Ecuador’s Indigenous ‘Spin Doctors’

The Sarayaku people are not alone in fighting a media war. If one scrapes the media surface in Latin America, lands and culture emerges.   

The indigenous peoples have gone from a period of only being in front of the camera to now controlling their own media, because as they say, no one else can tell the reality of their lives. From the Mayans in Guatemala to the Mapuche in Argentina – everyone has a website and/or a radio station now.  

The indigenous journalists and media workers clearly have something in common, said Jorge Arguro, who runs the indigenous news service, at the first meeting of indigenous media workers in Buenos Aires last fall.  

“They are agents for social change in their communities. They are not individualists that enter the media business to make a personal career. The indigenous journalist fulfills a role, a task for his people and community. He defends his peoples kosmovision and the interests of the community.”  

The indigenous people’s media work comes from necessity, not desire. They have embraced modern media as a modern tool in their centenarian fight, and they have started from the bottom without university degrees or journalistic training.

But they know exactly what they want with the media and because of that they have almost rediscovered the meaning of the media, says Emilio Cartoy Días, the leader of one of Latin Americas most respected film and media schools, TEA in Buenos Aires.

Image“We in the western world have very much forgotten what media are for the indigenous peoples, on the other hand, are completely aware of why they use the media they use.” said Días. “It is about the necessity of information. The indigenous people demand media to be listened to, to inform, to defend their culture, their legends, and their music. They are returning to what is essential for every kind of journalism, information and communication.” 

A Bolivian quecha-indian TV-journalist said, as a kind of conclusion on the meeting in Buenos Aires: “With the media we want to see ourselves. We want to strengthen our culture. And we want people to get to know us, not only in Bolivia but in the rest of the world too. We don’t want to live in hiding.” 

Rune Geertsen work for the Danish NGO IBIS in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. The article was first printet in the Danish magazine Samvirke in May 2007.