Indigenous Revitalization Movements
"The Jaguar Dance" (image courtesy of

“ Below in the city and the plantations, we did not exist. Our lives were worth less than the machines and the animals. We were like rocks, like plants along the road. We did not have voices. We did not have faces. We did not have names. We did not have tomorrow. We did not exist. “

“ ...Then we went to the mountains. ...The mountains told us to take up arms to have a voice, it told us to cover our faces to have a visage, it told us to forget our names so that we could be named, it told us to protect our past so that we could have a tomorrow. “

“ ...Behind our black faces, behind our armed voice, behind our unnamed name, behind those of us that you see, behind us is you, behind us are the same simple and ordinary men and women that are found in all ethnic and racial groups, that paint themselves in all colors, that speak in all languages, and that live in all places. “

("Contesting Citizenship in Latin America", Deborah J. Yashar, 2005 Cambridge University Press)


With the conquest of the Americas came a suppression of indigenous culture. Suppression occurred through politics and military processes, in addition to art and academia. Despite the ever present and often successful modes of stifling indigenous culture, indigenous people managed to effectively maintain at least some aspects of their cultures. Today, with the damage that occurred and the continual suppression of their peoples that coincided therewith, indigenous revitalization movements have been and are being introduced to both mitigate and amend the resulting cultural injuries, and to re-infuse Latin America with their traditional ways of being.

As Gumucio suggests in Religion and the Awakening of Indigenous People in Latin America, "[t]he 'awakening' of the indigenous people of Latin America raises the following question: is it accompanied by a religious revitalization and a return to ancestral beliefs and rituals?" (p. 67).

Military and Politics:

The 5th of June, 2009 massacre in Bagua, Peru:

The Zapatista movement:

Arts and Academia:

In Mexico for example, the very traditional art is being supported by the government and infused with donations, while the modern-age art is supported by private collectors and fund raisers. The same is happening in other South American countries as in Peru and Argentina. I actually have some Peruvian jewelery and I have to say that it is unique indeed and I received it from my Peruvian friend, Lucero Quiroz (she does poses a unique face figure with indigenous characteristics and it never ceases to amaze me everything she's shown me from her country, including a llama sweater and a rug). I've read that in Argentina, the tango had become a national dance and is not associated with poor neighborhoods, nor the call girls as it once was the case. This also brings an influx of tourists, who will pay the "big buck" to have the chance of becoming better connoisseurs of the Argentinian tango. In the case of Bolivia, the government of Evo Morales now contains of 10 women, 7 of which are of indigenous descent. The Minister of Culture in Bolivia is Zulma Yugar, a famous folk singer.

Religion and History:

A Bamiléké tribesman wears a mask during the performance of a traditional ritual performed in Cameroon (image courtesy of
In the case of many Latin American countries, colonial powers successfully began cultural/religious assimilation, whereby their belief systems (Christianity, namely Catholicism) were introduced in such a way that was intended on replacing existing native cultures. Yet, despite the resulting weakening of native cultures, caused the adversity which would inspire revitalization movements.

To many missionaries, Christianization was considered in synonymous context as civilization. "Usually, the methods of teaching and catechizing employed up until quite recent times—with marked ethnocentric bias—were not respectful of the unique character, habits and dress of the indigenous population" (Gumocio, 2002, p. 72). In actuality, the appearance of new indigenous leaders resulted from the intensity of this missionization. New shamanic rituals also arose, with a main purpose of reaffirming ethnic identity (Gumocio, 2002, p. 67).

Looking at yet another motivating factor for the revival of indigenous culture, it's important to consider the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing. The occasion become the"entire Ibero-American showpiece for its new foreign policy; but the indigenous movements raised their voices to proclaim '500 years of indigenous resistance' " (Gumocio, 2002, p. 68).

Yet, despite the conquest and the domination of culture and religion that ensued, surpassing even the syncretism that continues to define their cultural value systems, indigenous religions have commenced a "break-out" from the biases of Christian missionaries who had originally labeled them "pagan" or—in the worst cases—as "idolatrous" or "demonic" (Gumocio, 2002, p. 69).

There are six types of revitalization movements identified by Wallace (1956, p. 267): nativistic movements (focused on eliminating the components of alien cultures); revitalistic movements (movements seeking to re-institute both practices and ideas that are traditional to the native culture); Cargo Cults (focused on incorporating alien ideas and goods in the same way as imports are carried as an airplane or ship's cargo); vitalistic movements (like Cargo Cults, but with the difference that the vessel not being the agency importing ideas, but rather having knowledge brought by something like a foreign vessel); millenarian movements (focused on a utopian idea of incorporating and transforming worldly supernatural ideas); and messianic movements (like millenarian movements, except with a divine savior embodied in human form as the agency of transformation).

Wallace (1956, p. 268-275) also identifies five different stages in revitalization movements, which are as follows:
1) The steady state (occurs when the culture is functioning efficiently, with stress kept in respectable limits);
2) The period of increased individual stress (when stress-reduction/need-satisfying methods become less efficient);
3) The period of cultural distortion (when the culture's lifestyle no longer carries personal meaning, and disillusionment occurs);
4) The period of revitalization (usually happens through the medium of a person of authority and influence, who often translates and adapts newly accepted ideas into the culture); and
5) The new steady state (when the newly transformed culture regains its condition of stasis).

