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Pachamama Recognized in New Bolivian Constitution

Thanks to globum for this image
We residents of los Estados Unidos are not the only Americans with good reason to celebrate.
The people of Bolivia have just voted in a constitution that for the first time recognizes the rights and cultures of its indigenous people as of equal value with those Bolivians whose views were decisively shaped by Spanish colonialists.  For Pagans this is particularly important because Bolivia’s new constitution not only guarantees religious freedom, it also recognize Pacahmama as of equal stnding with Jesus.
Pachamama is the Mother of the Earth, or Mother of the Universe, in the traditional beliefs of people of the Andes.  Despite the efforts of the Catholic Church, Her worship survives strongly.  Now Her worship is legally recognized as equal to Christian belief and practice.
Legal recognition is important.  Our own country supposedly guarantees religious liberty with the 1st Amendment.  That did not prevent Christian absolutists of various types from outlawing the practice of Indian nations’ traditional beliefs across the country.  I have talked with a Crow Sun Dance leader who described to me going to those celebrations in secret, so the local law authorities would not come and close them down.
This was not all.  Reservation schools throughout the country were run by various Christian denominations, the youngsters often taken from their parents, forbidden to speak their language, and forced to repudiate their traditional beliefs. It was a totalitarian effort to destroy a culture.
Only Roosevelt’s New Deal began in 1934 to restore religious freedom to America’s indigenous people.  Had the 1st Amendment explicitly protected the non-Abrahamic beliefs of our earliest residents, these horrors probably would not have happened.  As it is, by its silence, even today the ‘Christian’ Right tries to claim we are a uniquely Christian country and would turn us back to those dark times of spiritual oppression.  Consider the hue and cry by these people because Obama did not use the Bible when he retook his  oath of office, to make sure nothing would come of the slightly confused wording he and Roberts used during his inaugural.
Hopefully we will not fall back into thosedark times.  But if we do,  we can be guided and inspired by what the people of Bolivia have just done.

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posted January 27, 2009 at 11:15 am

This is a visitor faux pas (I’m so very sorry), but this comment is off-point for this particular post. You see, I found your blog when I Googled diZerega Graphics, but the comments for that post have long since closed. Would you consider reopening the comments for that post? I’d like to gush about your work, and to try to convince you to sell cards on ETSY, but …
(Oh, and I agree with this post. It is good news, indeed, about Bolivia – a people’s right to their own language and religious teachings is integral to their basic dignity, and a critical component of freedom and justice. I was going to rant about the wicked things done in the name of my God, but typing it out made me tired and sad, which is counterproductive. Instead, I’m holding on to this little flicker of hope that’s burning in my heart – things have changed, things are changing, things will change.)

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posted February 14, 2009 at 6:10 am

I’m a little uncertain as to whether to consider this a reason to celebrate. Certainly, it is preferable to have a society which recognises all religions, or all religions practiced by socially significant numbers, than it is to have a society which recognises only one religion. And as a discrete political measure in social context this is probably a good thing. In New Zealand, official recognition of English and Maori culture not only reduces the degree of imperialism and encourages social peace, but also gives a fair degree of space for the flourishing of other inherited cultures, alternative cultures, and individual experimentation and creativity. In fact I think it does a better job than the U.S., which is officially supposed to be religiously neutral but in practice often semi-establishes Christianity or a theologically vague but morally sectarian monotheism. Nevertheless, I still think there is something wrong in principle for a constitutional document to specifically recognise some beliefs or cultures- to do so jars with the philosophical and spiritual autonomy of the individual, and encourages specific myths to become constitutive of a public or civic identity, which in turn puts freethinking individuals trying to access public space or resoources in a potentially very difficult position.
Shouldn’t we advocate a total separation of spirituality and state? I remember having a very similar feeling reading Starhawk’s the Fifth Sacred Thing and feeling extremely uneasily that her semi-utopian picture of a publically magickal Bay Area was in fact the glorification of a neo-Pagan theocracy. As Socrates found out, social authority wrapped up in polytheism can be no less nasty than social authority wrapped up in Christianity or Islam. People flourish with loose conventions better than with monolothic conventions, but I think it’s very important to get the idea that people don’t have to obey conventions at all into the heart of public discourse.
I love the statue of the goddess guarding New York Harbor, but I wouldn’t want official recognition of Her as such. Actually, her promotion in the American civil religion by tax-supported propaganda is already improper. Participation in public life intrudes unfairly when require a certain set of psychic symbols as a condition of unbegrudged participation. I certainly enjoy a proliferation of images, cultures, and spiritualities- and some of these are my own- but they should all be kept far away from power.
love and strife,

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posted January 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm

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I just liked it….

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