Eisenstadt, Todd A., Michael S. Danielson, Moises Jaime Bailon Corres, and Carlos Sorroza Polo, eds. Latin America's Multicultural Movements: The Struggle Between Communitarianism, Autonomy, and Human Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. xiii + 288 pp. Paperback, $29.95.
As a candidate for the presidency of Mexico in 2000, Vicente Fox remarked that he could resolve the indigenous-based Zapatista uprising in the southern state of Chiapas in fifteen minutes. And why not? Many of the rebels' grievances revolved around commonsensical demands to recognize the country's pluralistic nature and respect the right of indigenous communities to govern their own affairs. As President, however, Fox met a more difficult reality. Negotiations failed, and the Zapatistas recently celebrated twenty years of rebellion. Particularly since the 1970s and 1980s, indigenous movements throughout Latin America have struggled for greater autonomy for their communities and the right to use traditional practices in local decision-making. Experience has shown that movements like that of the Zapatistas, though stunningly successful in turning the spotlight toward indigenous interests, often fail in the substance of their aims, and that even when indigenous rights are recognized, they raise special difficulties for new democracies.
These problems motivate Latin America's Multicultural Movements, an edited volume with contributions from a variety of notable scholars of Latin America. Debates over multiculturalism often focus on its justifications and merits, but this title concerns itself with the practical effects of indigenous rights movements and policies. It treats questions concerning why multicultural movements succeed or fail in their goals, and how those goals compete with other values held in democracies. Through case studies from southern Mexico (though not the Zapatistas), Ecuador, and Bolivia, the book explores the movements for multicultural rights--the active accommodation of rights held by minority groups as opposed to those held by individuals--and the complexity in what appears on the surface to be a straightforward demand for communal rights and respect for traditional practices. The book illuminates the challenges multicultural movements face both in achieving recognition for and implementation of multicultural indigenous rights, and most importantly the challenges such group rights pose to individual rights.
The book begins by asking why such...