Debates in Latin American Social Theory

Final Session



Get together with people who are thinking of developing the same question/prompt as you. Brainstorm central ideas, annotate doubts or points to clarify, and discuss your tentative approach to the project.


1. Expand on how the Tainos in the Caribbean resisted and fought Spanish colonization and enslavement by highlighting examples from the film Even the Rain and the video Paradise Lost: The Taino Rebellion of 1511.

2. Compare how African and Afro-indigenous maroons and indigenous groups in Brazil have kept a centuries-long struggle to protect their land, ancestral knowledge, and ways of living by analyzing the film Quilombo and the Vox documentary series “The Amazon.”

3. Explain why the Zapatista uprising took place and how it evolved into the creation of autonomous indigenous communities. Develop your arguments by analyzing the documentary The Uprising of Dignity: The Zapatista Movement in Chiapas/Mexico and the “Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle” by the Zapatistas (EZLN).

4. Examine the notion of neocolonialism and horizontal activism by discussing the Cochabamba Water War in Bolivia as presented in the film Even the Rain and the article “Reflections from Bolivia: Water Wars, Climate Wars and Change from Below” by David Solnit.

5. What role does the government play in the life of indigenous people in the Amazonas? By discussing the Vox documentary series “The Amazon,” identify policies that have protected and supported the rights of indigenous people and their land and the laws and political discourse that have contributed to illegal deforestation, agricultural development, and violence.

6. Elaborate on the impact of Chimaycha music and Indigenous-centric radio in the recovery and contemporary development of Quechua’s ecological thought, spiritual views, language, and living in Perú. Incorporate Joshua Tucker’s essay “Nature Sonorous Politics.”

7. How does the virtual exhibition “I’m New Here” stimulate a re-connection with Black and Indigenous Ecologies while challenging notions of capitalist ownership and colonial logic in using the camera? Incorporate examples from at least two photographers and the artists’ and curator’s statements in your discussion.

8. What would an Indigenous-inspired future look like? Pick at least two sources from our indigenous ecologies unit and discuss how these indigenous groups offer us a model of ecological conservancy, community fortitude, historical awareness, and autonomy.

Individual Feedback on the Course

Write your response on a card:

.What did you learn in our class?

.What was your favorite topic/reading/film/author/assignment?

.What was difficult this semester and how did you overcome that obstacle?

I’m New Here: Black and Indigenous Ecologies

Entry Question

What topics from the sources we have discussed during the second half of the semester would you like to see included in the final? Propose a preliminary question

I’m New Here: Black and Indigenous Media Ecologies is a collective rallying call against colonialism. Seven artists interpret the relationship between Black and Indigenous communities both to each other and to the land.  (181)

The group exhibition brings together communities that span beyond borders, of people who subvert the colonial technology of the camera to create the conditions for intimacy between themselves and the people with whom they create the image. (184)

Aware that the lens can function as the tool of the voyeur, the artists instead choose a closeness and proximity with their subjects, whom they know intimately. The captions and writing about their subjects form the necessary context and consent for the art to have more value beyond aesthetics. The photographs have a texture through which you can almost hear the rustling of the leaves and the crashing of the waves. The viewer becomes immersed in a fluid space of Afro-Indigenous survivance and futurity. (185)

For each artist, the focus on the natural environment does not preclude the human form. As the Jamaican philosopher Sylvia Wynter teaches us, the Enlightenment tradition of Western thought invents a false binary between the human and the nonhuman. Narrating from three nations in the eastern Caribbean—Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines—each photographer frames the visuality of the faces of Black and Indigenous people in order to tell the story of survival despite the cataclysm of European colonialism. (186)

-Tatiana Esh, “Dark Chorus”

Black and Indigenous Media Ecologies-Curators’ Statements

Workshop and Class Presentation


1. In pairs observe, read the statement, and have a conversation about your assigned photographer using these questions as guidance:

What interests and intrigues you about this photo?

What details would you highlight?

What stories and questions emerge from it?

What type of relationship with the ecosystem can you trace?

Do you identify a commentary on colonialism? An alternative to colonial relationships? Explain

How does the photographer invite us to envision Black and Indigenous intimacy and futures?

2. Present your ideas to the class

Asynchronous Assignment on I’m New Here: Black and Indigenous Media Ecologies


1. See the Dark Laboratory virtual exhibition “I’m New Here: Black and Indigenous Media Ecologies” curated by Tao Leigh Goffe and Tatiana Esh.

*Click on the photographs to see the individual artist’s work and their explanations.*

2. Read the curator’s statement by Tao Leigh Goffe (pages 174-181)

3. Choose ONE prompt. Post your answer in the comment section down below. 200-word minimum. The deadline is 5/4 before the class. 


