Curiosities of some indigenous peoples of Latin America

In Latin America, there are 42 million indigenous people who safeguard the historical and cultural memory of an entire continent. 

There are currently 826 indigenous peoples, with the largest populations in Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru.
There are currently 826 indigenous peoples, with the largest populations in Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru.

Although a mechanism has been created for the protection of indigenous peoples, this has not been a uniform regional process and they still suffer the loss of their lands and even genocide.

Their colorful costumes, ancient traditions, and customs are just some of the elements that make them indispensable to the region's tangible and intangible heritage. Today we bring you some curiosities to celebrate this diversity and cultural richness.

Mayan chewing gum

The Mayans invented what we know today as gum. By collecting the sap from the chicozapote, one of the most abundant trees in the area, and making zigzag incisions on its bark so that it would flow into the containers placed at the base of the tree, they obtained a chewable gum that they used to clean their teeth and mouth or to inhibit hunger in fasting rituals.

The current production of chewing gum has completely evolved, having as raw material oil derivatives. Although there are still communities that struggle to maintain and live from the Mayan chiclera tradition. Source BBVA
The current production of chewing gum has completely evolved, having as raw material oil derivatives. Although there are still communities that struggle to maintain and live from the Mayan chiclera tradition. Source BBVA

The name with which the Mayas knew this gum was "sicte", which means blood or vital fluid and with it they traded with other Mesoamerican peoples. Its use spread in time and space, so that it reaches the Aztecs with the name "tzictli" (for whom the word means stick) and from there passes to the Spanish language as chewing gum.

Aztec make-up

In the Aztec empire, fashion for women was to wear yellow skin. To achieve this effect on their naturally brown or bronze skins, they smeared yellow earth on their cheeks or a cream containing axin, a yellow substance obtained by cooking and crushing insects.

Their faces were painted with dry, colored powder. Source The Guardian
Their faces were painted with dry, colored powder. Source The Guardian

To adorn the body, too, hands and skins were darkened with burnt resin and dye, and intricate designs were drawn on hands and necks when they went to a special place.

Some used short hair so that their hair would reach their nose. It was cut and dyed with black mud so that they gave importance to his head and to obtain a perfect shine they always gave him the last lightening with a dye indigo color (violet or purple).

Incas women's squadron

The Inca empire had within its army a squadron of women who helped the people in case of natural disasters, this task was known by the name La Chunga (today we would say civil defense).

Although it was a highly patriarchal society, women in the Inca empire also fulfilled other social roles beyond the domestic. Source: Pressreader
Although it was a highly patriarchal society, women in the Inca empire also fulfilled other social roles beyond the domestic. Source: Pressreader

La Chunga consisted of healing and helping the wounded and trying to save those who were in danger. Likewise, when the army marched outside its borders it was accompanied by women to the battlefields.

Mapuche martial art

The Mapuches whose name means people of the Earth developed a martial art called Kollellaullin. The warriors weichafes the elite units of the Mapuches were trained in this martial art from small. Not only was it a martial art of combat but they were also mentally trained in the resistance to pain and in the acceptance of death by means of hard exercises. This martial art is exclusively Mapuche and the most lethal created by Indians,

Resistance to pain was important among the Weichafes, as was surrender in peace with oneself in the face of a "good death. Source Pressreader
Resistance to pain was important among the Weichafes, as was surrender in peace with oneself in the face of a "good death. Source Pressreader

Among the exercises were long solitary fasts in the woods or mountains, sitting on boiling fathoms, or naked in the snow, bathing several times a day in the cold waterfalls, among others. The Mapuche warrior went to war freshly bathed and with clean clothes, because for him the war was something sacred, a field of action where he could manifest the best of himself and his highest qualities.

Aymaras time

Aymaras do not have a word for time, but they have words for yesterday and year, for old and slow, and for other concepts related to time.

Their concept of time is opposed to all other cultures on the planet; for them, the past is seen ahead and the future awaits behind. Each language reflects in a particular way a vision of the world. In the Aymara language, it is very important to mark whether or not the speaker saw the action happening. As long as it is not within reach, nothing is taken for granted.

The main economic activities of the Aymara are agriculture, livestock, mining, trade, fishing and the sale of labour. Source Educa.com
The main economic activities of the Aymara are agriculture, livestock, mining, trade, fishing and the sale of labour. Source Educa.com

For them, time is elastic and relative and they have a differentiated conception of time, and the use of a single word, "pacha" for a spatial or temporal place.

Therefore, the future would be behind one, because it is not visible; and the past, ahead, which is what the eyes have already seen.

Quechua medicine

Quechuas used quinine, a natural, white, crystalline alkaloid found naturally in the bark of the cinchona tree to suppress hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue; they also used it to alleviate altitude sickness.

In 1638, science knows the antimalarial properties of the bark of the cinchona when native healers used it to treat malaria suffered by the Countess of Chinchón, Ana de Osorio, wife of the viceroy of Peru.

The Quechuas like other native peoples live in harmony with nature because for them each element relates mutually to all others; man, land, animals, forest, all of nature. Source medicinaintercultural.org
The Quechuas like other native peoples live in harmony with nature because for them each element relates mutually to all others; man, land, animals, forest, all of nature. Source medicinaintercultural.org

The legend has been widely discussed, the fact is that thanks to the medicinal knowledge of the native Quechua tribes, a treatment against malaria was later developed.

