By: Luka Alexandre-Reverendo | Social Justice Reporter
In light of Black History Month, and discussions involving minority populations in the diaspora being unjustifiably marginalized by the government, let me present to you: Quito, Ecuador.
In October 2019, thousands of individuals began gathering in Quito to protest the political policies instated by their newly elected president, Lenín Moreno. Moreno's policies removed the country's gasoline subsidies––that have been in place for decades––and will marginalize indigenous peoples' right to protected land.
These new policies greatly increase the price of necessities like food and transportation, leaving many helpless. Moreover, the new policies allow for the invasion of protected indigenous land for the processing oil, mining and hydroelectric projects.
In The New York Times article, “In Ecuador and Beyond, Indigenous Groups Are Fighting to Be Seen,” author Isabelia Herrera explains how indigenous people are “using this opportunity to assert their power and presence.” She explains how indigenous people have been protesting––successfully––for their rights throughout the country's history. Ecuador's government, like many others, forgets that indigenous people were there before European colonialism.
After 11 days, the violent protests ended when Indigenous leaders and President Lenín Moreno came to an agreement. Had the indigenous people not had such a strong reputation throughout Ecuador and the world, things may have ended differently.
Since protests cannot happen 24/7, street art has become a popular form of expression advocating for the indigenous peoples' national identity. These are not your average graffiti tags, but intricate murals that give indigenous people a constant voice.
Hagerty Hall currently holds several examples of this graffiti in an art installation by photographer Andrés Ramírez. Ramírez has been traveling throughout Ecuador, particularly Quito, for over 20 years and the exhibition conveys messages relating to Ecuador's hip-hop infused culture, social justice issues, and indigenous peoples' national identity.
I spoke with Emily Rangel Manrique, a Graduate Teaching Associate in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese here at The Ohio State University. Currently in the process of getting her Ph.D. in Latin American Cultural & Literary Studies. Manrique delivered an excellent presentation of the works' significance. When asked about what the photographs signify, she explains that:
“Andrés [the photographer] mencionó que con sus fotografías quiere capturar el imaginario urbano juvenil que busca recuperar las raíces de los pueblos originarios, tanto de sus culturas ancestrales como de sus culturas indígenas contemporáneas.”
“By photographing images of pop culture's street art, Andrés Ramírez attempts to capture the urban, youthful point of view that is reestablishing the roots of the original peoples' ancestral and contemporary indigenous cultures.”
This art has the ability to influence change at the level indigenous peoples have, they provide an immense sense of encouragement to other marginalized groups––worldwide––to never give up.