Yesterday’s holiday in which a racist system celebrates October 12th, (Race Day) we remember the 524 years of genocide and discrimination that the indigenous peoples from these lands suffered.
Before Hipólito Irigoyen’s radical government committed 3 of the most abhorred deeds in the first decades of the XX century: The Tragic Week in 1919 Buenos Aires, the Tragic Patagonia killings in 1921, and the massacres perpetrated also in 1921, in the north of Santa Fe by an impulse of a british company, La Forestal, it had occurred that the authorities, in a sudden rapt of exacerbated hispanophobia, decided in 1917 to impose October 12th as a national holiday in Argentina, bading it at the same time with the pompous title of “Race Day”.
(93 years later, due to social pressure and the growing awareness of the indigenous people’s tragedy, the Executive Power, in one of those opportunistic twists, decided to change the name to “Day of the American Cultural Diversity”. But, notwithstanding, in the same manner as in Irigoyen’s days, keeping the same official holiday character).
On , 1492, when the Europeans reached these beaches to “discover” and despoil that which they coldly called “new lands”, what really started, in reality, was a systematic extermination of the civilizations that had been here since the beginning. Using nowadays language, we would say that what started in that tragic and emblematic date was and gigantic operative of Estate terrorism. Which started with the original peoples of the XV century, it was followed by the exploitation of the north american afro descendants, who were furiously reduced to servitude, and it continues nowadays with the precious lives suppressed by the happy trigger and the torture in the Buenos Aires areas, or with the kidnappings and students disappearance in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero State, Mexico, or with the criminalization of the social organizations in Honduras and in a good part of the rest of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, or with the prolonged incarcerations of the mapuches in Chile or with the persecution and murder of the qom, pilagá, wichí, guaraníes and other nations of north Argentina who claim legitimately against the plundering of what is theirs.
And, as always, the victims of this soil were turned victimarius and called “savages”, opening up the eternal history that has been developing from power above to whiten the genocides.
“America” is the name given to the continent by the murderous conquerors. But the aymara leader Constantino Lima Chávez, known better as Takir Mamani (1933) imposed the name Abya-Yala, spread before anyone by the kuna people in Panama.
The name, which means “ripe land” or “vital blood land”, is already used by the indigenous peoples on their documents and sworn declarations, since putting foreign names to their villages, cities and continents is the equivalent to put our identity through the will of the invaders and their heirs.
Takir, which is the name used in his battles and political actions, was chased and sent to exile by the dictatorship of Hugo Banzer (1971-78). When he returned to Bolivia he founded the Tupaj Katari movement in 1978.
The numbers differ according to the source, but the extermination took the lives of at least seventy million human beings. Entire civilizations, that had developed their culture for centuries and ways to appreciate nature and human relations, were destroyed.
The Inca Empire, just to cite and emblematic case. The Inca Empire, which the french Louis Baudin (1887-1964) called “The socialist Inca Empire”, in his book published in 1940, was steamrolled by the voracity of the colonialists, insatiable when it came to riches and indigenous blood.
At the end of the XV century, according to the brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro (Monte Carlos, Minas Gerais, October 26th, 1922 – Brasilia, February 17th, 1997), at the moment the european conquerors reached these beaches, there were approximately seventy million indigenous people.
A century after that, according to the same source, there were only three and a half million left, this means men and women who, after having suffered the self proclaimed “american conquest”, were left homeless, since they no longer were able to benefit from the lands they had occupied for centuries.
The extermination of the native peoples was almost total, “as much because of the infrahuman conditions in which they were treated – according to Ribeiro’s documenting – as because the mass suicidal behavior that took place in many communities when they saw that misery and slavery were their only destiny”.
Our fathers, grandfathers or great-grandfathers came to these latitudes running from poverty or persecution. They did not know that they had come to settle in a place that before had belonged to the kollas, mapuches, tehuelches, totonacas, huarpes, matacos, diaguitas, calchaquíes, sioux, mayas and so many other people who were exterminated or driven away from their lands.
There is not that much awareness in the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the european immigrants about the committed injustice. The exploitative systems have always set poor peoples against each other. In any way, I cannot stop myself from admitting that, while writing this piece, I am overwhelmed by a dual feeling, maybe schizophrenic, because this piece is, after all, dedicated to revindicate the original people. But, on another note, I do not feel so well, because I think that maybe this text can be part of the bad conscience of the white men due to the crimes committed by the indigenous peoples.
Anyhow, I am here, and be absolutely sure that the author of these lines, son of immigrants who got here running away from overseas genocide, is a million times closer to the indigenous brothers than to the exploitative and murderous white men who have committed so many crimes in the name of their cultural standards which they considered superior.
Education and Culture
The school education, which praises the exterminations that the white’s culture, especially in Hollywood cinema, wreaked havoc.
The “indians”, in that extremist and falsified perception, were the bad and uncultured; the whites, many times personified by John Wayne, were the sacrificed idealists who came here to spread their unique ways of living.