Pick ONE of the artists showcased in the exhibition and analytically connect his/her/their work (and explanations) with ONE of these quotes from Tao Leigh Goffe’s curator statement.

a. The photographers featured in this exhibition present a vision of Black and Indigenous shared ecologies that hinges on the speculative capacity to imagine these entangled and distinct histories of struggle and survival. Beyond the narrative of racial suffering as totalizing, the Dark Laboratory is a space where campfire stories, fables, ancestral myths, and legends come alive at night.

b. Together members of the collective imagine and are inspired by the clandestine and fugitive itineraries of Native and Black people across the Americas of refusal. We understand what blooms at night and what needs the dark to grow.

c. We listen for echoes of this Afro-Indigenous dialogue in the landscapes and seascapes of the Americas. Native presence for thousands of years across the Americas is often overlooked or taken as a given and distant past. The dialogue of call-and-response that we imagine between Black people, forcibly transported here, and Indigenous people is taking place all at once in the future, present, and past. Since at least the sixteenth century, the Black Native dialogue has existed over generations, and it is one of shared bloodlines and extended kin.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about the exhibition and/or the curator’s statement do you want to bring into the discussion?

Vox Atlas: The Amazon

Brazil has over 900,000 indigenous people, most of whom live in the Amazon. After centuries of persecution, they were given extensive rights under a new Constitution in the 1980s, including the right to claim and win back their traditional lands. Since then, hundreds of indigenous lands have been demarcated and protected by the Brazilian government. But in the last few years, those lands have come under attack by landowners, ranchers, loggers, and farmers who want access to the resources inside these indigenous lands. And since Jair Bolsonaro became president, the number of invasions into indigenous lands has skyrocketed.

How does the deforestation of the Amazon reproduce the logic of colonization in the Americas? What industries are causing the most damage?

What have been some of the most successful policies in stopping deforestation in the Amazon?

What type of sustainable economic practices were presented in the VOX video?

How do the global consumption of rubber, meat, and soy promote deforestation? Do you think that other nations beyond Brazil hold responsibility for the deforestation of the Amazon? How do you think other nations can help?

How does the case of activist Chico Mendes permit the creation of protected zones and sustainable economic practices? Do

How do the direct action techniques presented resemble those of indigenous people in other areas of Brazil?

How did the modernization project in Brazil create the first wave of deforestation?

What has been the role of right-wing governments in the taking of indigenous/forest lands? To what extent indigenous cultures and forest ecosystems are indivisible?

Contrast the perspectives on land hold by Brazil’s agro-oligarchy and indigenous groups in the Amazon.

Recommended Video

Asynchronous Assignment on Brazil’s Indigenous Ecological Warriors


1. Watch the Vice News Reportage Illegal Loggers: The Tribe Waging War in the Amazon (Vice News, 2015)

2. Choose ONE prompt. Post your answer in the comment section down below. 200-word minimum. The deadline is 4/27 before the class. 


Discuss the complicated process of recuperating and re-generating occupied Tembe land. What obstacles Tembe people are facing? What strategies are they using to regain their territory?


What are the benefits and the dangers of directly intervening with illegal loggers within Tembe land? What type of support do Tembe people need?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about the video reportage Illegal Loggers do you want to bring into the discussion?

Natures’ Sonorous Politics- Joshua Tucker

Entry Question

.What elements and ideas from the short documentary stood out in terms of the Quechua’s ecological thought, spiritual views, and living?

.How this quote from Joshua Tucker’s essay resonates with what you saw in the documentary?

“chimaycha made seasonal change, pastoral subsistence, community geography, and the human life cycle—particularly the securing of a life partner—into distinct facets of one indissoluble ecosystem.” (75)

Nature’s Sonorous Politics

Radio Quispillaccta’s staff is sparking a profound change in local attitudes. Furthermore, they are doing it through broadcasts that center on the chimaycha music of their hometown, presenting it as part of a distinctive land ethic. Once inaudible within Ayacucho’s urban soundscape, chimaycha has become a favored genre and a symbol of Quechua cultural affirmation for the city’s youthful, indigenous migrant majority. It’s helping to shape a newly invigorated debate over indigenous self-determination. As such, it holds the keys to the ways that local leaders will organize their struggles in years to come.

Vida Michiy (Page 48)

Making Music Indigenous Popular Music in the Peruvian Andes (Joshua Tucker)

How does the concept and practices of “vida michiy” let us understand Quechua’s ways of life?

How can indigenous nightlife hold political significance according to Tucker?

