Particular sectors of the population that are considered inferior based on their ethnic identities have limited socio-economic mobility and limited access to political participation, and for this reason the organization of current society reflects a situation of structural racism, which in turn perpetuates inequality. The phenomenon of institutionalized racism is covert, and is falsely considered something of the past instead of as an ongoing process that is real, still in force, and continually reproduced in social relations.
While the fight against racism advances, expressions of racism become more sophisticated,4 and it intensifies other discrimination based on gender, age, geographic origin, or socio-economic status. 5 The ideology of racism is institutionalized by the State, as power and access is granted to certain groups based on the recognition of a superior culture. Racism then persists in the attitudes held by those with a voice in shaping laws, public policies, and programs, and therefore becomes imposed on the institutions and interactions that shape everyday life.
One aspect that makes the analysis of racism and discrimination more complex is the fact that Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendent communities have internalized and accepted the racist structures, often reproducing those structures in their own relations. Stigmas held by certain groups against others create hierarchies that are inextricably linked to physical and cultural traits such as skin color, “grade” or “purity” of blood, clothing, and language and accents.
At the international level there have been significant advances in the instruments and international mechanisms of protection and defense of the rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples. The Inter-American System of Human Rights is a notable advancement is the construction of jurisprudence on the collective rights, as well as the instruments and mechanisms established in the United Nations system. Nicaragua has ratified the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), however, it does not fulfill its commitments with respect to providing periodic information.
After a complex history of external colonization that maintains Nicaragua divided in two socio-cultural realities, in the last few years a process of juridical and political recognition of multiculturalism has initiated. 6 These measures however have not contributed to transforming the State, or to guaranteeing equal opportunities of access in the construction of democracy. The central problem continues to be the form and behavior removal or diminishment of recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, under equal conditions, of human rights and fundamental liberties in political, economic, social, cultural spheres, or any other sphere of public life.
3 UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and CODISRA. JUN POP TIJONIK. 2006. 4 Francisco Cali. CERD Expert, Guatemala. 2006. 5 The Guatemala Human Development Report (2005), analyses the concept of social stratification, which gives evidence of the asymmetries with respect to access to development for Indigenous and Afro-descendent Peoples, having to do with difference that go beyond socioeconomic factors, and that moreover, reinforce ethnic subordination. UNDP, Guatemala. 2005.
6 This is a doctrine based on the explicit recognition of cultural diversity is established in conformance with equality of citizenship. It recognizes the existence of collectives that are historically and culturally different from the cultural group that has been in power, to which once recognized, the collective cultural rights will be guaranteed, incorporating them in laws and state institutions and creating public policies to manage the diversity. Multiculturalism facilitates the culture and the identity that are constituted in main axes of political rights and duties.
5 of 104 Racism and Ethnic Discrimination in Nicaragua November 2006 of the National State: mono-ethnic, exclusionary in its concept of citizenship and in the distribution of goods and services. The Mestizo project of the national State continues to identify the administrative structure and resources of the State with an ethnic group, its cultures, and values. Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendent communities in the Autonomous Regions, Pacific, and Central-Northern region continue to be discriminated against.
Racism and inter-ethnic conflict in Nicaragua continues to be a daily reality in the lives of Indigenous and Afro-descendent people. New threats linked to globalization and internal migration also exacerbate the conflicts. Despite advances in the Indigenous and ethnic movement, as well as increased recognition of rights, it is evident that to fight against these forces there must be greater commitment, as indicated by one of the subjects interviewed for the study:
“We need to operate from a feeling of the value of others and the recognition of our Miskitu, Mayangna, and Kriole brothers and sisters as human beings—as individuals that have their own values, which are worth the same as mine… I need to see [others] as human beings with whom I must live, and therefore, with whom I have to create an environment of empathy where we see each other as people fighting together to move forward … and for this, we will need to change our ways of feeling, thinking, and acting … we will need to have concrete goals…to move forward hand in hand as Costenos and as Costenas … and this is possible.
”7 This report seeks to describe racism in a way that documents a range of experiences of discrimination, in all spheres of life. Perhaps the outlook presented here will seem quite negative, as most of the subjects interviewed were skeptical that any governmental or nongovernmental organizations are taking steps to address the problems—nor were they confident that the situation would change in the near future. Since racist and colonial structures still exist in all corners of the world, unfortunately there are few examples of anything more than incremental changes in the past few years, decades, or even centuries.
