According to a UNHCR report at least 34 Colombian indigenous peoples are in danger of disappearing due to repeated violence they suffer in their lands. Despite the international interest in preserving the tribes, cases of violence including murders, tortures, forced recruitment of young indigenous in illegal armed forces, sexual violence committed by armed groups, paramilitaries and massive eviction operations, have increased the risk of a physical and cultural disappearance of indigenous peoples in Colombia.
Already a previous UN report feared the attempt of ethnic cleansing aimed to free the areas in which the indigenous are settled, in order to use them for commercial use. They are restricted in their movements and in daily activities which are necessary for their survival as procuring food, hunting and fishing, perform their rituals or simply observe their traditions. It has happened to the Wounaan tribe, which was evicted from its land by paramilitaries to start a coca production.
The damages, in terms of cultural identity and sense of belonging to indigenous peoples, are already evident in new generations, in fact, indigenous children born in urban centers do not speak their tribe’s language, and sometime feel ashamed of belonging to a so called minority.Indigenous peoples should have the right to preserve their lifestyles and are repositories of valuable knowledge on how to manage habitats and natural resources in a sustainable way. Much of this knowledge is passed orally from generation to generation, then the loss of their languages is equivalent to the loss of entire encyclopedias and knowledge. These are attempts to sacrifice thousands of years of traditions and strong cultural identity in name the of progress.
The case of Colombian indigenous is similar to many other cases in Latin America, Asia and Africa, where there is violation of human rights and tribes have no right to decide on their own destiny. Indigenous people are the losers in Global Political Economy and it is due to many factors such as globalization, industrialization and urbanization. Nowadays they face the challenge of extinction and survival and suffer from discrimination, eviction and violence. They are not only deprived of their lands but also of their traditions and cultures because globalization tends to promote major cultures and millions of other cultures are marginalized and alienated.
Francesca Urso (Dubai Campus)