Source: TeleSur

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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, SOUL, AND ESSENCE OF THE MEXICAN LAND

The teacher Jeannette Arriola, holder of the Carlos Slim chair for the fight against poverty, highlighted the qualities and problems of this sector of the population on the international day of indigenous peoples.

The UN General Assembly decided in 1994 that the International Day of the World's Indigenous People should be celebrated every August 9. Photo: Minci
The UN General Assembly decided in 1994 that the International Day of the World's Indigenous People should be celebrated every August 9. Photo: Minci

The International Day of the World's Indigenous People is celebrated every August 9 with the aim, in addition to enhancing their linguistic and cultural diversity, of sensitizing society to the needs of this population and the problems they face.

According to data from the 2015 Intercensal Survey of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), almost 25.7 million (21.5% of the national population) identify themselves as indigenous, some of whom suffer racial, social and economic discrimination, in addition to the exploitation of their lands, the deprivation of resources and the lack of access to basic health, food and education services.

Indigenous peoples are the soul and essence of Mexican land. They are the founders, the first inhabitants, possessing ancestral wealth and wisdom, in addition to being owners of a vast culinary, artistic, clothing and language culture, with a very particular cosmovision and a genuine thought, but beyond the fact that their culture enriches all of Mexico and Latin America, this sector of the population faces very severe problems.

"These indigenous peoples find themselves in a situation of severe poverty, exclusion, and marginalization. The most serious indices of poverty are concentrated in them in the indicators registered by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval)," recalled teacher Jeannette Mayte Arriola Sánchez, head of the Carlos Slim Helú Chair for the Fight against Poverty and the Sustainable Integral Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico, of our Faculty of Social Responsibility.

According to the 2010 National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico (Enadis), one in 10 people in the country says that indigenous people are poor because they don't work. On the other hand, according to the National Survey of Indigenous People (ENI) conducted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), eight out of 10 people would hire an indigenous person exclusively for work in the home or for the construction sector.

"It is common to see that indigenous peoples do not have access to quality food, education, health, housing or basic services that guarantee dignity in their daily lives. In this sense, the public sector in its three levels of government, as well as the private sector and academia must begin to interact with the communities to generate change in this situation that afflicts them," said the founder and president of the Pro Mexico Indígena A.C. foundation.

The assistance programs that the government promotes have tried to counteract poverty in the country, however, according to the candidate for Doctor of Innovation and Social Responsibility at the Anahuac University of Mexico, these only work in emergency situations (earthquakes, earthquakes, natural disasters, etc.). "Through the Carlos Slim Helú Chair for Combating Poverty, we have promoted food security, because members of indigenous peoples consume, produce and sell their food, which generates economic sufficiency," she said.

In an interview, Ms. Jeannette Arriola asked that poverty be seen as a structural issue, "you cannot approach poverty from a single perspective and it is not possible to combat it by a single sector. The government cannot and will not be able to do it alone, much less with welfare policy," he said.

In addition to the business sector, another of the allies of the Pro México Indígena A.C. foundation is academic, who has given his support to the projects that this organization carries out. "We have been joined by UNAM and the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), and Anahuac has also given us important support, in fact, some of the indigenous peoples say it is 'their university' because they identify with the work of the Chair and because of all the times we have visited different communities," he added.

It should be noted that the Universidad Anahuac Mexico, through the Carlos Slim Helú Chair for Combating Poverty and Sustainable Integral Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico, conducts academic research studies with innovation in social responsibility that demonstrate how other ways can be generated to combat poverty and food shortages to generate integral development for the benefit of those who have less.

"We have been carrying out specific case studies of municipalities that are inserted in indigenous territories, and there is a before and after in the indicators after the intervention of the Pro México Indígena foundation. We carried out with them a quantitative and qualitative impact research where we have based ourselves on the parameters of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, better known as FAO) and on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDS) of the United Nations Organization (UN) and it has been seen that extreme poverty, unlike what the world's ancestral paradigms say, can be fought," she explained.

Regarding the leadership of indigenous women, Arriola Sánchez explained that the association she presides over works on the issue of gender migration in the lines of research that detail the roles that women are occupying, although from a point of view of complementarity.

"We have seen that Mazahua women have been key, have been leaders, have been triggered in the family for the education of their children. These women have been taught to work, produce and sell their products," she said.

Finally, she considered that we have much to learn from our peoples and their wisdom. "We think individually, about our own development and that of our own, but indigenous peoples think collectively, and for them, respect for the word is very important. Indigenous peoples enrich us with their values, with their respect for life and nature; with their respect for human life, tradition, and culture. It is a community with organizational forms that teach us that we are capable of working together in all sectors to build the Mexico that we all want and in which we all fit.

What is certain is that the issue of indigenous peoples can be approached from different perspectives, as the academic of our Institution specifies, who also asked not to leave aside the situation of extreme vulnerability faced by people with disabilities and single mothers, since "politics must focus, like Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize in Economics 1998, said, on the theory of human development where it is established that it is not possible to generate development if it does not generate the capacity for people to choose the life they want to live".

Sociodemographic information:

Almost 25.7 million people in Mexico identify themselves as indigenous. Of these, 12.5 million are men and 13.2 million are women.

The population that is considered indigenous is abundant in Oaxaca, Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo.

Only 27.6% of those who identify themselves as indigenous speak an indigenous language.

One in ten speakers of an indigenous language does not speak Spanish.

More than 60% of those who speak an indigenous language live in rural localities.

Among Mexicans between the ages of 6 and 14 who speak an indigenous language, 92.7% attend school.

There are 68 indigenous peoples living in our country.

Source: anahuac.mx