However, the intention of this report is not to showcase a list of complaints, nor to assign blame to any particular group or institution. Instead, this study operates under the possibility that the process of documenting experiences of racism and discrimination can facilitate communication across sectors, and can be the first step toward taking affirmative actions to combat the ideology and practice of racism. Thus, like other documents— reports, laws, declarations, treaties—this study can only be a starting point.
The real work begins when, armed with consciousness and the will to change, people choose to undertake the task of struggling together for progress. 7 Interview with Benalicia Lucas, 2 October, 2006. 6 of 104 Racism and Ethnic Discrimination in Nicaragua November 2006 2. STRUCTURE AND METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY This study was conducted with the support of Diakonia, a Swedish international cooperation agency whose mission is to promote the respect and exercise of all the human rights of all people and to contribute to the democratization of societies for the strengthening of a democratic culture.
The study carried out the objective of analyzing and systematizing racism as an ideology and an everyday practice in Nicaragua. The specific objectives were the following: 1. To establish and explain briefly the connection between racism, external colonialism and internal colonialism. 2. To characterize racism against Indigenous Peoples, Garifunas, and Afrodescendents in Nicaragua, in the cultural, social, economic, legal, and political spheres. 3. To describe the current situation and trends of the phenomenon of racism. 4.
To analyze and evaluate the types of demands of the affected groups to combat racism, the affirmative actions to be taken, and the role of organized civil society in this process. 5. To analyze and evaluate the actions from the State in relation to racism at the national, regional, and international levels, identifying political strategies, programs to raise awareness, and potential results. 2. 1 Scope and methodology. The study was carried out at the national level, covering the North and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions, Indigenous Communities of the Pacific and CentralNorthern region, and Managua.
Qualitative and participatory methods were used to collect the data for the study, complemented by a literature review. The methodology seeks to identify the ways in which racism manifests itself on a daily basis in the lives of Indigenous Peoples, Krioles, and Garifunas in Nicaragua. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were held with key individuals and organizations in Bilwi, Bluefields, Managua, Sutiaba, Leon, Nindiri, and Sebaco, as well as with Regional Autonomous Councils.
A guide of questions was used for each interview and focus group, and is included at the end of this report (see: “Instruments Utilized. ”) We recognize that knowledge of the historical construction of race in Nicaragua is indispensable to a complete understanding of the current situation; however, we consider that beyond the scope of this study. Moreover, it is important to note that policies of the State or of other institutions are by no means static.
Portrayed in this study are the impressions of a variety of people based on trends and overall tendencies in the daily experience of racism, but we do not to pretend to represent all the facets of this theme, since we understand that there are other experiences and challenges that exist in Nicaragua. 7 of 104 Racism and Ethnic Discrimination in Nicaragua November 2006 Similarly, it is important to take into account the context of human development and well being in order to appreciate the full extent of the challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendents in Nicaragua.
However, this report does not present extensive data on social, political, economic, or cultural well-being, and only refers to those indicators when directly relevant to expressions of racial discrimination or to examples of institutionalized racism. It is important to highlight that one of the limitations is the absence of a system of national statistical information with disaggregation by ethnicity or culturally relevant indicators, which makes it difficult to make comparisons. Finally, no ethnic group should be perceived as monolithic, as there is as much diversity in each group as there are shared characteristics.
To assign a rigid set of values or perspectives to any ethnic group comes perilously close to contributing to institutionalized racism, as one of the basic traits of all ethnic groups is that, because they are made up of people, they are full of inconsistencies, paradoxes, and contradictions. Indeed, ethnicity is but one of many identities that we use to define ourselves, along with nationality, geographic origin, age, religion, physical and mental ability, gender, and sexual orientation.
It is the intersections of these identities that determine the experience that we live as specific persons and Peoples. The report has been organized in the following order: In the first two chapters there is an introduction, the objectives are defined, and the scope and methodological aspects of the study are presented. In the third chapter the themes of racism and discrimination are analyzed using an approach based in individual and collective human rights, and concludes with various notes related to ethnic identity.
