or abnormally or anti naturally. Original peoples are warning that the changes in history are also changes in the cycles of nature. Therefore, we must take advantage of this moment and return to the community paradigm and its pedagogical, juridical and government model. Here for example, in the communities, there are no elections. We do not want democracy, as it is known today, because the winner is the one that does more campaign, that has more money, and has more power to influence the media. Here, one is the authority for a year, the next year there is another one, in the next another one, nobody can do it again. Everyone must participate and everyone must develop themselves as an authority. Because if someone remains in power, something will go wrong in their mind and everything will become unbalanced. Therefore, in order for them to rest, it is transferred to someone else.

Who is He?

Fernando Huanacuni, 43, was born in the Illimani Mountains, south from La Paz. He belongs to the community Sariri, a group of descendants and non-descendants from original peoples, who meet to study, live and spread the culture of the peoples who lived in the Andes before the Spanish colonization. He is also the director of the protocol of the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Evo Morales administration and one of the people in charge of a TV programme in the Bolivian Chanel RTP, dedicated to discuss Andean culture and conjuncture themes.

Translation: Ana Amorim Vinicius Mansur, Correspondent in La Paz (Bolivia)