Friday, January 26, 2007

Freeing the Spirit of the Americas: Roberto Rodriguez

[Reproduced with the kind permission of the author. Please note that The CAC Review's Creative Commons license may not apply to this particular posting.]

JANUARY 15, 2006


The sacred count has begun.

Some might call what is happening on Turtle Island prophesy, whereas others will simply say that given the continent's demographics, it was only a matter of time that the centuries-old process of de-Indigenization would begin to be challenged and reversed, commencing a process of re-Indigenization or the Indigenization of the Americas. This process is envisioned as bringing about peace, dignity and justice for all the peoples of the continent – the earth, actually, as opposed to a demographic horse race.

One of those challenges is taking place in Colorado where Vivian Delgado has recently achieved a long overdue de-colonial blow to that de-Indigenization process. Up until a few weeks ago, her birth certificate had her listed as white. After successfully petitioning the state's Office of Vital Records, she is now listed as Indigenous Mexican Yaqui & Indigenous Mexican Puebloan.

For some, this is heresy. Yet, de-Indigenization has never been an accidental by-product of colonialism: On top of land theft, it is the historic project by Euro-Americans to destroy thousands of years of aboriginal thought, culture, history, memory, language and spirituality on this continent. Part of this has included treating Indigenous peoples as less than human, and wherever possible, defining, Hispanicizing, Anglocizing or Westernizing them out of existence.

Some began that sacred count in 1990 when Indigenous peoples gathered in Quito, Ecuador to press for the end of 500 years of dehumanization. Others began it when the Zapatistas rose up in 1994 in Chiapas, Mexico…or with the 2006 election of Evo Morales of Bolivia, becoming the continent's first Indigenous president since the 19th century. Others note that European colonization did not terminate that sacred count; it simply submerged it.

For Neanderthal bigots, Mexicans are either subhuman Indians or mongrels. For them, the mere presence of [brown] Mexicans is a reminder of a failed and unfinished Indigenous extermination project. For others, Mexicans reclaiming their indigeneity is a reminder of another unfinished project: Manifest Destiny; the irreversible civilization, modernization and Christianization of the Americas. (That's why for many, the only modern solution is deportation).

The significance of Delgado's victory is huge, with the potential to be emulated by millions, thus accelerating the re-Indigenization of Turtle Island (despite the historic U.S.-led effort at the UN to deny the ratification of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).

In the past, due to a desire to escape segregation, forced removal, slavery or even extermination – millions of native peoples across the continent were forced to accept Western/Christian identities (non-Indigenous mestizo, and in some cases, white identities). While a different era, some of those discriminatory legacies remain. That's why many Mexicans (Central & South Americans also) here have begun to challenge the practice of automatically designating them as white, on both birth and death certificates, notes Rocky Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who sees these practices as ethnocide, helped organize a "Free the Spirit Day" forum in Denver recently that spurred on many others to also petition a change in their birth certificates (Two others have thus far been successful).

The forum, Delgado says, was an "historical attempt to address our sovereignty in this country….I believe as in the case of Indigenous Mexicans that our race was constructed by assimilation policy supported and enforced by the church and state. Race in this context can also be de-constructed and corrected."

For example, many Mexicans, due to de-Indigenization policies (reducciones), do not have tribal identities. Yet, that does not make them white, says Delgado, author of: "You're not Indian; You're Mexican." "To automatically assume that Mexicans are white, is a violation of their human rights at birth." They can still correct their certificates. Being part of maize-based cultures, they should [have the option to] identify as "Indigenous Mexican."

She believes that this issue is in part tied to [denial of] land grant rights. Aware of the contentiousness of such a claim, she is undaunted: "Our culture is land-based, and we retain our foods and traditional medicines. It's an inheritance that belongs to our children."

Then there's the U.S. Census. Due to de-Indigenization policies, racism and shame, it has in recent decades facilitated and counted people of Mexican, Central and South American origin as white. The bureau, however, supposedly no longer imposes identities – yet nowadays, it is nonsensically dividing up the entire nation into Hispanic and non-Hispanic categories. By design or default, Hispanics continue to be tallied as a white population. To be seen is if the bureau will stand in the way of that sacred count… in 2010.

* For info re Freeing the Spirit of the Americas -- on how to change your birth certificate, write to:Vivian Delgado at: or Rocky Rodriguez at: or Luis Torres at;; For info re the book, You're not Indian; You're Mexican write to Delgado at

© Column of the Americas 2007

Rodriguez can be reached at:

Dialogue: Newest Issue

Dr. Roi Kwabena's latest issue of Dialogue is currently available, in PDF format, directly from him at

This latest issue as usual covers a broad range of very interesting topics, mostly centred on themes of resistance to slavery, African and indigenous cultures, contemporary politics in Africa and the Caribbean, poetry, short stories, biographies of Caribbean literary and artistic personalities, poetry, museum reviews, more poetry, and finally some very interesting photographs of Trinidad Amerindian artifacts. It is 140 pages long and reminds one of some of the classic locally published reviews one used to find more frequently in the Caribbean in the past. The signs of life of an anti-colonial intelligentsia are not altogether gone, but in some cases they have moved abroad and make their presence felt over the Internet.

