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Ecuadors Constitution


Submitted By SKucinar
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In this presentation, we will explore the history, culture, people and politics of the Republic of Ecuador, paying particular attention to the landmark decision by the government of Ecuador to acknowledge the rights of Mother Earth within the country’s 2008 constitution.
There are over fourteen distinct indigenous groups in Ecuador, any of whom retain their pre-Columbian languages. Ecuador’s Indigenous people have struggled through centuries of conquests by the Inca, the Spanish and more recently, foreign oil, mining and pharmaceutical companies.
There are numerous different groups of indigenous people in Ecuador, many with their own distinct way of living, distinct language and distinct cultural aspects. But the group that is the largest in Ecuador, and in several different parts of South America, is the Kichwa people.
The Kichwa people live in both the highlands and the lowlands of Ecuador. They have had to adapt their way of life around these two different terrains. The Lowland bases its economic system around agriculture and the highland bases it around pastoral farming. The land is usually owned by the local community, which is called “Ayllu” and is either cultivated jointly or redistributed annually within the community. A distinction is made between two primary types of joint work in the community. In the case of Minka, people work together for projects of common interest, such as the construction of communal facilities. In contrast to that, Ayni is reciprocal assistance, where members of an Ayllu help a family to accomplish a large private project, for example house construction, and in return can expect to be similarly helped later with a project of their own.
An important aspect of the Kichwa is their distinct worldview, which differs from the dominant Spanish and Western worldview, although the Kichwa have combined aspects of both cultures into their daily life. The Kichwa people are very community oriented. They place importance on the community rather than catering to individual desires. Not only do the Kichwa people feel connected to one another in the community, but they also feel a close bond with Pachamama. Pachamama is a goddess worshipped by many Indigenous people of the Andes. It is usually translated to “Mother Earth”, but a more literal translation would be “Mother world”. Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting. After the Spanish Conquest, the concept of Pachamama was tied to the Virgin Mary, the two figures became united and the people of Ecuador worship both. A festival, known as Challa’s Tuesday, is thrown in her honour. This festival coincides with Shrove Tuesday, which is another example of how the Spanish have influenced the indigenous people of Ecuador.
Ecuador established its first constitution as a republic in 1830 when the country gained independence from Gran Colombia. Since then the country has seen 20 constitutions. Early constitutions failed to meet the needs of all Ecuadorians because they largely favored the wealthy and influential socioeconomic groups of Ecuador. Recognition of citizenship was based on strict property, professional, and literacy requirements that excluded a large majority of the population, most notably indigenous groups. Constitutions at the end of the 21st century started to recognize universal human rights prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, religion, language, or social status. However there was still a disproportionate number of Indigenous people still living in poverty. This lead to a powerful Indigenous uprising headed by a number of Indigenous movements in the 1990’s that shook the elite power base and prompted consideration of indigenous worldviews which has greatly impacted the revisions that were made in the last and most progressive constitution in Ecuador’s history, the constitution of 2008.
Two major players from government and indigenous movements influenced the political atmosphere under which the constitution of 2008 was drafted. Raphael Correa’s government, the Alianza Pais (Country Alliance) was elected in 2006 on the promise that he would rewrite the constitution. On the other side are Indigenous movements politically represented most strongly through an organization that is the largest Indigenous movement in Ecuador, called CONAIE (The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuador).
An analysis of Ecuador's 2008 constitution reveals the fundamental components of its unique nature. The verbal dialect of the document makes implicit reference to the acknowledgment of diversity and harmony within nature, the two key recurring themes that are further addressed in the proceeding articles. The incorporation of these themes was a direct influence from Indigenous activists who demanded that specific attention be paid by the Ecuadorian government to economic, social and international issues. In this regard, Indigenous demands focused primarily on reconciling the contemporary economic climate with traditions of the past, to be done by honoring the belief that land is a common good to be treated respectfully. Socially, emphasis was put on the recognition of plurinationalism. Lastly, was the desire for Ecuador to be governed by and for the best interests of its peoples. Of these goals, most were formally realized within the constitution. Consequently, Ecuador's constitution legally validates Pachamama (mother earth) as having certain rights, as well as the nation being 'sovereign', 'independent', 'intercultural' and 'plurinational.'
As with any political process there are still some criticisms and concerns that remain to be settled. Formal hearings were brokered between the indigenous peoples, the government and third parties to demand government accountability and work toward a viable solution.
This particular case study of Ecuador's 2008 constitution and the recognition of Aboriginal rights is certainly a refreshing and advanced application of a process that has been long overdue for hundreds of years. This is a paramount step forward in the healing of past afflictions, and moving toward a strong foundation solidified by all groups of Ecuadorian society. On a pragmatic level Ecuador can serve as the example for other countries to follow, albeit with appropriate measures relevant to their unique historic experiences. But practically, the journey of Ecuador's Aboriginal peoples is not yet complete. The government must now strive to actively follow through with these legally binding promises in order to have a healthy and equally representative society that can truly call itself democratic and unitary.

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