In the fourth chapter the historical process of racism and ethnic discrimination in Nicaragua is analyzed in light of processes of external and internal colonization. It concludes with a discussion of new forms of colonization that Indigenous and Afrodescendent Peoples confront. In the fifth chapter the diverse forms and manifestations of ethnic discrimination in cultural, social, economic, juridical-legal, and political spheres are presented. In the sixth chapter the principal demands of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendent communities are presented.
In the following chapter there is an assessment of the responses that the State and various other actors have given to fight against racism and ethnic discrimination. In the last chapters conclusions and recommendations of the study are presented. 8 of 104 Racism and Ethnic Discrimination in Nicaragua November 2006 3. RACISM AND INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE HUMAN RIGHTS For the analysis of discrimination for ethnic and racial motivations we have considered it appropriate to use a human rights approach.
The basic premise of this approach is that a society free from discrimination should permit people to live with dignity and achieve the highest levels of humanity guaranteed by the body of international human rights laws. This requires the recognition that Indigenous Peoples and Afrodescendent communities are subjects with individual and collective rights derived from their specific historical and cultural characteristics, and that a result of racism those Peoples have not had that recognition nor conditions to exercise their human rights.
Indigenous Peoples define themselves as the descendents of the original inhabitants before the formation of States that, independently of their size or level of development, maintain cultural characteristics, cosmovisions, spirituality, and harmonious relationship with nature and are guided by their own forms of organization, customs, and traditions.
8 In the case of Nicaragua, this is understood by Indigenous people as “the human collective that maintains a historic continuity with societies before colonialism, whose social, cultural, and economic conditions distinguish them from other sectors of national society, and whom are governed totally or partially by their own customs and traditions. ”9 In the case of ethnic communities, these are understood as the combination of families of Afro-Caribbean ancestry that share the same ethnic consciousness, through their culture, values, and traditions, linked to the cultural roots and forms of ownership of land and natural resources.
10 Article 5 of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua establishes ethnic pluralism as a principle of the nation, and that the State recognizes the existence of “Indigenous Peoples” and indicates among their special rights “maintaining and developing their identity and culture, having their own forms of social organization, administrating their local affairs, maintaining their communal forms of property of their lands, and the enjoyment and use of those lands.
” These concepts do not necessarily imply that those characteristics are static, or that a certain sample could represent the extensive diversity and forms of organization, or the distinct demands of the Afro-descendent Peoples and communities in Nicaragua. As the process of reconstructing individual and collective identities and the international and national recognition of collective rights have advanced, the members of Indigenous communities have begun to recover and live in their everyday and public lives their specific collective identities: Rama, Sumu-Mayangna, Miskitu, Chorotega, and others.
Each People has more specific cultural characteristics, others that have been adapted, and others shared. ILO Convention 169. Law 445 on Property and Communal Lands. The law defines the term Indigenous community as the combination of families from Amerindian ancestry established in a territorial space that share feelings of identification, linked to the past aborigines of their indigenous people and that maintain an identity and their own values of a traditional culture, as well as forms of ownership and communal use of lands, and of their own social organization.
10 Ibid. 8 9 9 of 104 Racism and Ethnic Discrimination in Nicaragua November 2006 The concept of a People is linked to the international right established in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and has been incorporated, without qualification, 11 in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2006.
Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization is however the only binding instrument that refers specifically to Indigenous Peoples and tribes. In addition to the United Nations, the Organization of American States has initiated a discussion on the project of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and through a variety of considerations, observations, and recommendations, has advanced the international juridical rules referring to Indigenous Peoples.
The commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has also had a notable process of constructing jurisprudence on collective rights within the InterAmerican system. Indigenous Peoples possess collective rights based on their historical rights and collective cultural identity, which are indispensable to their existence, well-being, and development as peoples. 12 Collective rights are human rights of the third generation that are derived from their political, social, and cultural structures, spiritual traditions, histories, and philosophy.
It is also important to highlight that among collective rights are the rights to self-determination and autonomy, which are expressed through the right to conserve and their own political, juridical, economic, social, and cultural institutions, while maintaining their right to participate fully, if they desire, in the political, economic, social, and cultural life of the State from the local to the national level. 13 These rights are linked to the territorial right based on historical and ancestral usufruct, and access to the enjoyment, use and benefit from natural resources.
