Diálogo entre culturas: preservación/extinción del imaginario de las poblaciones indígenas en la música, el arte, las danzas y las literaturas multilingües/interculturales (2014)

Monday, May 20, 4-5:30

Moderator:  Laura D. Shedenhelm - University of Georgia Libraries

Rapporteur:  Michael Hoopes, University of New Mexico


  • Presentación del libro: Palabras mayores, palabras vivas, tradiciones mítico-literarias y escritores indígenas en Colombia — Miguel Rocha, Universidad of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • La presencia de la cultura aborigen en las regiones de matrices africanas en Cuba — Miguel Viciedo Valdés, Biblioteca Pública Provincial Rubén Martínez Villena/Oficina del Historiador de la Habana, Cuba, and Tomás Fernández Robina, Universidad de La Habana/Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba José Martí
  • Mito, rito y arte rupestre: otros decires, otras escrituras, otras valencias — Fernando  Urbina Rangel, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • El Tondero y los desaparecidos que estaban de parranda — Daniel Orlando Díaz Benavides, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos

We apologize for any inconvenience, but technical difficulties with our taping equipment during this presentation inhibit a thorough report of the first presentations. Please contact individual presenters for additional information.  Thank you.

Miguel’s presentation begins with a discussion of the book Palabras, no llores, recently published in Colombia.  The book deals with the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nature of the Colombian population initially recognized in the early 1990s. For the first time, the Colombian constitution of 1991 was published in multiple indigenous languages. Such a shift corresponded with an increased dialogue of indigenous recognition surrounding the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first colonization effort in the Western Hemisphere. This movement gave birth to a number of indigenous-language publications, which meant that the indigenous populations were no longer looked at, but did the looking through their own literary outlets.

In the 60s, the Colombian government signed an accord with the Instituto Linguistico Verano, an institution of protestant missionaries devoted to educating Colombia’s indigenous population. Arriving in 1962, these missionaries sought to preserve indigenous languages. The main byproduct of this effort was the translation of the Bible into various indigenous languages.  Additionally, the Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal visited Medellin as a priest and began to explore the possibility of establishing an indigenous literary culture in Colombia and throughout Latin America. In 1963 Cardenal published an anthology of indigenous literature from throughout Latin America. Many publications and periodicals organized by Cardenal followed in the 60s and 70s. Cardenal was part of a non-anthropological camp that worked with indigenous languages.

In 2010, the Colombian government recognized the linguistic rights of all of the country’s communities, accompanied by an initiative to establish more libraries throughout the country that will promote indigenous-language materials. These laws will facilitate a stronger indigenous tradition in the arts. Today in Colombia 65 indigenous languages are spoken throughout 83-100 indigenous communities.

Another publication, Tengo los pies en la cabeza, is discussed for its discussion of the fight of one Colombian indigenous community against North American petroleum interests. Interesting is the fact that the book was funded in-part by a multinational company. Another book, a novel, La famosa Maria, is discussed for its discussion of colonial encounters with indigenous communities. A handful of other contemporary publications related to indigenous populations in Peru, Venezuela, and Chile are discussed as well.

Miguel concludes by inviting the audience to search the terms “biblioteca indigena Colombia” on Google, which will lead to a website offering free downloads of important pieces of literature related to the contemporary indigenous movement in Colombia.


Unidentified asks how the works of authors associated with the indigenous movement get their work to indigenous communities. Miguel explains that many books, such as Lenguage Creativo de las etnias indigenas de Colombia are published and distributed for free by Latin American banks and that other important studies done by anthropologists are most often distributed for free.

Jennifer Osorio (UCLA) asks to what degree contemporary indigenous literature is represented in Colombian libraries. Miguel states that public libraries are advancing at a steady rate in their collections, and the National Library is creating a strong collection of indigenous literature. The literature is still not effectively represented in bookstores or private libraries, however. Any lack of availability is in part due to the skill required to read such books, and bilingual readers are relatively few, given that the country’s fully indigenous population is around 2%.

Unidentified asks about a panel on indigenous literature he organized at a recent book fair. Miguel explains that the conference had a strong representation of indigenous populations from all over Latin America such as the Maya, Mapuche, etc. He states that a main theme of the panel was the emerging nature of contemporary indigenous literature that still lacks broad support from state institutions, but there is reason for continuing optimism.