“Historically there is sufficient evidence of relationships of coexistence, solidarity and support in Cauca”

“Historically there is sufficient evidence of relationships of coexistence, solidarity and support in Cauca”
“Historically there is sufficient evidence of relationships of coexistence, solidarity and support in Cauca”

​​Axel Rojas Martínez, sociologist from the Universidad del Valle and master in Cultural Studies from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, remembers that about 20 years ago, during a visit to the Tierradentro area, he shared with the Afro-descendant population that lives in the municipality of Páez, northern Cauca.

They told them the case of an Afro healer who lived there and who had learned from the cultural and medical tradition of the Nasa, the indigenous population that lives in this region.

“There are many cases like this, in which there is shared learning and knowledge”says Rojas Martínez, professor of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Cauca and who is currently carrying out field work on various dimensions of the conflict in southwestern Colombia.

The researcher provides another historical example that illustrates the coexistence relationships that have occurred between the different communities that have inhabited Cauca: consulting the colonial archive of this region, the sociologist found cases of indigenous people who sponsored children of enslaved people during this time.

In addition, remember that the Afro population of Tierradentro was a salt producer, since they had a salt mine in streams that are tributaries of the Páez River. That population sold that salt throughout the region and generated constant commercial exchanges.

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In this department, where the conflict has recently intensified, Afro-descendant, peasant and indigenous communities have historically coexisted, such as the Nasa, the Coconuco, the Yanacona and the Misak.

Furthermore, Cauca has great diversity in geographical, ecological, and climatic terms, which also generates different cultural and living conditions, many contrasts.

For Rojas Martínez, it is necessary to clarify that the conflicts that have occurred between peasant, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations are not intercultural or interethnic. That qualification, according to the professor from the University of Cauca, has been a serious mistake by the academy.

“They are conflicts that have to do with a deeply precarious reality throughout history, in which there is a growing population with scarce resources and many times, in the face of the need for resources, there is a coincidence of interests and tensions arise between those groups”Explain.

Understanding interculturality

Axel Rojas Martínez emphasizes that a first key point is to understand that cultural diversity is not only ethnic diversity. In that sense, the multiplicity of cultural expressions and traditions have given a determining specificity to the department of Cauca.

According to the sociologist and professor, the ways of understanding culture today are very poor and that is limiting us from being able to make a better reading of our past and our present.

“It turns out that the moment we begin to read culture as an exclusive attribute of a group of people that we delimit based on an identity, we stop understanding how culture works”he assures.

To give an example, he mentions the case of paisa culture, which is shared by men, women, peasants, urban populations, Catholics, and Protestants. “That is, there is a common culture of multiple identities. So, we cannot equate culture and identity, it is the mistake we are constantly making, we think that an identity must correspond to a culture.”Add.

Axel Rojas Martínez, sociologist from the Universidad del Valle and master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.

In the case of Cauca, he says, the historical relationships between these identity groups, whether indigenous, Afro-descendant or peasant communities, have been created in part because there are many elements of shared culture.

And he emphasizes that the logic of the multicultural that inhabits us in the present, very typical of the last three decades, has led to exacerbating the identity moods thought in terms of tension and prevents us from seeing identities in dialogues, cultures in coexistence, groups in reciprocities.

The analysis is very problematic and impoverishing, he adds, because it feeds the idea that the origin of conflicts is culture, or cultures. This, rather than encouraging the construction of a more democratic society, goes against the grain because it follows the preconception that conflicts originate because we think differently or because we conceive an issue in different ways.

“The issue is more complex than that and, furthermore, it does not recognize that there are other actors who also participate in these conflicts and who encourage and convert tension between populations with limited resources and turn them into conflicts that they call intercultural”he argues.

Among the historical cases with which the union of the different communities of Cauca has been demonstrated, Rojas Martínez highlights the march of the indigenous governors of the eighties, who left that territory and reached Bogotá and who had the support not only from academic circles, but with the Afro-descendant communities of the geographic valley of the Cauca River.

The professor highlights that, just like this case, in which there were meetings, tours, dialogues and support, other examples of reciprocity could be traced.

“There is enough evidence to understand that, although it is true that today many people are standing in a place of conflict from which the perspective to think about Cauca is constructed, historically there has been sufficient evidence of relations of coexistence, of relations of solidarity , support”, ends.

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