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 9 Afro-Ecuadorian Community Organizing and Political Struggle Influences on and Participation in Constitutional Processes Jean Muteba Rahier Over the last two decades, following the adoption of“multicultural”policies targeting indigenous and African diasporic populations by institutions of international development and global governance such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization (Hale 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006) and as a result of the political activism of indigenous and African diasporic communities, many Latin American nation-states revised their constitutions and passed special laws that express a concern about greater inclusion of African diasporic and indigenous populations. In this context what Charles Hale (2004) has called el indio permitido (the “permitted Indian”) emerged and Latin American African diasporic populations gained relatively greater agency compared to the exclusion (Rahier 1998,1999) they suffered during the era of“monocultural mestizaje” (Silva 1995; Polo 2002; EspinosaApolo 2003; Ibarra Dávila 2002; Rahier 2003a). In Ecuador,that era lasted from the early twentieth century until the indigenous uprisings of the early 1990s (Whitten, Whitten, and Chango 2003; Clark and Becker 2007), culminating in the adoption of a multicultural Constitution in 1998 by a National Constituent Assembly. In this chapter, I analyze two major moments in recent Ecuadorian history. First I examine the process that led to the first Ecuadorian Constitution to adopt multiculturalism, which gave collective rights to indigenous peoples and (in a less obvious way) to Afro-Ecuadorians.I then discuss the process by which the second multicultural Constitution was adopted in 2008, with a special focus on the role of Afro-Ecuadorian activists. According to Ecuador’s 2001 census, 2.2 percent of the population self-identified as negros (Afroecuatorianos), 4.9 percent self-identified as either negros or mulatos, and 7 percent identified as indígenas, out of a national population of 12,156,608. The overwhelming majority of the national population (77.4 percent ) self-identified or were counted by census takers as mestizos. It is clear that the number of indigenous peoples and Afro-Ecuadorians were underreported Afro-Ecuadorian Community Organizing and Political Struggle  199 (Izquierdo 2007); it is well known that the Ecuadorian state—which is controlled by various sectors of the white and white-mestizo national elite—tends to underreport the size of both indigenous and black populations. This tendency has continued despite the “multicultural turn” officially celebrated with the passing of the 1998 Constitution. Ecuador’s two “traditional” Afro-Ecuadorian communities (see Figure 9.1) emerged during the colonial period as the result of the importation of slaves. One community is located in the coastal province of Esmeraldas (West 1952, 1957), and the other is found in the Andean Chota-Mira Valley, located in the highlands (Coronel 1987a, 1987b, 1988).A small zambo (black-indigenous) community also formed in Esmeraldas Province in the sixteenth century by escaped slaves (Rueda Novoa 2001; Lane 2002). Over the past three decades, Afro-Ecuadorians have migrated from Esmeraldas and the Chota-Mira Valley to Quito, Guayaquil, and the Amazonian region. This movement of Afro-Ecuadorians has changed the urban landscape, and now the city of Guayaquil is said to have the biggest Afro-Ecuadorian concentration in the country (Figure 9.1). Figure 9.1. Map of Ecuador’s traditional Afro-Ecuadorian communities, Esmeraldas and Chota Valley. Map by Jean Muteba Rahier. 200  Jean Muteba Rahier The 1998 Constitution: Una Constitución de la Derecha? There is considerable irony in the fact that the first Ecuadorian Constitution with a multiculturalist orientation was adopted by a Constituent Assembly that was mainly comprised of political parties from the right. On February 6, 1997, the president of Ecuador, Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz, was declared unfit to serve because of “mental incapacity” by the Ecuadorian Congress less than six months after he had assumed the presidency (Báez et al.1997; Córdova delAlcázar 2003). This decision followed massive protests against Bucaram’s neoliberal economic policies, which led to an increase in the price of domestic gas by 245 percent,of electricity by 300 percent,of public transportation by 60 percent,and of telephone service by 1,000 percent (de la Torre n.d., 13). The protests were staged by indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, women’s, student, and other grassroots movements and organizations. Student rallies began on January 10th, and by February 2nd the indigenous movement had blocked all roads in the countryside , paralyzing the economy. The Frente Patriótico, the Frente Popular, and the Coordinadora de Movimientos Sociales called for a general strike on February...


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