The Amazon and Latin America

Famous photograph of a family from the Isolated Ache tribe of Paraguay


The Amazon and Latin America

This unit examines the presence of isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon and Latin America. A study of isolated peoples reveals that indigenous movements have demanded for the recognition of and compliance with their fundamental rights, including the right to their identity, autonomy, and the access to, use, and control of their land, territory and resources based on their own institutions and systems.

A study carried out by the World Bank in 2015, based on records drawn from the national census figures from 2010, shows that there are approximately 40 to 50 million indigenous persons living in Latin American and Caribbean countries. Over 80 percent of the isolated population (approximately 34.4 million persons) reside in México, Perú, Guatemala, and Bolivia, while El Salvador and Costa Rica are home to the smallest indigenous population with 14,865 and 104,143 indigenous persons, respectively.

There is an alarming trend of criminalization and violence against activists and defenders of indigenous rights and environment in Latin America and the Caribbean. Men and women who uphold indigenous peoples’ right to political, social, and economic self-determination in the context of the management, use, and pres­ervation of their land, territory and resources are subject to monitoring, suffering harassment, threats, intimidation, attacks, and unlawful detention by private stakeholders or authorities with the involvement of the State. Some of these individuals even suffer being murdered.

Although a sizeable portion of the indigenous population of Latin America and the Caribbean today lives in urban areas, their relationship with their land, territory and resources is still generally strong. They believe that these three entities- land, natural resources, and territories provide life and sustenance to animals and people, who in turn must protect and care for them to survive. This interconnection builds a relationship of respect, gratitude, and care between humans and their environment. What this implies is that indigenous people do not see their land, territory and resources merely as a source of raw materials to be exploited for personal profit or economic gain, but rather they play key roles in community relations, ethics and values, and a sense of belonging in the world.

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