From Resistance to Subversion: What do we Celebrate on October 12?

By: Dr. Juan E. Romero J. / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / October 12, 2016

The idea of resistance was used by the Spanish invaders to express the opposition of indigenous peoples to control in the cultural, political, social and economic areas. Spaniards created an imagery where indigenous communities were labeled as “barbarian”, “uncivilized”, “backwards”, and “inhumane”, which was convenient to ease the task of plundering and imposition of the doctrines of the Western-European world.

Thus, the Spaniard’s idea of “resistance” described the unwillingness of these societies to adapt to the Western order. This was vital to achieve their goal of plundering. In the philosophy of European right, the first place is taken up by the basis of private property. On that principle, the whole system of property and social hierarchy was built, which supported the worldview and the workings of the modern European society. The violent contact imposed ethic and juridical difficulties: the human groups that were established in the territory that we now calle America had been there, without a doubt, since long before the Europeans arrived. That is, they were the “first owners” of the territory and its riches, according to European law. So Europeans, according to their own legal system, were forbidden to control those lands and resources. But this would have been a disaster for their enterprise —because their interest was, first and foremost, of a commercial nature. So how could they bypass this obstacle? Easy: they declared indigenous peoples non-human. That was enough for them to feel entitled to grab their riches. There were tales about the monstrosity of these beings: creatures without heads, with eyes in their chests, who ate one another, like animals. The Church contributed the theological explanation: the world, and everything in it, is a work of God, and He gave it to those who believe in him —not to the infidels.

Indigenous peoples were not only non-human, but also “children of the devil” himself, and it was a “Christian duty” to reclaim those territories from the influence of evil. The result was a premeditated plundering, accompanied by murders and extraordinary displacements. Exactly what we would now call a “crime against humanity”. Nevertheless, they concealed and justified their atrocities —with the notable exception of Bartolomé de las Casas.

In the beginning (that is, from late 15th century to mid-16th century), indigenous resistance was thoroughly crushed. The technological superiority of the invaders, thanks to their use fo gunpowder and horses, was crucial.

The resistance was heroic but ineffective, but in the 16th century it became an organized action to fight for rights (albeit limited) and participate in areas of society (also limited). There was a transition from resistance to subversion.

What is subversion? It’s a praxis that reflects the internal incongruences of a social order, and points to new goals. After resisting without results, indigenous groups turned to subversion, and used their historic knowledge, their “expertise” (lessons and values forged over centuries of social relations) to begin a new path in organized struggle, which progressively evolved to the form it has today.

Indigenous resistance became a subversive social movement, whose essential nucleus is the defense of the environment, which is a consequence of their vital experience. This form of subversive social movement has three characteristics that make it special in their relation with National States.

1. Indigenous culture is a counter-culture, which permanently criticizes the forms and logics of capitalism and the official history of those National States.
2. They usually demand autonomy in the management of their territories, to make up for the theft they were victims of
3. They strive to preserve their social, economic and environmental practices, which sometimes are in conflict with the practices of the national states, which are usually focused on the profit-oriented exploitation of nature.

Colonialist views on indigenous societies as backwards, without future, submissive and obedient have been substituted by the New Latin American Constitutionalism, particularly in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, for movements of resistance against globalization and capitalism. The Zapatista movement in Mexico is one example of this view, and also the indigenous movements against Chevron in Ecuador, or the organizations in Bolivia, or the resistance against the Mining Area in Venezuela.

We must also discuss history and historiography, because we’re still commemorating October 12, the date on which America was discovered by Europeans —even though we have changed the name and tone from “Day of the Discovery” to “Day of Respect to all Races” or “Day of Indigenous Resistance”. We must stop using the landmarks of European modernity and create our own narrative.

The fact that this date is still commemorated is another form of subordination and cultural dominance. Colonialism is still present in out culture, and at the basis for the social and economic inequalities that greatly harm Latin America. In order to become decolonized, we must stop using European historic and cultural interpretations and build our own on the grounds of our anti-capitalist, anti-globalization and environmentalist movements.