Article: "Indigenous Peoples Divided by Faith," by Diego Cevallos (IPS, Mexico City, May 2005)

In the article “Indigenous Peoples Divided by Faith,” written by Diego Cevallos in May 2005, he very clearly identifies the cultural significance of religion. “Whatever religion they try to inculcate us with, it will have an impact in spiritual terms, which is in a way our Achilles heel,” Cevallos quotes Luis Macas, a Saraguara Indian and president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador. “Most of us indigenous peoples approach life from a spiritual level,” Macas continues in explanation.

Preceding this, and to further build from the cultural analysis laid out above, among the hundreds of religions and sects introduced into these communities, they range from long-established, powerful denominations (such as the Roman Catholic church, or Lutheran, Adventist, Mormon and Baptist) to more recent groups (including the Fountain of Life, Alpha Omega, the Guardians of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Word). On their own, these religious factions have pre-existing friction; however, in combination with the other countless native religions, produce a tension that have resulted—on several occasions—in bloodshed.

For example, as Cevallos explains, within the past three decades, 100 deaths inspired by religion have shaken the Tzotzil Mayan indigenous community of Chamula (in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas). In Guatemala too, during the civil war that engulfed them between the years 1960 and 1996, the majority of the 200,000 citizens killed were Mayan Indians. A further 500,000 people became refugees, and 250,000 children became orphans.

"Many religions have destroyed what we are, and it is sad to see the contempt that the new generations have for what we once were. They think that the traditional beliefs of the Mayans (the main indigenous ethnic group in Central America) are witchcraft, or satanic," Cevallos quotes of Rafael González Roc, spokesman for the Committee for Campesino Unity in Guatemala.

However, Cervantes doesn’t leave off on a negative note. In the concluding paragraphs of his article, he highlights the unrelenting commitment of the indigenous people to strive for their rights and the core of their native traditions, and that eventually they will prevail.

Surrounding debates:

Class oppression and racial discrimination, often combined with a further sexual repression of women, merged to form systems of domination that for centuries have subjugated indigenous peoples to the interests of a ruling white or mestizo elite in Latin America. This repression has taken a variety of forms, ranging from labor drafts, tribute and tax payments, and confiscation of land and water to suppression of cultures and even genocide. Indigenous peoples have responded in various ways, from everyday forms of resistance that included working at a very slow pace or breaking the tools used in their work, legal petitions to challenge harmful policies, rebellions against abusive officials or landholders, and organized strikes and petitions to full-scale revolts that challenged state power.

Art and academia

Zulma Yugar

Zulma Yugar has been Director for the Promotion of Culture within the Ministry of Culture, President of the Bolivian Association of Artists and Musicians, and President of the Bolivian National Council of Popular and Traditional Culture. She has received numerous awards and is a UNESCO Artist for Peace.

Atahualpa Yupanqui
Atahualpa Yupanqui was an Argentine singer, songwriter, guitarist, and writer. He is considered the most important Argentine folk musician of the 20th century. Born as Hector Roberto Chevero Aramburo, in a bow to two legendary Inca kings, he adopted the stage name of Atahualpa Yupanqui, which became famous all over the world. In his early years, Yupanqui traveled extensively throughout the northwestern Argentina and the Altiplano studying the indigenous culture. He also joined the Communist Party of Argentina. In 1931, he took part in the failed uprising of the Kennedy brothers in order to press the government de facto of Uriburu and to give air to the democratic radical anti-fascist project in support to Hipolito Yrigoyen. Due to this association with Yrigoyen, Yupanqui was forced to seek refuge in Uruguay and returned to Argentina in 1934. He is also depicted in a newspaper article in "Tiempos" from La Plata, Argentina and in a book entitled "Atahualpa Yupanqui: el canto de la patria profunda" written by Norberto Galasso.

The Peruvian Inca jewelery is renowned worldwide.
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Military and Politics

In the 1960s and 1970s activists increasingly organized indigenous movements on an ethnic basis, with the support of non-government organizations (NGOs) and in a transnational framework. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) grew out of a 1968 meeting of anthropologists who had witnessed the abuses that indigenous peoples faced. In 1975, IWGIA helped establish the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) and its South American branch Consejo Indio de Sud America (CISA; South American Indian Council) in 1980. CISA, the first regional indigenous organization in South America, attacked colonial centers of power as it sought to recoup ethnic identities and unify indigenous organizations into a liberation struggle. (


Art and Academia

- blending of the indigenous and Hispanic cultures for the final result of a "super culture" incorporating the best elements of each one;
- education of the population and of tourists to appreciate the national patrimony;
- making the art available for display in museums;
- investing in schools and courses which provide the population with an opportunity of learning more about a particular indigenous culture;
- the government investing more money into art and education.

Group Division:

Natasha - Religion and History
Paul (absent) - Military and Politics
Milanka - Arts and Academia, Military and Politics


Gumucio, C. (2002). Religion and the Awakening of Indigenous People in Latin America. Social Compass, 49(1), 67. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
Selka, Stephen Lennox, Jr. (1997). Religious synthesis and change in the New World: Syncretism, revitalization and conversion. M.A. dissertation, Florida Atlantic University, United States -- Florida. Retrieved March 7, 2010, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 1385851).
Newman, J. Faith in fiction: Postsecular critique and the global novel. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, United States -- Virginia. Retrieved March 7, 2010, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 3322493).
Wallace, Anthony F.C. (1956). Revitalization Movements. American Anthropologist 58: 260-290.
Masters of All They Surveyed. Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado, by D. Graham Burnett, University of Chicago Press, 2000. Journal of Latin American Geography 1 (2002): 85 – 87.
New Worlds for All. Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America, by Colin G. Calloway, John Hopkins University Press, 1997. American Studies International 35 (1997)$product320x320$