Land Reform, Historical Consciousness and Indigenous Activism: Huarcaya

Huarcaya, Sergio Miguel. “Land Reform, Historical Consciousness and Indigenous Activism in Late Twentieth-Century Ecuador.” Journal of Latin American Studies 50, no. 02 (May 2018): 411–40.

Sergio Miguel Huarcaya’s article, “Land Reform, Historical Consciousness and Indigenous Activism in Late Twentieth-Century Ecuador,” explores how and why Ecuador’s indigenous movement embraced ethnic politics over class struggle after the agrarian-reform movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Looking at conflicts between and among indigenous communities and hacendados around Otavalo, Huarcaya argues that “it was only during the land struggle that they learned about the conquest and the colonial dispossession of indigenous lands” (413). This newfound historical consciousness reframed their land struggle from one of expropriating hacienda lands to the reclamation of ancestral territory, a discursive shift that allowed them to seize the moral high ground and ultimately triumph, he says.

Huarcaya cautions against reifying indigenous and non-indigenous behaviors as either always resisting or always oppressing the other. Instead, he shows how indigenous communities were fragmented politically, with some groups resisting the land struggle and takeover of local haciendas. Through the development of an ethnic historical consciousness and the rejection of negative indigenous stereotypes, he says these groups were able to form larger alliances between highland, Amazonian, and indigenous communities across the South American country to build one of the most powerful political factions in Ecuador.

N. H. Gill
Quito, 2020

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