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A colonized people in search of Self-Determination (part I)

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In his article, Dr. Bush accurately underlines the negative effects tourism and overpopulation is having upon San Andres. Thus, the Island stands in twodilemmas, he argues, between changing its current economic model and suffers a financial and social crisis, or to keep the apparatus as it is and endure the destruction of its natural fragile environment.Next, he points out theimposed process of “colombianization,” and discrimination suffered by the people. However, Dr. Bush fails to call out these atrocities committed against the Raizal People by its due name: “Colonization.” A people whose language is English-Creole and a local economy, that are being forced “to survive in a predominantly Spanish-speaking and mainland-dominated economy,” as Dr. Bush correctly notes, is a people who is being exploited and colonized. Person who is forced “to compromise their identity and culture for the sake of a so-called economic success as part of a 'national project' which treats them as second class citizens” is being colonized.

This is further evident in the fact that mainland immigrants and foreigners (mainly Syrio-Lebanese) are extending their economic sovereignty over the affairs of the Island people. Raizals are losing control of their local public institutions, as the central government and corporate interests, alien to the Raizal communities up to 1953, use their economic and political power to gain control over the economic industries and of the local government. Irreplaceable priceless resources, including Raizal People, culture and environment, are being exploited to increase the wealth of investors, managers of corporations, and their politicalbenefactors. This is a typical “colonization.” On these heals ConventionNo. 169 was issued in 1989 by the ILO to ensure Peoples such as the Raizals their right to enjoy the full measure of their human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination; to safeguard their personhood, institutions, property, labor, culture and environment. The Raizal’s ways of life, customs and traditions, institutions, customary laws, forms of land use and forms of social organization are different from those of mainland Colombia. The international community, through Convention No. 169 and other UN resolutions, recognizes these differences, and aims to ensure that they are protected and taken into account when measures are being undertaken that are likely to have an impact on the Raizal People.

 San Andres is a modern day colony of Colombia. Traditionally, a colony has been defined as a territory, acquired by conquest or settlement, over which a government, previously alien to that territory, has enforced outside control.  A colonial relationship exists whenever one people or government extends its sovereignty by enforcing political, culturaland economical control over another people or territory. The only fundamental difference between the current colonization over San Andres and previous colonization is the nature of the entity carrying out the process – the source of power.  Historically, countries such as Britain and Spain were the ones carrying out colonization.Todayit is being carried out by the state of Colombia, but also by particular economic and political entities, as well as by multinational corporations. However, the colonization process and its consequences are essentially identical, notwithstanding of the source of power. So, though Dr. Bush does a good job in identifying some symptoms he fails in pointing out the crucial diagnosis: “Colonization of the Raizal People.” Therefore, the issue is not simply about Raizal “setting aside their culture” or a process of mere “cultural exchange,” as Dr. Bush suggests, it’s an issue of cultural genocide; it’s colonization, and it must be publicly admitted, discussed and dealt with.

This is the main goal of my response. There seems to be a misleading superficial interpretation of the Raizal’s reality, which is serving to deflect the people from seeing that colonialism is the root cause of the Islands calamity. Sadly, a significant number of local leaders have fallen victims (a few incurably so) to that scheme and they are unable to see the divide-and-rule colonial origins of most of the people’s dilemmas. The recent election of a foreigner to govern the Raizal territory and affairs is precisely the result of a colonial system that has been in the making for several decades. Dr. Bush writes, “Even in a post-modern society like London the individual ethnic element is important (and the sum of all the parts forms an interesting mix which makes this city extremely interesting and attractive). The islands should take notice of the outside world and outside influences and adapt accordingly.” 

This sounds like an invitation to relinquish the Raizal’s God-given right to self-determination and to accept that what is transpiring in San Andres is just the normal tendency of the times. Interestingly,it has been asserted, “Normalization is the colonization of the mind, whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor's reality is the only "normal" reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with” (Samah Sabawi).A people can adapt, but only within the context of self-determination. As Article 7 of Convention No. 169 states, the Raizal People have the right to “decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control over their economic, social and cultural development.” But for the last sixty decades these rights has been denied, manipulated or distorted by the chains of colonialism.

Therefore, to assert that “England has faced similar changes to San Andrés, but it has always drawn strength and benefited from those changes and from its mixed population” is at best anindiscretion, and at worst, a sign of Stockholm Syndrome. It would be important that Dr. Bush clarifies himself since at one point he speaks of “forced assimilation,” (which would amount tocolonialism) and at another of the simple merge of “Ethnic, religious and racial identities.” However, the huge difference is that England is not a colony, it is ruled and run by their own people; the main language is English; their values, culture, tradition and identity are not in danger of disappearing; and any cultural assimilation or merge of culture that occurs in the process is done within the context of a free people. I agree with Dr. Bush’s observation that “In an interconnected world it is not easy to be oneself or not to change.” However, it is a complete different story when this occurswithin the context of colonialism; is like what Dr. Kent Francis once termed as the disadvantaged “merge of the snake and the chicken.”

So, in order to have a clear discussion that can assist to overcome the Raizal’s misfortune and avoid misleading people from the real issue, it is vital torecognize and identifies the reality for what it is. San Andre’s people as well as our brothers and sisters in Old Providence and St. Catalina are being colonized, and the only solution is to decolonize and allow the Raizal to be a self-determine People. Henceforth, the ensuing discussion should evolve into how Raizals can forward the process of decolonization started by the SOS, followed by AMEN and being claimed today by other young voices like SAISOL and R-Youth thatare becoming aware of their real condition of colony.   

There are topics that are not politically correct such as “overpopulation,” which took many years to become a matter of public discussion, and which we still discusstimidly. It is the same with “colonialism.” It is time to make it a public discussion. This is the tendency in many parts of the world, and many countries are now apologizing to the people they have oppressed and are taking steps towards reparations. With all due respect, I want to invite my friend Dr. Bush and other of our Raizal thinkers to let’s dig deeper into our own reality, in love and grace, and help our People’s struggle for self-determination by assisting Colombia to recognize and remove their colonizing force.This must begin, however, first with Raizals recognizing their own reality and helping them overcome their own state of colonization of the mind. This is Bob Marley’s exhortation to “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” We all love the song, yet little is being done about it. Why? Because apparently we think the message is for some other people. Let’s weak up my people. God bless us.

Part two of this response will continue next week.

Última actualización ( Domingo, 29 de Noviembre de 2015 05:35 )  

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