Can you think of other Latin American, Latinx, and/ or Afro-diasporic cultural or musical movements that promote ethnic and linguistic pride, and cultural (and ecological) well-being?

Self-representation through audio recordings

“The Centro de Capacitación Campesina (associated with Ayacucho’s Universidad Nacional San Cristóbal de Huamanga) established a Quechua-language radio program, featuring field recordings made by and for rural musicians with borrowed cassette recorders. This radio program drove the creation of a chimaycha performing scene, made up of young musicians eager to hear themselves on the radio. More importantly, it established a cassette archive of traditional music.” (75)

Radio Quispillaccta

“We are a Peruvian station that has the purpose of disseminating the process of affirming our culture and strengthening its organizations and encouraging respect for the cultural diversity of our people, thus imposing our own style out of the conventional radio stations in the region.”

“Listen to Radio Quispillaccta, then, and this is what you will hear: community news, programs about human rights and agricultural techniques, exhortations about the value of indigenous tradition, and a lot of chimaycha.” (76)

(Tucker, 128)


By encouraging listeners to valorize “autochtonous” music, Radio Quispillaccta became instrumental in building an indigenous public, composed of Quechua-speaking people with common investments, but also cognizant of their membership in an ethnic group with distinctive rights.

Asynchronous Assignment on Nature’s Sonorous Politics


Read Joshua Tucker’s “Natures Sonorous Politics” and choose ONE prompt. Post your answer in the comment section down below. 200-word minimum. The deadline is 4/13 before the class. 


What is chimaycha music and what are Joshua Tucker’s views on its political implications?


Joshua Tucker says that chimaycha music “has always been an eco-centric idiom,” what does he mean by that?


What has been the role of Radio Quispillaccta in promoting indigenous self-determination in the region?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Nature’s Sonorous Politics” do you want to bring into the discussion?

Even the Rain and Reflections from Bolivia- Iciar Bollaín and David Solnit

Group Discussion

How do Taino rebellions of the early 1500s and the Cochabamba water wars of the early 2000s as represented by Even the Rain resemble? Under the global climate crisis, is water the new gold?

Cochabamba Water War- Historical Context

“[In 1998] in an attempt to stimulate economic development in the country, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) persuaded the government to allow privatization of formerly state-owned industries. This included SEMAPA, Cochabamba’s water company. In the year that followed, citizens saw price hikes in their water supply due to tariffs that SEMAPA had introduced. Nonetheless, the World Bank discouraged the Bolivian government from providing subsidies. According to The New Yorker’s William Finnegan, the World Bank’s decision was all part of it and the IMF’s broader plan to encourage “market discipline and efficiency.”

Their plan failed miserably in reducing poverty. Aguas del Tunari, a subsidiary of the US-based multinational company Bechtel, purchased Cochabamba’s water distribution system. Soon thereafter, the company raised water prices even further — in some cases by upwards of 50 percent. Bechtel denies that the price of water increased in Bolivia to this extent as well as any wrongdoing in the matter. Still, in December 2005, Bechtel and the Bolivian government released a statement announcing the termination of “the concession for the supply of water services and related contracts to the city of Cochabamba.”

Nithyani Anandakugan, “Hopes For a Rainy Day”

Class presentation (s)



Open Group Discussion

Reflecting on the ongoing water crisis, David Solnit argues that “Bolivian social movements catalyzed by the Water War are, perhaps, the most radical and visionary in the world with their mass participatory, democratic and horizontal way of organizing and mobilizing, drawing on the communitarian roots of the majority indigenous country.” He highlights the 2010 Feria del agua and Water Committees as examples of community-led projects of autogestión (self-management).

Thinking of the Bolivia case, what do you think about the indigenous strategies of creating a horizontal self-managed organization to deal with the effects of climate change and corporate and governmental mismanagement?

An ongoing crisis

Two decades have passed since the original water crisis in Bolivia. The dust has settled on the matter of water privatization, but the country still faces issues related to its water supply. A 2017 report from Public Radio International (PRI) noted that Bolivia “is suffering from its worst drought in 25 years.” Ill-equipped to handle this new crisis, the country once again found itself in a state of emergency except for this time the shortage is not artificial due to astronomical prices, but rather environmental.

While the Bolivian people suffered from economic neocolonialism during the Cochabamba Water Wars, this time the issue lies in large part with mismanagement of water on the part of the state. Water conservation has been a major issue that the government ignored for years, leading to a naturally occurring drought to be exacerbated into a full crisis.

Recommended Videos: Water Crisis in the US

Asynchronous Assignment on Even the Rain

While making a film about the incursion of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean, a Mexican director, and a Spanish producer find the Bolivian indigenous people protesting contemporary exploitation and claiming the rights to water and ultimately dignity and survival.


