Indigenismo (Spanish: [indixeˈnismo]) is a political ideology in several Latin American countries which emphasizes the relationship between the nation state and indigenous nations and indigenous minorities.[1] In some contemporary uses, it refers to the pursuit of greater social and political inclusion for indigenous peoples in Latin America, whether through nation-wide reforms or region-wide alliances.[2] In either case, this type of indigenismo seeks to vindicate indigenous cultural and linguistic difference, assert indigenous rights, and seek recognition and in some cases compensation for past wrongdoings of the colonial and republican states. [3] Nevertheless, some historical figures like José Martí are classified as having been both indigenistas and hispanistas.[4]

Indigenism in MexicoEdit

A second use of the term, however, is more common[citation needed] and has more historical depth.[citation needed] Originally, indigenismo was a component of nationalist ideology that became influential in Mexico after the consolidation of the revolution of 1910–20. This "indigenismo" also lauded some aspects of indigenous cultural heritage, but primarily as a relic of the past. Within the larger national narrative of the Mexican nation as the product of European and Amerindian "race mixture," indigenism was the expression of freedom for an imagined, reclaiming identity that was stripped through attempted Spanish genocide.

During the administration of Plutarco Calles (1924–28), Moisés Sáenz, who held a doctorate from Columbia University and was a follower of John Dewey's educational methods, implemented aspects of indigenismo in the Department of Public Education. Sáenz had initially taken an assimilationist position on the "Indian problem," but after a period of residence in the Purépecha community of Carapan, he shifted his stance to one focusing on the material conditions affecting the indigenous. He influenced the administration of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–40), which established the cabinet-level position of the Department of Indigenous Affairs in 1936.[5] The department's main efforts were in the economic and educational spheres.[6] Cárdenas valorized indigeneity, as indicated by the creation of the cabinet-level position and resources put into indigenous communities. In 1940, Mexico hosted a multinational meeting on indigenism, The Congress of Inter-American Indigenism, held in Pátzcuaro, where Cárdenas himself addressed the gathering.[7] President Miguel Alemán reorganized the Mexican government's policies directed at the indigenous by creating the National Indigenist Institute (Instituto Nacional Indigenista or INI). In the Vicente Fox administration, the unit was reorganized and renamed.

The valorization of indigeneity was rarely carried over to contemporary indigenous people, who were targeted for assimilation into modern Mexican society. Though the authors of indigenist policies saw themselves as seeking to protect and relieve indigenous people, their efforts did not make a clean break with the overtly racist forced assimilation of the pre-revolutionary past.[8]

Indigenism in PeruEdit

In Peru, it is associated with the APRA movement founded by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre (1924). APRA dominated Peruvian politics for decades as the singular well-organized political party in Peru not centered on one person. To some APRA or "Aprismo" in its pure form stood for the nationalization of foreign-owned enterprises and an end to the exploitation of the indigenous peoples. To others it was about the combining of modern economics and technology with the historical traditions of the countryside and indigenous populations to create a new and unique model for social and economic development.[9] The ethnocacerism is a syncretic ethnic nationalist indigenous political movement in Peru.

Indigenism in BrazilEdit

In Brazil, an indigenist is a profession undertook by government officials or civil society organizations who work directly with indigenous communities. Indigenismo would then be a definition for work dedicated to indigenous societies. In the case of this country, Funai (National Indian Foundation), is the official indigenist organ of the state, dedicated to develop and execute the indigenist policy according to the national constitution. Even though it originated from SPI (Service of Protection of Indians), which was a military organ of colonization, dedicated to clearing up areas for white settlers, sometimes with very condemnable work approaches, others more noble, such as envisioned by Cândido Rondon, the SPI started incorporating indigenous communities as labour-force, contacting every isolated group on the way, with the goal of occupying the "barren lands" of Brazil, building roads, telegraph lines, and infrastructure in general. The legislation in that time did not consider indigenous people to be responsible enough to decide for themselves, therefore SPI would be the official stance to make the decisions for the Indians.

