Movimientos políticos indigenistas en Mexico
Indigenist politichal movements in Mexico
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AuthorQuemada Alvarez, Sergio
ABSTRACT: The colonization of America by the Europeans had a great impact on the Indians. Their
interaction led to their subjugation and to the instauration of social inequality and
alienation. This has been known as the “indigenous problem”. This essay analyzes the
evolution of this phenomenon in Mexico.
For more than four centuries, which include the colonial period and the first century of
the Independence of Mexico, the prevailing viewpoint on the “indigenous problem” was
that the Indians should assimilate into the European culture. The Indians were confined
in farms and missions under the guardianship and protection of the Europeans, whose
duty was to care for, instruct and evangelize them.
The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) represented a change on the “indigenous
problem” perspective. Critics against the pre-established model arose among the
indigenous population. Thinkers, anthropologists and other personalities joined them
and contributed to a greater social impact at an international level. This context
favoured the emergence of the debate on these issues.
In 1940, the conference of Pátzcuaro (Mexico), devoted to the “indigenous problem”,
gathered representatives from most of the Latin-American countries for the first time
The indigenist movement consolidated in this first inter-American indigenous congress.
Institutions such as the “Instituto Indigenista Interamericano”, at a national level, or the
“Instituto Indigenista Interamericano” at an international level, became visible
expressions of the strength of the movement.
The indigenism generated social movements and political-military organizations that
forced the governments to legislate in favour of the indigenous population. In the 70s,
the FLN (“Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional”) was the leading group; more recently, the
“Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional” (EZLN) has occupied its place.
The “indigenous problem” has not been solved yet. In the last third of the 20th century
there has been a convergence between the Indians and the national population on
various social indicators that measure quality of life. This is reflected in variables such
as mortality rate, birthrate, life expectancy at birth and household conditions (electricity,
water supply, access to education, sewage system, floors). The decrease in the social
breach is an important achievement that should continue encouraging the pursuit of full