Watch Even the Rain (Icíar Bollaín, 2011) and choose ONE prompt. Post your answer in the comment section down below. 200-word minimum. The deadline is 4/6 before the class. 

If you do not have access to Netflix you can rent it on iTunes.


The Cochabamba natives understand that water is sacred and a human right. How does the film Even the Rain showcase these notions?


Discussing at least two scenes, answer this question:

.How does the film crew WITHIN the film reproduces the same colonial mentalities and practices they are representing in their Christopher Columbus movie?


Discussing at least two scenes, answer this question:

.How does the contemporary issue of access to water connects to the Taino people’s resistance in the Caribbean?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Even the Rain do you want to bring into the discussion?

The Uprising of Dignity: The Zapatista Movement and Declaration

Entry Discussion

Pick ONE of the following Zapatistas mottos and discuss your understanding of it based on the documentary and the Zapatista declaration:

.”Another world is possible.”

.”We are making a world that gives space to other worlds.”

.“We learn as we walk, side by side with our education. To educate is to learn.”

.”They could cut all the flowers but the true words… never.”

.“Everything for everyone, nothing for us.”

Zapatista Central Concepts

Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona

.Rebel dignity

Everywhere there are more compañeros and compañeras who are learning to relate to persons from other parts of Mexico and of the world. They are learning to respect and to demand respect. They are learning that there are many worlds and that everyone has their place, their time, and their way, and therefore there must be mutual respect between everyone.

We are also going to go about raising a struggle in order to demand that we make a new Constitution, new laws that take into account the demands of the Mexican people.


.Mal gobierno (bad government)

We saw quite clearly that there was no point in dialogue and negotiation with the bad governments of Mexico. That it was a waste of time for us to be talking with the politicians because neither their hearts nor their words were honest. They were crooked, and they told lies that they would keep their word, but they did not. The politicians from the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD reached an agreement among themselves, and they simply did not recognize indigenous rights and culture. We saw that blood did not matter to them, nor did death, suffering, mobilizations, consultas, efforts, national and international statements, encuentros, accords, signatures, commitments. And so the political class not o­nly closed, o­ne more time, the door to the Indian peoples, they also delivered a mortal blow to the peaceful resolution – through dialogue and negotiation – of the war.

.Neoliberal globalization

Neoliberal globalization wants to destroy the nations of the world so that only o­ne Nation or country remains, the country of money, of capital. And capitalism wants everything to be as it wants, in its own way, and it doesn’t like what is different, and it persecutes it and attacks it, or puts it off in a corner and acts as if it doesn’t exist.

Then, in short, the capitalism of global neoliberalism is based o­n exploitation, plunder, contempt, and repression of those who refuse. The same as before, but now globalized, worldwide.

*See interview with Subcomandante Marcos 7:00-8:15

.Juntas del buen gobierno (autonomous municipal governments)

This method of autonomous government was not simply invented by the EZLN, but rather it comes from several centuries of indigenous resistance and from the zapatistas’ own experience. It is the self-governance of the communities. In other words, no o­ne from outside comes to govern, but the peoples themselves decide, among themselves, who governs and how, and, if they do not obey, they are removed. If the o­ne who governs does not obey the people, they pursue them, they are removed from authority, and another comes in.

All the juntas work toward equitable housing, land, work, food, health, education, information, culture, independence, democracy, justice, liberty, and peace.

Class Presentations

Sanap,Jyoti Shivaji

Sterling Vargas,Lourdes Elizabeth


Zapatistas call their educational practice “otra educación,” another education, based on the video, why do you think they call it that way? How their approaches to pedagogy are different from mainstream educational methods?

Women’s Rights and Leadership

Complete ONE of these sentences.

Zapatista women took conscience of_______.

Zapatista women are organizing for ________.

In conclusion

Ongoing Zapatista Principles 

1 – We are going to continue fighting for the Indian peoples of Mexico, but now not just for them and not with o­nly them, but for all the exploited and dispossessed of Mexico, with all of them and all over the country. And when we say all the exploited of Mexico, we are also talking about the brothers and sisters who have had to go to the United States in search of work in order to survive.

2 – We are going to go to listen to, and talk directly with, without intermediaries or mediation, the simple and humble of the Mexican people, and, according to what we hear and learn, we are going to go about building, along with those people who, like us, are humble and simple, a national program of struggle for justice, democracy, and liberty for the Mexican people.

3 – We are going to try to build, or rebuild, another way of doing politics, one which o­nce again has the spirit of serving others, without material interests, with sacrifice, with dedication, with honesty, which keeps its word, whose o­nly payment is the satisfaction of duty performed.