Opinion – Latinoamérica21: Colonial schizophrenia in Latin America

It’s good news that in the Latin America, we are increasingly aware of the racism and its negative effects. A symptom of this is that the Argentine president’s comment about the naval origins of his citizens has been so widely criticized and has hurt so many sensibilities. However, as every action generates a reaction, racism comes to the fore when “non-whites” occupy public space and/or power. Those who see their privileges threatened or feel harmed by the fact that this is a mestizo region with a large majority of Afro or indigenous roots respond.

This explains the mockery and condescension with which the president of the Chilean Constituent Assembly is treated, or the criticisms of the Peruvian President Castillo, who did not limit themselves to their political positions – some of which, like homophobic ones, are highly questionable – but also pointed to their origin and the origin of their voters: they made visible the “cholo” and “serrano” Peru that shames the ” pituquería” (the upper classes) because of the risk that outsiders will think that “they are all like that”.

Racism in Latin America is widespread and well distributed; just remember the attitude of the Ecuadorian rightist left towards the indigenous leader and former candidate for the presidency of the Republic Yaku Pérez or the stoning of the Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio for wearing a couture dress. The “good people” threw stones at her for wanting to be like them, calling her “alzada” or “equaled” and the left “chaira” for not wearing indigenous clothing such as the “huipil”, “rebozo” and “huaraches” .

Taking the achievement out of the drawer

While statues were thrown in the streets, governments rode the wave of criticism of colonization, seeking confrontations with Spain. Authorities find it more comfortable and profitable to criticize secular colonialism than to adopt public policies to remedy its effects. However, at least two centuries have passed since independence and colonialism is still there because it has mutated from the outside to the inside. Thus, racism as a colonial symptom has been maintained, strengthened and sophisticated, because it benefits Latin American elites and middle classes.

The insistence of the President López Obrador that the Spanish Crown and the government apologize for the conquest is more political opportunism than a desire to talk seriously about the persisting colonial structures and their effects. It is easier to look for culprits abroad, exploring nationalism, (anti-Spanish) “anti-gachupines” imaginaries and the geopolitical gratuitousness of attacking a country with limited power in the region, which would lose more than it would gain in a confrontation: 38% of Mexican banking assets are controlled by two institutions headquartered in Spain.

The Nicaraguan presidential couple also used colonialism as a smoke bomb. They extended the argument to such an extent that they provoked the withdrawal of the Spanish ambassador to Managua. If we pay attention to Ortega’s communiqués, the persecution of opposition candidates is not proof of authoritarianism, but the just defense of a country under attack by agents of foreign powers.

The consequences of colonization

It is obvious that colonization is open to criticism, even more so when viewed from today’s perspective. We must discuss its consequences and the involvement of different actors. In addition to the role of the Spanish Crown, it is necessary to discuss, for example, the slave monarchies –led by the House of Orange– or the role of the Catholic Church, which tried to convince us that all priests were “Bartolomé de las Casas”, when in In fact, he was a great beneficiary of the miseries of colonization, with the aggravating circumstance of being the only actor at that time with current power and presence in Latin America.

But, above all, it is necessary to review the role of the new republics and their elites in the continuity and strengthening of colonial structures. The independence of the metropolises did not mean the disappearance of the mechanisms of exploitation because in the new countries there was a process of symbolic division between a “white republic”, heirs and continuators of the colonial order, and a “republic of Indians”, for which independence it did not imply better living conditions. Furthermore, if we are talking about genocide, Rosas was not the only one to pursue the Indians of his republic, shooting at them.

The anti-colonial epic is a substantial part of the Latin American identity. What for Bolivar or San Martín was the Spanish Crown, for new generations is the United States, despite its gradual loss of influence. Strictly speaking, the role of the foreign power that extracts resources and wealth from the “Great Homeland” is now occupied by China, which should be the new object of the anti-colonial struggle.

However, neither the left nor the right, nor the presidents most active in denouncing the looting and crimes of foreign powers repudiate China. Nor have their organic intellectuals produced anything like a 2.0 version of “The Open Veins” with the red flag with yellow stars nailed to the continent’s profile on its cover. I don’t know if this is due to affection for Mao and his revolution or economic dependence on China. It is more likely to be the first: the sovereignty and dignity of the people cannot be sold.

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