The last fifteen years or so has seen a major shift in Latin America’s political orientation. In a large number of countries, left parties have come to power. Their programs have emphasized redistribution of resources to aid the poorer segments of the population… They sought to prove, in the slogan of the World Social Forum, that “another world is possible.”
But there are, and have always been, essentially two Latin American lefts, not one. One is composed of those persons and movements that wish to overcome the lower standards of living in the countries of the South by using state power to “modernize” the economy and thereby “catch up” with the countries of the North.
The second, quite different, is composed of those underclasses who fear that such “modernization” will make things not better but worse for them, increasing the internal gaps between the better-off and the poorest strata of the country.
In Latin America, this latter group includes the indigenista populations, that is, those whose presence dates from before the time that various European powers sent their troops and settlers into the Western Hemisphere. It also includes the afrodescendentes, that is, those who were brought in from Africa by the Europeans as slaves.
These groups began to speak of promoting a civilizational change based on buen vivir – a Spanish translation from the Incan Quechua, sumak kawsay, meaning “living well.” They argued for a maintenance of traditional modes of living under the control of local populations.