From “indios” to “indígenas”: guerrilla perspectives on indigenous peoples and repression in Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua

 Roy Krøvel
 Interface: a journal for and about social movements, Volume 3 (1): 145 - 171 (May 2011)
 Subcomandante Marcos and other Zapatistas have on numerous occasions discussed the clash between “Northern” perspectives on revolution and the world, and indigenous reality. Understanding the meaning, for the insurgency, of the indigenous culture of the Zapatista support base has also been a major topic in the writing of many supporters of, and visitors to, the Zapatistas. But such an understanding of the history of the Zapatistas has consequences for our understanding of the conflicts between guerrilla organizations and indigenous peoples in Guatemala and Nicaragua during the 80s and 90s. This article seeks to contribute to our understanding of such issues based on studies of the Zapatistas and similar encounters between guerrilleros and indigenous peoples in Nicaragua and Guatemala. A better understanding of the clash between “Northern” perspectives and indigenous realities is a necessary prerequisite for understanding why some movements fail and others succeed.
 The relationship between armed groups and indigenous peoples had a powerful effect on the outcomes of the civil wars in the region. The root causes for the problems between indigenous peoples and guerrilla organizations are sought in, among other things, militaristic guerrilla organisations, marked by hierarchical, centralised and inflexible structures which did not facilitate the processes of learning. Learning to understand indigenous peoples and their worldviews would have been necessary to avoid the type of self-destructive behaviour that is described in this article. The experiences from Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico raises some important questions for future research on social movements also elsewhere: Who do the movements represent? What type of communication and learning goes on within the social movement? Are certain groups excluded from fully participating?