It evolved through the years, becoming Funai in the sixties during the military dictatorship, until Brazil became once again a democracy in the late 1980s. Since then, Funai has worked through a more respectful and humanitarian approach, being its institutional mission to protect indigenous lands from perpetrators, provide aid in cases needed, auxiliate in accessing public policies and several any other activities that are demanded from the government by indigenous people. It is a notably under-funded institution who, despite being part of the government, is constantly attacked by sectors of society such as illegal loggers, farmers, businessmen in general interested in the indigenous lands and all the politicians who represent these people. The current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is well known for maintaining hostile and racist opinions[10] towards indigenous and indigenist personalities and leaders, indigenous policy and notably indigenous land demarcation, and even towards the Funai itself, having said priorly that when elected, he would "put the scythe on Funai's neck".[11]

Besides Funai, there are several institutions dedicated to indigenism in Brazil, most of them being civil society organizations such as NGOs and OSCIPs. Most of them work executing the official indigenist policy, obtaining resources from different sources (government, donations, international funding, others) to develop sustainable activities with indigenous communities, being that some of them even work in partnership with the official indigenist organ Funai, sometimes backing up for the lack of resources (especially human resources) faced by the government institution.


  1. ^ SeeEngle, Karen (2010). The Elusive Promise of Indigenous Development. Duke University Press.
  2. ^ See e.g. Alcida Rita Ramos, Indigenism: Ethnic Politics in Brazil, University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.
  3. ^ Montoya Iriarte, Urpi (1988). "Hispanismo e Indigenismo: o dualismo cultural no pensamento social peruano (1900-1930). Uma revisão necessária". Revista de Antropologia (in Portuguese). 41 (1). Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  4. ^ Serna, Mercedes (2011). "Hispanismo, indigenismo y americanismo en la construcción de la unidad nacional y los discursos identitarios de Bolívar, Martí, Sarmiento y Rodó" (PDF). Philologia Hispalensis (in Spanish). 25: 201–217. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  5. ^ Alexander S. Dawson, "Moisés Sáenz," in Encyclopedia of Mexico, vol. 2, p. 1325. Chicago: Fitzroy and Dearborn 1997.
  6. ^ Government of Mexico, Seis Años de Gobierno al Servicio de México, 1934-40. México: La Nacional Impresora 1940, pp. 351-382.
  7. ^ Seis Años, p. 382.
  8. ^ Alan Knight, “Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo," in The Idea of Race in the Latin America, 1870-1940, edited by Richard Graham, University of Texas Press, 1990.
  9. ^ Latino Indigenismo in a Comparative Perspective Luis A. Marentes
  10. ^
  11. ^"put the scythe on Funai's neck"

Further readingEdit

  • Barnet-Sánchez, Holly. "Indigenismo and Pre-Hispanic Revivals" in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Culture. vol. 2, pp. 42–44. Oxford University Press 2001.
  • Baud, Michiel (2009). Indigenous peoples, civil society, and the neo-liberal state in Latin America. New York: Berghahn Books. pp. 19–42. ISBN 1845455975.
  • Bonfil Batalla, Guillermo (1996). México profundo : reclaiming a civilization / by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla ; translated by Philip A. Dennis. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292708440.
  • Brading, D.A.. "Manuel Gamio and Official Indigenismo in Mexico" Bulletin of Latin American Research 7.1 (1988), 75–89.
  • Coronado, Jorge (2009). Andes Imagined : Indigenismo, Society, and Modernity. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 9780822973560.
  • Dawson, Alexander (May 1998). "From Models for the Nation to Model Citizens: Indigenismo and the 'Revindication' of the Mexican Indian, 1920-40". Journal of Latin American Studies. 30 (2): 279–308.
  • Garcia, Maria Elena (2005). Making indigenous citizens: identities, education, and multicultural development in Peru. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804750157.
  • Knight, Alan, “Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo," in The Idea of Race in the Latin America, 1870-1940, edited by Richard Graham, University of Texas Press, 1990.
  • Lewis, Stephen E. (2005). The ambivalent revolution: forging state and nation in Chiapas, 1910–1945. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0826336019.
  • Lopez, Rick Anthony (2010). Crafting Mexico: intellectuals, artisans, and the state after the Revolution. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822347032.
  • Munoz, Maria L. O.; Kiddle, Amelia (2010). Populism in twentieth century Mexico: the presidencies of Lázaro Cárdenas and Luis Echeverría. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0816529183.
  • Postero, Nancy Grey; Zamosc, Leon (2004). The struggle for indigenous rights in Latin America. Brighton [England]; Portland, Or.: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 1845190637.
  • Saldivar, Emiko (April 1, 2011). "Everyday Practices of Indigensimo: An Ethnography of Anthropology and the State in Mexico". The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 16 (1): 67–89. doi:10.1111/j.1935-4940.2011.01125.x.