Letter to the Chilean Government

To: Chilean Government                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 19 August, 2011

Mr. Sebastian Piñera
President of Chile
Palacio de la Moneda
Santiago- Chile

 c/- Diego Velasco von Pilgrimm
Minister Counselor, Consul General of Chile in Melbourne, Australia>Level 13, 390 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004.

Dear Mr. Piñera,

With the ongoing mass mobilisations of students, and their supporters, across Chile, we write to you to add our voices to those of our Chilean brothers and sisters in their struggle for free, quality education for all, at all levels; justice; and real democracy; amongst other demands.

We feel that quality education is a basic human right, not a luxury consumer good. As such, the Chilean State’s ongoing process of liquidation and commodification of public education (as embodied by the merger, closure and endemic under funding of municipal schools in poor neighbourhoods, the high level of student indebtedness, and the increasing precarity of employment for teachers, amongst others) is reprehensible, and that students have mobilised in opposition to this process is both reasonable and of a necessity to ensure the fulfilment of this right.

 Finally, we remain concerned for the health and safety of the number of students maintaining a hunger strike, and for those partaking in demonstrations and occupations; we find it unacceptable that harm has, and may continue to, come to those mobilised for the basic right to free, quality education.

For an education for the people, not profit!

Yours Sincerely,

Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET)
Movement for Peace and Justice – Brisbane
Colombia Demand Justice Campaign
Chilean Popular & Indigenous Solidarity Network
Andrea Aguilera
Marisol Salinas
Mt Nancy Town No mining No Forestry Campaign Friends of the Earth Melbourne
Rodrigo Rojas
Rodolfo Allamand

Not final version, more people need to be added

Latin American Solidarity Upcoming Events

LASNET-Meeting  Venezuela and the Left Tuesday August 23rd, 7pm
At LASNET Space – Trades Hall Basement corner of Lygon & Victoria Streets in Carlton South
Venezuela and the left – workers control… With Venezuelan Activist, visting Australia, Johan Rivas, from Venezuelan Socialismo Revolucionario.
First hand report from Venezuela under Chavez, all welcome

LATIN FIESTA – PARTY (POSTPONED  due Hall problems to Saturday October 29, 7pm, same place, bands and program)

Northcote Uniting Church Hall, 251 High St. Northcote
Two amazing live Latin American bands
Plus exiting dance group “RITMO Y COLOR” from Peru &
“Colombia” dance group
$15/10 waged/ conc. – Latrobe Students and staff $10 – Solidarity $20

Chile -Colombia Open Forum
Thursday September15, 6:30pm to start 7pm
Latrobe University City Campus, 215 Franklin St. City
“The other September 11” & the new popular struggles wave…,
“Colombia after Uribe” &
“Relevance of Colombia-Venezuela relationship to South American region”
Speakers: Academics, Activists, music and discussions

Friday October 7, Melbourne Trades Hall, 7pm
Films night Fifth Cycle: “Multinational Corporations and its future”

Importance of Che Guevara after 44 years of his physical disappearance: Doco -“Che Lives” (40 minutes) October 8th, 1967, Ernesto Che Guevara was detained in Bolivia and killed on October 9, under the command of the CIA-USA

Saturday October 8,
Our hopes and new possibilities for change

Seminar Peoples’ Struggles & Multinational Corporations
Latrobe University – City Campus, 215 Franklin St, Melbourne

Space One: 12-4pm
Discussions, short footages, lunch, speakers, activists, ideas, proposals…more
-Multinationals role in war, violence and hunger in Latin America
– Impacts of Multinational policies in Australia and Asia Pacific Region
-How the State and government are accomplices in Multinationals policies and effects.
– Are Multinationals a contribution to development and progress?

Space Two 4-6pm – Speakers, music, poetry, open space/forum
Remembering our pass, our memory homage to all those that gave their life for others, our tribute to Che Guevara, who fell struggling so other can continued their and our life
More Info: call 0425 539 149 or 0414 970 410, write to: and now, again, after been hacked
Latin American Solidarity Network (LASNET) – Red de Solidaridad con los Pueblos Latinoamericanos