Over the past twenty years Latin American societies have been innovating a new culturally rooted form of democracy: the grassroots-driven construction of plurinational states that center Indigenous and gender justice. This panel features three Indigenous women congressional and political leaders of the movements for a plurinational state in Chile, Guatemala, and Peru: Elisa Loncón (Mapuche), Thelma Cabrera (Maya Mam), and Tania Pariona (Quechua). Settler colonial legacies, including neoliberal constitutions built amid authoritarian regimes, have legitimated the poverty, racism, and anti-Indigenous gendered violence that have most brutally impacted Indigenous women. Now Indigenous women are at the forefront of building inclusive, plurinational states that guarantee territorial autonomy, political participation, and gender justice.
Facilitated and organized by historian Renzo Aroni (Quechua) and anthropologist Czarina Aggabao Thelen (Ibanag / Tagalog).
Elisa Loncón Antileo is an Mapuche scholar, activist, and current President of the Constitutional Convention of Chile. She is also a professor at the University of Santiago, Chile. Loncón received her Ph.D. from Leiden University in the Netherlands and a doctorate in literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She experienced economic hardships in her childhood but developed a prolific academic career, with postgraduate studies at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague (Netherlands) and the University of Regina (Canada). She also holds an M.A. in Linguistics from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Iztapalapa UAM-I (Mexico). She has written several books and publications, mainly about innovation and expansion of the linguistic resources of the Mapuche language.
Thelma Cabrera Pérez is a Maya Mam human rights defender from Retalhuleu, Guatemala. As a daughter of a campesino family, Cabrera has been a grassroots leader of the Peasant Development Committee (Comité de Desarrollo Campesino, CODECA) and the Movement for the Liberation of Peoples (Movimiento para la Liberación de los Pueblos, MLP). Since 1992, CODECA has been working on improving the lives of poor Indigenous peasants, focusing on wage conditions for farmers, land reform, and the nationalization of electric energy. In 2016, the MLP emerged as a political instrument of CODECA that elected Cabrera as a candidate for president of Guatemala in 2019. She was the second Indigenous person to run for president after the Nobel Peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.
Tania Pariona Tarqui is a Quechua leader, human rights activist, and former Congresswoman of Peru (2016-2019). She has an M.A. in Human Development from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and a B.A. in Social Work from the San Cristóbal of Huamanga University. She was a former fellow of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, having trained in international mechanisms for Indigenous rights. Because of her commitment to Indigenous youth and women’s rights, Pariona is an active member of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women (ECMIA) and the Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú, CHIRAPAQ). She is currently working at MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization based in New York City.