Declaration of the Social and Community Minga in BogotáNovember 2008
“Sisters and brothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, the Red Army is at its most critical time now, with many wounded every day. But in war, there is always wining and losing. If we stop fighting just because we have lost a few battles, our Revolution will never succeed andwe will always be exploited by the rich.”
Wang Quanyuan, Speech at Shi Village October 1935
Indigenous Resistance and Struggle: The Long March of the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia
On November 21, 2008, almost 12,000 Indigenous peoples from all the corners of Colombiagathered on Bogotá's main square for several hours to protest against the numerous injustices they have historically been subjected to. This “Great March” to Bogotá was the culmination of a series of smaller marches that originated in the southwest region of the country, in the department of Cauca. There, on Columbus Day, numerous indigenous communities gathered and began their march towards thecountry’s main cities. They chose October 12th because that date holds a special spiritual and material meaning for the indigenous resistance. The 516th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas is also the 516th anniversary of exploitation, degradation, and genocide of thousands of Indigenous peoples in the New World. The Indigenous peoples marched for almost six weeks, covering more than threehundred miles on their journey. But their struggle for land, cultural and political rights as well as their fight for survival has been going on for decades, and this struggle and resistance are precisely what constitute their own true “Long March.”
It began many years ago, during colonial times. During the era of European colonialism, indigenous people suffered the cruel treatment of theSpanish conquistadors. They were enslaved, tortured, oppressed and to some extent annihilated. This cruelty of the Spanish rule is well illustrated in the article Goodbye Columbus Day: Time to End the Myth, where Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon describe the fate of the Indians who lived near gold mines; if they failed to fulfill their established gold quota, the Spanish would cut off their hands andleave them bleeding to death (Cohen and Solomon).
Those who survived were robbed of their ancestral lands and forced to work for the Spanish conquistadors under extreme hardships and oppression. Even though institutions such as the encomienda supposedly protected the Indian ownership of the land, in reality the Spanish conquistadors relinquished all rights and direct land tenure of theIndigenous population, forcing them to move to peripheral areas with inadequate living conditions. This was reinforced through systematic violence, aimed to prevent the Indians from recovering their property or to even protest the cruelty of the Spanish settlers.
The expropriation of the indigenous lands and the accumulation of these in few hands led to the creation of the Latifundios, greatestates that covered vast areas and that depended on forced labor. At the time, political power relied greatly on property and only Spaniards and criollos, persons of full Spanish descent born in the Americas, were granted ownership of the Latifundios. Mestizos, descendants of Indians and Spanish, had some political power and were allowed limited land rights while Indians and African slaves, on...