That is what the official culture says. That is what the system historians say. That is what the official educators say. The movies say so. The television says so.
But we know quite well who the real killers were. And who were the ones who committed the most abhorrent of crimes.
I want to pause especially in one relatively recent episode, but which is the symbol of all genocide, from before and from now.
I am referring to what is known by the official historiography of Argentina and the “desert conquest”, which had Gral.Julio A. Rocas as its visible leader. In July 1878, when he took charge of the War and Marine Ministry, Roca set in motion his exterminio plan.
Roca was willing to terminate the south indigenous peoples (“the infidels”, as they were called during that time), to reaffirm what he called the national sovereignty.
In that same month, July 1978, each border commander got the order to invade the indigenous lands.
And Roca used a word that, half a century later, the nazi would use: there is a need to start quickly a “cleaning campaign” and he praised himself because those which he called “national forces” were able to “eliminate the majority of the indigenous populations and their main caciques”.
Roca, personally, led the killings. Thousands of indigenous peoples were killed, elderly, women and children among them. And the objective they were after had met the expectations, adding 15.000 leagues of land to the “sovereign and effective domain of the nation”, contained between the former and the new border which, in that moment, reached the septentrional edge of the rivers Negro and Neuquén.
Roca, however, was not satisfied with this first advance and when he reached presidency of the republic in 1880, he started new operations for extermination. The objective, again, was to “clean the region”. And for that he gave power to his War Minister, Gral. Benjamín Victorica, to keep killing indigenous peoples without consideration. The final stage of the hunting took place at the heart of the Patagonia. The heroic indigenous resistance was not enough and the disproportion of forces and military organization also helped the final result.
In 1883, five years after Roca initiated his bloody journey, there were still some rebel tribes which roamed the territory, led under the command of the cacique Sayhueque. In order to eliminate them definitely, the governor of the Patagonia and its garrison, Gral. Lorenzo Winter, started another annihilation campaign, which developed between 1883 and the beginnings of 1885.
In this last campaign 3700 indigenous combatants were killed, and a high and undetermined number of tribes’ members. General Winter (1842-1915, German origin), in his report to General Roca, announced: “I am highly satisfied and honored to notify the Superior Government and the country, that every border against the savages in the south of the republic has disappeared forever”.
The plundering system was ecstatic because of the spilled blood. And the landowners rubs their own hand together when they added to their possessions that which they despoiled from the indigenous peoples.
(Our beloved Osvaldo Bayer studied extensively how those plunderers gave origin to the Rural Society led by the Martinez de Oz family).
Genocidal people from Roca to Videla
Roca and his people breathed at ease. The oligarchy started doing great business, launching the livestock and agricultural exportation of Argentina. It was then when they decided to open immigration, assuming that the poor peoples from Europe were to become a more docile workforce than the indigenous peoples and the indomitable gauchos.
But they were wrong, because those European immigrants, who brought the revolutionary ideals from the countries of origin, were inclined to disobedience and the search for justice.
Then, other battles and confrontations started, the ones by the socialist and anarchist people, which generated other repressions instruments like the Residence Law, which in 1902 was launched by President Roca under the influence of the novelist and senator Miguel Cané (1851 -1915).
A hundred years later in 1978, another genocidal dictatorship, the one led by Jorge Rafael Videla, decided to celebrate the centenary of those killings which was again denominated the “Desert Campaign”.
Videla celebrating Roca is a little way to symbolize the unity among genocidal people from different periods of time in an Argentina that, paraphrasing the Peruvian writer Ciro Alegría (1909-1967), was always “broad and someone else’s”.
Boleslav Lewin (Lodz, Poland, 1909 – Buenos Aires , 1988), Jewish writer and researcher who settled in Argentina running away from the pogromos from his native land, was rapidly self-identified with the indigenous tragedy and, at the beginnings of the forties (when his family and friends were exterminated by the Nazi in Europe), published here his monumental biography of Tupac Amaru, in which he documented the way in which the Inca Socialist Empire was steamrolled by the criminality of the goods, greedy for riches and indigenous blood.
That is why we raise the flags of the two rebels who were named Tupac Amaru. The one from the XVI century, who was killed in the Cuzco Square by the minions of Viceroy Toledo. And the one from the XVIII century, who was born with the name of José Gabriel Condorcanqui and who, after leading one of the most sublime uprisings of the history of humanity, was also killed in El Cuzco along with his family. The revolutionary flags of Tupac Amaru are ours.
Yesterday, in the long holiday in which the racist system celebrates October 12th, we remember the 524 years of genocide and discrimination that the indigenous peoples from these lands suffered.
Their ongoing battles, due to the memory of what happened and due to the humiliations and exterminations that they keep suffering today, are also the ongoing warriors who are facing the marcrist neoliberal terrorism.
Indigenous brothers. Brothers of the original peoples. This brother, this son of Jewish immigrants who escaped here from other exterminations, greets you.