14 The central element in the debate on collective rights of Indigenous Peoples has been the recognition of their collective rights as peoples, and the consequent rights that are derived from that recognition. Because of the close relationship between collective rights and identity as Peoples, individual and collective identity is a process of reconstruction that depends on the degree of oppression that is confronted, the degree of cohesion of the group, their level of coordination with the grassroots, and their relations with the rest of society.
Afro-descendent communities, based on their distinct ethnicity15 and the conditions of colonization, racism, and social exclusion that have been imposed on them, are subjects of collective rights. For them it has been very complex to obtain recognition of The text of the Universal Declaration adopted on June 29, 2006 by the Human Rights Council goes beyond the concept of Indigenous Peoples included in the ILO Convention 169, since it is not limited to the domain of States, and in this sense it is equal to what is established in the first paragraph of the ICCPR and ICESCR.
12 The definition of the rights of peoples is in the framework of the ICCPR and the ICESCR. 13 Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights Council, United Nations. 29 June 2006. A/HRC/I/L. 10 14 Ruling in the case of Awas Tingni, Inter-American Court of Human Rights. 15 An ethnic group is one that shares common cultural characteristics and whose members recognize themselves as part of a group for reasons of relationship, solidarity, or culture.
They share a name that they identify with common ancestry, historical memory, common cultural elements (religion, language, customs), and a sense of solidarity. In the case of Afrodescendents in the region, only the Garifunas share the sense of connection to the land and territory. 11 10 of 104 Racism and Ethnic Discrimination in Nicaragua November 2006 their distinct identity, because it has been associated with derogatory prejudices and the lack of clear forms of communal and cultural organization of their communities.
However, the discrimination that these communities suffer is high and generally hidden. 16 The black communities, descendents of African slaves and workers of Caribbean islands as a result of the policy of colonization by the English during the 17th and 18th centuries, maintain certain common characteristics, such as their roots in African ancestry, their history of being uprooted and of slavery, and their specific customs, values, and traditions. 17 They are basically concentrated in two groups: the Garifunas and the Krioles. 3. 1 A note on cultural and ethnic identity.
Ethnic identity is dynamic and complex, and can evolve over one’s lifetime according to a variety of factors, which may be incorporated consciously or unconsciously into one’s identity. It is affirmed by various elements that an individual defines for herself or himself as the criteria for a sense of belonging to a certain group, such as a set of shared values, attitudes, lifestyles, and/or customs. Similarly, cultural identity is formed based on a common ancestry, a shared historical memory, a connection to a native land, and/or common practices such as religion, language, traditions, and customs, which result in a feeling of solidarity.
Each cultural group is further defined by its differentiation from others, based on cultural markers (such as language or clothing), and other attitudes and practices that are associated with a particular social group. In Nicaragua there is a mixture of shared ethnicities and cultures. Therefore, race and ethnicity cannot be defined based on blood, skin color, or physical traits, but rather, are based on the way in which one self-identifies based on a variety of cultural, social, and political factors.
18 For example, the construction of identity in the Autonomous Regions has been defined through contacts with external and internal colonization, in different historical moments, from the first contact with the English in the mid-17th century, up to the current migration of poor rural people from the central region of Nicaragua that is advancing with the agricultural frontier to the coastal regions. In addition to the specific identities of each people and community, there is also a “costena” identity promoted by these communities as a strategy of survival. 19.
Racial and ethnic discrimination is the daily manifestation of racism that is expressed through behaviors differentiated according to the origin of a person. It occurs in personal relations and at each moment, but it also occurs in the institutional domain, where it is expressed in ideological constructions with which one has grown up, lived with, and been educated. Because of the fact of being internalized, it is expressed through laws, public policies, and forms of organization that are adopted by institutions within the State, as well as cooperation agencies, civil society, families, and educational centers.
Its effects are both individual and collective, and in the case of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendents it is expressed through the violation of their collective rights. 17 UNDP, Regional Human Development Report, 1999. 18 In the case of the Autonomous Regions, Law 28 recognizes ethnic self-identification as a right. 19 Similar processes have been documented in other similar contexts where there are negotiations and repositioning of actors that use symbols, and defend diverse cultural values in contexts of domination and resistance. Ong, (1999) 16.
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