The film Cocalero, is a documentary that follows the election process of Evo Morales, an indigenous candidate who was part of the MAS political party. The party stood for “Movement Toward Socialism.” The indigenous population had grown increasingly tired of being ignored by the government and society and political movements were their way of getting noticed.
“Ecuador’s Pan Indian Uprising” by Les Field gives details about theMay 27, 1990protest by one hundred sixty Indians who were marching for an “immediate resolution to land disputes in six provinces” (39). This marked the beginning of a “nationwide uprising” and its impact was immense (Field 39). Field said the strategy used by the Indians was one of blockading major roads which created a shortage of goods, thus “revealing the country’s independence of native farmers” (39). The response to the blockade was the deployment of “the national police and the army throughout the sierra to roll back the insurrection” (Field 39). The full force of the military was used and many of the leaders were put into prison (Field 39).
“The 1992 Indian Mobilization in Lowland Ecuador,” by Suzana Sawyer, recounts one of the movements through “peaceful protest” by the indigenous people. In this protest they sought “communal titling of 2,000,000 hectares of contiguous rain-forest territory (approximately 70 percent of the province)” (Sawyer 65). Land was vital to the survival of the indigenous people. As shown in the film, the MAS party was born out of the fight to protect the coca plant. It was what “the indigenous live off of” (Cocalero).
Suzana Sawyer discussed the long struggle of the indigenous people in the fight for their land and how that struggle put them in opposition to the President himself. At one point President Rodrigo Borja Cevallos, who “previously had denied lowland Indians their territorial demands,” was now vowing to talk with them and “protect” the marchers who were protesting (Sawyer 66). That was not how events played out. “Tensions rose” as the protesters got closer to the Presidential headquarters and the military was called into action (Sawyer 66). “Clad in riot gear and armed with dogs, horses, tanks, and circling helicopters,” the military blocked the protesters’ “access to the Presidential Palace” (Sawyer 66). One hundred of the protest leaders were allowed to meet with the President. The struggle over land ran deeper than just owning a plot of land. It was a fight to “maintain the integrity of their ancestral lands” and for the “recognition of their rights” (Sawyer 66, 67). Luis Macas put the struggle into these words, “We come in the name of life…. We want to be the owners of our territory, the guardians of the Amazon, and those responsible for our destiny” (Sawyer 67). The purpose of the march was to bring about “social recognition of their existence” and to “legalize their self-proclaimed right to communal ownership of their ancestors’ land” (Sawyer 68, 70).
Suzana Sawyer quoted an individual who said, “…the Indians are in rebellion; they are capable of doing anything to us” (75). The irony of such a statement is obvious. The government had taken away the ancestral history of the land from the indigenous people and had hampered any chance they had at making good living for themselves through “title deeds” and “exclusive control of the military” (Sawyer 72).
The indigenous people had not only lost their lands but the government also “retained sovereign rights to all subterranean resources, of which petroleum is the most treasured” (Sawyer 72). Indigenous groups of different ethnicities bound together to fight in unity for their rights (Field 42) Together they were strong and “their demands for social justice and greater autonomy” united them (Sawyer 78). Their opportunities were taken away from them on every level and the indigenous movement was their cry of “Enough!” Their struggles within the movement paid off and Evo Morales was elected President with fifty-four percent of the vote (Cocalero). No longer were they to live life looking in from the outside, watching as their desires for a better life were ignored while the lives of others improved at their expense.