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Coloniality and decoloniality are terms that have increased their circulation in mass media, social organizations, academic networks, political discussions and digital spaces such as Tik Tok and Instagram. From the debate (and annoyance) over the decolonization of national museums in Spain to the indignation that has been caused in traditional Colombian politics by the claim to the State about the debt and historical reparation to Afro-Colombian people for the legacies of racism, the discussion about the Latent coloniality has increased its presence on the public agenda. The terms coloniality and decoloniality reveal the urgency: to appropriate languages and practices that allow us to better understand and act on reality.
In this sense, a growing audience investigates, questions and seeks to interrupt the legacies of colonialism in power structures, collective imaginaries and daily life. What is pointed out when we talk about coloniality? Broadly speaking, it is about understanding that the origin of many of our behaviors, habits and social structures are inherited from the colonial era, strengthened through modernity, and that persist in our present. The current conceptions of gender, race and class are part of the burden that is the colonial legacy. The process of racialization still operates in notions of social class; The constructs of beauty or success have a gender dimension that in turn intersects with ideas of race and class. This structure that passes through us is internalized and assumed as natural: what is taught carries the legacy of the colony.
By continuing to accept the colonial heritage as part of a normativity, political and economic borders that need to be torn down are ignored. On May 25, the vice president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, said: “When I hear some leaders, whom I respect because they are leaders voted for by their people, be happy because in Bolivia and Chile they have passed legislation that protects the lithium, and they are happy because they say: ‘Ah, well, since they make many demands on them there, they are all going to come here.’ But what a vocation for a colony. What a vocation to be Potosí again. Make it a point to be Malaysia, to be Korea, but not to be Potosí again, please.” Fernández refers to the way in which Argentina has historically placed itself in a central role in relation to the rest of Latin America due to its supposed proximity to what is European and, therefore, to what is white. She also points out that in the countries of the region that colonial vocation persists, which is at the same time extractivist.
As in politics, the question of decoloniality is also bubbling in cultural spaces. For example, the literary novel has been one of the most important technologies to expand and extend the cultural idea of the West. The novel, still nineteenth-century, carries with it worrying forms about what individuality, authorship and narrative linearity mean, its privileged ways of operating. From decoloniality, the novel stops looking for linear ways to tell a story, stops thinking about traditional narrators and stops thinking about the literary genre as something untouchable. Instead, it seeks to disorganize, question the canon, break traditional timelines, challenge the way we follow the stories behind certain voices, and play with spatial and temporal dimensions.
For its part, fashion has been one of the economic and cultural industries that has sustainedly reproduced racist, classist and patriarchal notions about the body, and has promoted the consumption of goods in favor of the accumulation of capital to the detriment of life on earth. . Fashion has affirmed its beauty based on the subject and the white, European and extractivist gaze. In Latin America, the connections between fashion, tourism and colonialism are evident. Aesthetic and cultural perceptions about the territory and its inhabitants build an exotic otherness – fearful and festive at the same time – suitable for the consumption of the tourist who fleetingly celebrates the destination he visits and then leaves there immune, immobile. Fashion and tourism take advantage of this construction, and go from town to town appropriating and applauding a consumption that perpetuates the colonial model, that is, racial modernity in which some devour and others are devoured.
However, news, analysis and denunciations of racist advertising campaigns have increasingly occupied public attention. The historical rejection of the precariousness of the city of Cartagena, Colombia, in the name of tourism, or the fight of environmentalists and indigenous communities against the Mayan Train project in the Yucatan Peninsula have been unstoppable. In politics and literature, decoloniality is an active search in conversations between academia, the media and social networks, to continue combating from their spheres the racial bias and racism that remains in Latin America and other multiracial nations.
Colonial connections between race, class and gender in colonial fashion or tourism are not new news. But audiences are questioning historically patriarchal and long-applauded industries, thinking about forms of creation and sustenance that question power. Recognizing the colonial heritage that informs these practices has been fundamental to understanding and addressing a basic problem. Collective voices defend, urgently and as an ongoing process, the decolonization of mentalities, practices and power.
Decolonial thinking is one of the most powerful contemporary compasses to understand the ties of the past with the present, in order to redraw from today the futures that call us. Latin American and Caribbean intellectuals have developed a decades-long tradition of questioning the links between modernity and coloniality, and their role in the creation of current hierarchical and oppressive structures. For Frantz Fanon, decolonization is about an attitude and an action aimed at dismantling these power structures. It is about dismantling the inseparable network of racist, patriarchal and extractivist relations that have made life unviable for the vast majority of the population and for the planet itself. And although it is a structural problem, if coloniality is also a mentality, decolonization begins with the questioning and progressive dismantling of individual beliefs and attitudes through collective action.
The romanticized ideas of miscegenation as a leading form in the construction of supposed racial democracies also need to be challenged. Behind miscegenation, an anti-blackness project was founded in the Americas, insisting on whitening the population and cultures of the continent. Miscegenation is a project that is still alive and is visible in the massive displacement of Haitian people and in their reception as migrants in countries that declare them undesirable. It speaks of the colonial attitude that insists on maintaining prejudiced and stereotypical maxims of the black community. The perspective that Haiti is a cursed country because it is not a Catholic country is supported by the fact that a good part of the press has stigmatized Haiti under racist notions. However, as the Haitian writer Lyonel Trouillot states “our country is not cursed. “Realities are the consequences of human actions, of those who govern.” Thinking about Haiti as a country that, with its beliefs, has earned the thousands of humiliations and injustices that hit the island and its people every day has a colonial origin and reproduction.
If feminist discourse was characterized by calling the gender perspective to social problems, decolonial thought puts the worlds we inhabit into an anti-patriarchal perspective of race and class, of centers and peripheries. It is a thought that decenters the dominant narratives that have plunged the world into multiple violence, to propose ways of acting. Its increase in different political and cultural scenarios shows that we are in a moment of ‘crest of the wave’ in the public and mass language about coloniality and decoloniality. Like other historical movements/currents that have proposed imperfect and in any case necessary forms of social justice, decolonizing proposes a political praxis, a theory called to action that does not seek to add to the explanatory models of the present or history. Decoloniality is not a metaphor. It seeks to transform colonial structures, mentalities and practices and, ultimately, reconfigure power.
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