COVID-19: Why Do Indigenous Peoples Not Want to Return to Normal?

Ollantay Itzamná
Quechua girl.

Although no one knows when the highest global peak in COVI19 infections will occur, at the moment, more than 10 million people are infected with COV19, and nearly half a million people have lost their lives.

The international community, despite modern globalization, was unable to activate a comprehensive strategy to deal with the globalized pandemic through worldwide interconnection. Governments in every country do either what they can or what they want… seeking to safeguard the interests of global and local elites.

At the moment, the epicenter of the pandemic is the continent of Abya Yala. Particularly in the most populated countries… the virus travels from the major cities to the rural areas. It does not discriminate biologically, every human being is or can be a potential victim. The difference is at the social level. The impoverished and excluded sectors of the system suffer more. COVID19 is socially discriminatory.

Just as there were no coordinated strategies of containment at the international level, there are no coordinated strategies for planetary “de-escalation” either.

After being “locked up” for more than 100 days, voices are being heard everywhere, demanding a return to normality. Even some “representatives” of indigenous movements are demanding that governments lift restrictions and “return to normal” in order to exercise the rights that have been restricted during the pandemic.

Why shouldn’t indigenous peoples demand a return to normalcy?

Indigenous peoples, and all sectors that are subordinate or exploited by the hegemonic neoliberal system, the last thing we should ask for is “back to normal”.

In the “longed-for” normality, what was normal for the indigenous peoples was to subsist without rights while bearing obligations. The normal in the “desired” normality was and is systematic discrimination, not only on the basis of race. The normal was and is the constant denial of rights.

What was and is normal in the “desired” normality was and is repression and murder of those who defend rights. The normal thing was and is that males mistreat and murder women with impunity because they are women. The normal thing was and is to plunder territories… to give the common goods to the private owners… This is part of the graph of the normality of the world system in which we subsisted and continue to subsist.

In the “claimed” normality the normal was and is public corruption. It is normal for corrupt governments to mortgage our children with unpayable foreign debts… It is normal for us to destroy our Mother Earth by pursuing the satisfaction of the desires maliciously encouraged by the market.

For these and other reasons we resist returning to pre-pandemic normality. The conditions of confinement or self-enclosure in which we subsist as families, communities or peoples, in these times of pandemic, are difficult to bear. Especially when there is hunger. But, these are also fertile times that should strengthen our commitment to our proposals for the post-pandemic “new normality” that we advocate.

A new normality with a humanity reconciled with Mother Earth. A new normality where the human being finds fulfilment and happiness in the happiness of the rest of the members of the cosmic community.

We know that the times to come will not be easy. The dispute for territories, for water basins, for public goods, …, will be more charged and possibly more violent… But, despite this certainty, we must not demand a return to the normality that normalized our condition of colonized subalternity.