New Book: Quest for Caribbean Unity

NEW Book Release

A new book, Quest For Caribbean Unity: Beyond Colonialism, edited by Dr. Kenneth John, Dr. Baldwin King and Cheryl L. A. King, published in November 2006 by KINGS-SVG Publishers, is now available and we received a notice from one of the editors, Cheryl King (

This volume is the second of a trilogy on the re-publication of essays and commentaries that appeared in the Flambeau magazine between 1965 and 1968 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The first volume entitled Search for Identity focused on St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This volume focuses on the wider Caribbean as well as on philosophical and religious topics, among others. The authors are mostly Vincentian-born but there are a few invited contributors from other Caribbean countries as well from the U.S.A. and the former Yugoslavia. The editors believe that many of the essays still have such relevance to today’s Caribbean society that re-publication is very appropriate. For example, Kenneth John's "The Guyanese Situation” which put the whole Guyanese situation in its political, economic and social context in 1965 is, in some sense, prophetic when we look at what has happened to Guyana over the past forty years. Arnhim Eustace’s “Obstacles To Economic Growth” discussed the tremendous hurdles that small island states confront in the development process, hurdles still exist today. So, many of the essays provide a benchmark against which to judge the progress that has been made over the last forty years in Caribbean society.

The retail cost of the book (paperback, 198 pages, ISBN: 0-9778981-1-3) is US$24.95 plus US$3.50 for shipping in the US, US$4.50 for shipping to Canada and US $9.00 for shipping to the Caribbean and the United Kingdom, by airmail.

If you would like to have your book signed, just send the relevant information.

To order, please send your name, address and payment-check or money order payable to Baldwin King to:
Dr. B. King,
P.O.Box 702,
Madison, NJ 07940.
U.S.A., website:


Kenneth John received his B.Sc. in Government from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and his Ph.D. in Government from Manchester University. He is also trained as a barrister-at-law. He entered politics briefly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a candidate of the Democratic Freedom Movement. He writes a weekly column in the "Vincentian" newspaper. He also practices law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Baldwin King received his B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and his Ph.D. in physical/inorganic chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught Applied Chemistry at U.W.I. Mona and currently teaches Physical Chemistry at Drew University, New Jersey, USA where he is Professor of Chemistry. His research interests include inorganic anti-cancer agents. He is the author of "Introduction to Chemistry and the Environment" as well as a number of peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals.

Cheryl King received her B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, her Diploma in Education (Teaching of English) from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and her M.A. in Political Science from the Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York, New York. She is the author of "Michael Manley and Democratic Socialism." She currently works in the Drew University Library, Madison, New Jersey, USA.

Abu Ghraib, Trinidad & Tobago

As if inspired by the colonial perversions meted out by American soldiers against their Iraqi wards in Abu Ghraib prison, Trinidadian police invaded the home and arrested a Muslim activist and businessman who had encouraged a rally against the ruling Peoples National Movement for its imposition of highly unpopular foreign aluminum smelters and its seeming acquiescence to rampant crime and kidnappings.

Inshan Ishmael, the activist who also directs the Islamic Broadcasting Network (IBN), was arrested under--of all things--the Anti-Terrorism Act. He was then stripped of his clothing and made to squat naked on the floor of the police station to which he was abducted.

His crime? Posting a handbill without indicating his name or address as the publisher (yet one can clearly see his name and three phone numbers on the handbill), an offence in Trinidad that can result in a maximum fine of $1,000 TT (about $180 US) or six months in prison. Moreover, he was arrested without the required warrant--a warrant is needed unless someone is caught by police in the very act of committing a crime. Ishmael was having a barbecue with his family when police goons in plain clothes came to seize him. Moreover, a rally he had legally organized was then cancelled, only to be reinstated later by the high court.

Ishmael had called for a two-day shutdown of the country in protest against the PNM's increasingly despotic hold on the country. Clearly the police are being used as personal pawns of an authoritarian Prime Minister who apparently believes that his latest act of high-handed stupidity will escape broader notice. Given the "wannabe" nature of the Afro-Trinidadian political elite in the PNM, which for so long has desperately craved to become like the colonial Anglo-Saxon master it replaced, the Americans provided a ready made formula for humiliating opponents and justifying all manner of criminality under the code of "anti-terrorism."

Nevertheless, recent polls suggest that the PNM would win easily again in national elections. This is not entirely surprising, as the PNM has been very effective at diverting state funds into personal patronage projects, so that even those who might otherwise balk at corruption and dictatorship are heeding the pleas of their empty bellies to remain silent.