Land Rights and Wrongs: Open Flames in the Plaza Uruguaya

Latin America is notorious for its unequal distribution of land. Paraguay’s present has connections to its colonial past when the native population was organized (into reducciones) under Spanish rule, but to assume that that’s all that’s going on today is both over-simplistic and problematic because it acts like Latin America is the land that time forgot, somehow trapped in the past. Nevertheless, when Paraguay achieved independence from Spain in 1811, one of the first things the new government did for revenue was to confiscate church land and to nationalize native lands. Since then, the government has sold off lots of land, often to foreign investors… commissions from this have been pocketed by corrupt officials.
And so, there’s an ongoing process of removing the land from people who live on it and work it but can’t press their cases in a legal court that’ll defend them justly, a whack process aided by the legacy of blackmail, bribes, and impunity inherited from the Stroessner dictatorship. (“Stroessner no está pero el sistema stronista si sigue,” choked out Gustavo Becker at the launch of Memorias y Desmemorias de Exilio by Maricuz Méndez Vall.)
As a desperate attempt to get redress of wrongs, these indigenous families who are homeless and landless have camped out in the Plaza Uruguaya in the centro of Asunción. The nights have gotten colder this winter than anyone ever remembers (this has been an unusually severe winter in the southern hemisphere… snow in Johannesburg and Buenos Aires) and they sleep in tents made out of the same black plastic we use for trash bags in New York. The only source of heat the fires in the open spaces between clusters of tents. But nothing has changed and the weeks drag on. And as far as I can tell, this isn’t news. I’ve never seen a report about this in any of the dailies.
And for some more context, I’ve never been asked for money by anyone in this Plaza. They’re not asking for charity, they’re asking for justice and righteousness.
Can you imagine using port-a-potties for months?

Posted in . Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post.


Swedish Greys - a WordPress theme from Nordic Themepark. Converted by